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Have You Been Shamed for Being Single?

The December 2015 issue of Cosmopolitan magazine includes the story, “Stop Single-Shaming Me!” As reporter Julie Vadnal notes in the tagline, “If you’re single, it’s seen as a problem to be fixed.”

I was delighted to learn that Vadnal is a single person who is not dating and who doesn’t hide that fact. But her admission of being “Tinder-less” is what brought about some intense single-shaming by the people around her.

After that, I began to notice it everywhere. My exclusion from couples-only dinners. A married-with-kids friend implying that a second glass of vino was a wild night for her but for me every night was a drinkfest. Invites to weddings arriving without “and Guest” next to my name.

The ways in which single people are made to feel badly about themselves just because they are single are endless. I’ve been writing about them ever since I published Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After and have never run out of new material since. Cosmo is right to zero in on the double standards for singles vs. couples – they are rampant.

Vadnal has a guess about what all this single-shaming means:

…here’s what the shamers are really saying: I’m judging you for being frivolous, for living your life outside what society expects. We singles aren’t slackers with endless free time to devote to binge drinking and bar makeouts. We’re not collecting tears in our Mansur Gavriel bucket bags. And it’s not that we’re not “trying hard enough.” I’ve even heard of a boss who didn’t hire an unmarried candidate because she “didn’t have a stable foundation for a stressful job.” These assumptions are unfair…and total BS.

Single-shaming is one of those cases in which other people’s nasty judgments say more about them than they do about the people they are judging. These are tough times for people who derive their self-esteem from being married. Sure, married people still get all the fawning and the celebrating – matrimania is out of control. But I think the over-the-top hyping of marriage and weddings and couplings is not an indication of how secure we are about the place of marriage in our lives, but how insecure we are. It just isn’t necessary anymore for people to marry to be economically secure, to raise children, to have sex without stigma or shame, to buy a house, or to live a full, joyous, meaningful life. That’s threatening to people who thought that marrying made them superior to single people. Shaming singles is a way to try to grab that superiority back.

[Note. If you haven’t visited my website in a while, you may want to take a look. It has been updated, simplified, and redesigned to be more mobile-friendly.  There are sections on Singles Research and Writing; How We Live Now; Deception Research and Writing; and lots more. All that, plus I still got to keep those doors!]

Woman feeling shame photo available from Shutterstock

Have You Been Shamed for Being Single?

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. (2015). Have You Been Shamed for Being Single?. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 7 Dec 2015
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