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To the Single-at-Heart

single at heartIf living single is your first choice, if it is how you live your most authentic and meaningful life, you are probably single at heart. People who are single-at-heart are not single because they have not found The One, because they are unlucky in love, or because they have issues. They are single because single suits them. It is who they really are.

You may be single-at-heart even if you are in a long-term romantic relationship, and even if you are married. Maybe you got into the relationship because it was what you thought you were supposed to do. (Who ever heard of single-at-heart anyway? It is just recently getting recognition.) Or maybe there is enough about your relationship that you find truly appealing, and yet you have your single-at-heart inclinations at the same time.

My New Year’s wish for the single-at-heart is that you can live your best life, without apology. If living single is not feasible for you, for whatever reason, then I hope you can find ways to nurture your single-at-heart self, whatever your relationship status.

From the responses of people who have already completed the single-at-heart survey (and they are not a representative sample, just those who learned about the survey and decided to log on and answer the questions), I have already learned some interesting things about the characteristics of people who see themselves as single-at-heart. Not all single-at-heart types share all of these interests and qualities, but if you are single-at-heart, you will see yourself in at least some of them.

Characteristics of People Who are Single-at-Heart (based on first 1,200 survey responses):

  • They love their solitude.
  • When they are tempted to allow themselves their favorite indulgence (such as junk food or trashy TV), they prefer to do exactly as they wish rather than having a partner to join them or dissuade them.
  • They see themselves as self-sufficient; that is, they like handling problems and challenges mostly on their own.
  • When they are thinking of making a big change in their lives, they don’t want to make that decision with a romantic partner; instead, they prefer to make the decision that feels right to them, without worrying about whether a partner would approve or whether the decision would interfere with a partner’s goals.
  • They do not want to have a partner as a plus-one for just about every occasion; they would prefer more options, such as attending events on their own or with friends or just staying home.
  • When they set out to pursue noble goals such as reading inspiring books or eating right or getting lots of exercise, they prefer to pursue those plans alone or with friends rather than with a romantic partner.
  • They have a sense of personal mastery – a can-do attitude and a sense that they can do just about anything they set their mind to.
  • They are not all that interested in searching for a long-term romantic partner.
  • If they have a minor mishap such as a fender-bender, they are relieved not to have to explain to a romantic partner why they messed up.
  • If they had to choose between meaningful work with lousy pay and uninspiring work with great pay, they would choose the meaningful work.
  • If they were in a romantic relationship and it ended, their predominant emotional reaction was more often relief rather than sadness or pain.

(You can read more about the survey results, including specific percentages corresponding to the findings above, here and here.)

Tips for Being Your Best Single-at-Heart Self

If you recognize yourself in some of the characteristics listed above, then do what you can to be your best single-at-heart self. For example, you can give yourself the gift of solitude. Allow yourself the time and space that you crave. You will benefit from that alone-time (psychologically, emotionally, creatively), and if you get your required dosage, I bet the people around you will benefit, too.

If you like being self-sufficient, then go for it. Self-sufficiency does not necessarily imply a lack of interest in different perspectives or opinions. Instead, I think it means that after considering whatever input you find valuable, you ultimately make the decision that feels right to you.

If you are not interested in pursuing long-term romantic relationships, then don’t. Never mind that other people will be incredulous when you say that you like your single life. Never mind the naysayers who will insist that you are just in denial or whatever other psychobabble they offer up. Part of owning your single-at-heart status is being true to yourself.

You are not living the life that other people want you to live or that conventional wisdom dictates. You are living your own life. What could be better than that for 2013 or any year?

Woman at the park photo available from Shutterstock

To the Single-at-Heart

Bella DePaulo, Ph.D

Bella DePaulo (Ph.D., Harvard; Academic Affiliate, Psychological and Brain Sciences, UC Santa Barbara), an expert on single life, is the author of several books, including "Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After" and "How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century." Her TEDx talk is "What no one ever told you about people who are single." Dr. DePaulo has discussed singles and single life on radio and television, including NPR and CNN, and her work has been described in newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and USA Today, and magazines such as Time, Atlantic, the Week, More, the Nation, Business Week, AARP Magazine, and Newsweek. Dr. DePaulo is in her sixties. She has always been single and always will be. She is "single at heart" -- single is how she lives her best and most meaningful life. Visit her website at

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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2012). To the Single-at-Heart. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2020, from


Last updated: 31 Dec 2012
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