From all of the stereotyping, stigmatizing and discrimination against single people that I call singlism, you probably already realize that many people have a problem with people who are single. What really surprised me at first is that some people seem even more upset at single people who are happily single and choose to stay single than at sad singles. Now there is research documenting what was at first just a feeling. Other people really do feel angrier at single people who choose to be single. Happy single people ruin their views of how the world works.
Maybe that’s why there seem to be so many ways to undermine single people’s contentment with their lives – or at least try to. Rebecca Adams wrote about this in, “If you feel bad about being single, it’s not because you’re single.” Among the pressures that can cause single people to doubt their own happiness with their single lives are:
#1 The assumption that the only relationships that really matter are romantic ones
Isn’t it weird that single people are sometimes called “alone” or “unattached” by definition, when we know from study after study that it is people who marry who are likely to become more insular?
Plus, as Adams noted, any health benefits of social ties are not specific to romantic ties. You don’t have to be having sex with someone in order to benefit from having that social connection. Friends, relatives, mentors, neighbors – lots of people contribute to our sense of health and well-being. In some ways, friends can be even better for us than romantic partners. (See also, “5 ways our friends make us better and stronger.”) And, of course, solitude can be great for you, too.
Yet, in just about every imaginable way, adult relationships other than romantic ones just are not taken as seriously as romantic relationships. (For example: Deleting a friend to spotlight a spouse,
#2 The assumption that the only life pursuits that really matter are marriage and family
Ann Friedman, who wrote a terrific essay for Marie Claire on the deep rewards of a deeply single life (discussed here), talked to Adams about her experiences:
“Really great things happened to me in my life during this period when most people were kind of pitying me,” she said of a being single — a period during which her career took off, she took her dream vacation and her social life became more dynamic than ever. “But there was always this undercurrent of, ‘Don’t you want to meet someone?‘”
#3 The relentless media attention to people who try to shame singles
Sara Eckel, author of It’s not you: 27 (wrong) reasons you’re single (discussed here) also talked to Rebecca Adams. Referring to people like that awful Princeton mom, she said, ““I find it so confusing that whenever someone has a message that makes women feel bad, they’re immediately on ‘The Today Show’; they immediately have a platform.”
In the same category are all the media stories about any study, no matter how methodologically atrocious, purporting to show that married people do better than singles in some way or another. Those reports, together with the studies they are based on, are almost always misleading or just plain wrong, and yet they get the headlines. And when some study shows that singles are doing particularly well, you know what we get then – crickets!
Sometimes all of this matrimania and singlism can get to even the happiest single people. What does that mean? Maybe Eckel has the answer to that: “If you feel sad sometimes, it’s not because you’re single — it’s because you’re alive.”
Single woman image available from Shutterstock.