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Reasons for Staying Single, Part 2: What Should We Make of Them?

In a previous post, “Why Stay Single? Part 1: Top 5 Answers,” I summarized the results of research on the reasons people gave for why they might stay single. Take a look at that first part, and see what you make of the results.

By asking you to decide what you think the results mean before telling you what the author makes of his findings, I’m encouraging you to think like a graduate student or a trained researcher. Don’t just take other people’s claims at face value. Look closely at the results and think about them. Then see what the author says about them.

When I looked at the top five reasons people gave for staying single, I noticed some very positive approaches to single life. The top reason, “I am doing well right now,” seems to say that some single people like their life just the way it is. Look beyond the first five reasons to #8, and you will see a similar positive reason: “I believe that being in a relationship will not make me happier than I am right now,” an observation that is likely to be true.

“I enjoy being alone,” the #5 reason, also sounds very positive.

Among the specific reasons that were embedded in the larger categories were staying single “so that I can be myself,” to have more time to spend with friends, to pursue the goals that are important to you, and to have your own space.

Other reasons were more negative. For example, the #2 reason for staying single was “I had bad experiences from previous relationships.” Other negative reasons include fear of change and distrust of others.

The whole array of reasons, taken together, seems to suggest a complex picture of single life, with some people embracing it for positive reasons and others staying single for more negative reasons.

The author, however, sees only two overarching reasons for staying single. Neither allows for a positive embrace of single life. Writing from an evolutionary perspective, his two reasons are: (1) people are staying single temporarily to do what it takes to increase “their future mating success;” and (2) “they have traits that prevent them from being able to attract a mate.”

Let’s look at the second reason first. Two of the 16 categories fit that description: “There are factors that keep me back” and “I experience sexually related issues.” Note that those two reasons are at the very bottom of the list, numbers 15 and 16. On the scale of 1 through 5, with 1 indicating the least agreement, the averages for both were less than 2 (for factors keeping me back, 1.89; for sexual issues, 1.67).

As for the author’s first reason for why people stay single, doing what it takes to increase “their future mating success,” he is referring to things like getting a job or pursuing an education before marrying. Some of the reasons included in category #9, “I have different priorities,” are consistent with that interpretation. For example, some people said that focusing on their career would be a reason to stay single.

The author’s two overarching reasons for staying single are not about choosing to stay single at all. In one of the reasons, the single people are just taking some time to make themselves into better mate material. In the other, they just don’t have what it would take to attract a mate. There is some evidence for both of those possibilities. But the second one in particular – basically, that some single people are just losers – is at the very bottom of the list of possible reasons.

What the author never acknowledges – maybe because he doesn’t see how it could fit in with his evolutionary perspective – is that some people embrace single life for positive reasons. They like their lives just the way they are, they don’t think they would be any happier in a romantic relationship, they like their space, they like their time alone, they like their time with friends, they like to pursue their own goals, and they like to be themselves.

Sounds good to me.

Reference:

Apostolou, M. (2017). Why people stay single: An evolutionary perspective. Personality and Individual Differences, 111, 263-271.

[Also related to the theme of this two-part series: The real reasons for living single and The Best of Single Life.]

Photo by renaissancechambara

Reasons for Staying Single, Part 2: What Should We Make of Them?

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," https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyZysfafOAs. 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 www.BellaDePaulo.com.


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APA Reference
DePaulo, B. (2017). Reasons for Staying Single, Part 2: What Should We Make of Them?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2018, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/single-at-heart/2017/05/reasons-for-staying-single-part-2-what-should-we-make-of-them/

 

Last updated: 15 May 2017
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 15 May 2017
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.