In the Republic of Cyprus, a half dozen research assistants went to places such as coffee shops, shopping malls, universities, beaches, and bus stations, and asked people to say how much they agreed with 76 possible reasons for staying single. A total of 1,096 people participated. On the average, they were 31 years old. They included people of all marital and relationship statuses, not just people who were single.

Obviously, this is not a representative national sample of adults – it is just a convenience sample. So the results are merely suggestive. Also, the author never reported the results separately for the single people. All the findings were averaged across people from all marital and relationship statuses.

The 76 reasons had been generated by participants in two previous studies, also conducted in Cyprus. In the first, 30 people (average age, 32) “were asked to discuss different reasons that have led them or which are likely to lead them in the future to stay single and not to enter into an intimate relationship.” In the second, 122 people (average age, 27) gave five answers to the same question about possible reasons for staying single, using a written format instead of an interview.

The author used statistical analyses to cluster the 76 reasons into 16 categories, then he assigned names to those categories. The importance of the various reasons is suggested by the degree to which the participants agreed with them. They rated each of the reasons on scales ranging from 1 to 5, with 5 indicating the strongest agreement.

Of those 16 categories, here are the top reasons for staying single.

  1. 3.16 I am doing well right now.
  2. 2.68 I had bad experiences from previous relationships.
  3. 2.62 I do not like constraints.
  4. 2.52 I am not willing to compromise.
  5. 2.51 I enjoy being alone.

Averaging across the answers from all 1,096 people, the top reason for staying single was, “I am doing well right now.” Participants agreed more strongly with that reason than any other. Note that this is a positive statement about single life.

The #2 reason for staying single, bad experiences from previous relationships, is mostly negative. It is the average agreement with three items that are clearly negative (“bad experiences from previous relationships;” “afraid I will get hurt again,” and “afraid that I will be disappointed”), as well as two others. “I recently broke up” also sounds negative, though people who are single at heart often experience relief rather than grief when a romantic relationship ends. The last reason, “I feel that I need some time alone,” could mean different things to different people, with some embracing time alone as a very positive thing, and others regarding it as a time for healing that they wish they did not need.

The author called the third reason for staying single, “I do not like constraints.” Some of the specific reasons that were part of that category included “I do not want to lose my freedom” and “I do not tolerate restrictions.” But other reasons that were averaged in were more positive, such as wanting to stay single “so that I can be myself” and also because “I like to have my own space.”

The fourth reason, unwillingness to compromise, was specifically about not compromising when it comes to romantic relationships. It includes specific reasons such as “I cannot find someone interesting” and “I am not willing to make compromises or concessions.” Maybe this category could have been called, “I have high standards.”

The fifth reason for staying single, almost identical to the fourth in the degree to which people agreed with it, was “I enjoy being alone.” This is, in my opinion, another very positive reason for living single. The individual items that were part of that category were “I prefer to be alone;” “I do not feel the emotional need to start a relationship;” and “I got used to being alone.”

If you are interested in seeing the results for all 16 reasons, here they are:

  1. 3.16 I am doing well right now.
  2. 2.68 I had bad experiences from previous relationships.
  3. 2.62 I do not like constraints.
  4. 2.52 I am not willing to compromise.
  5. 2.51 I enjoy being alone.
  6. 2.49 I am afraid of change.
  7. 2.48 I do not trust others.
  8. 2.39 I will not be better off.
  9. 2.32 I have different priorities.
  10. 2.31 I want to be free to do what I want.
  11. 2.24 I experience difficulties in starting a relationship.
  12. 2.23 I want to avoid conflict.
  13. 2.18 I do not want to commit.
  14. 2.12 I want to be free to flirt around.
  15. 1.89 There are factors that keep me back.
  16. 1.67 I experience sexually related issues.

Within each of the 16 categories, I looked for specific reasons that might suggest a positive embrace of single life, or an interesting commentary on possible reasons for staying single. Category #9, “I have different priorities,” includes staying single “to be free to chase my own goals” and “to focus on my career.” Category #10, “I want to be free to do what I want,” includes staying single “so that I have more time to spend with my friends” and “to be able to go wherever I want without having to answer to anyone.”

One of the most interesting categories was ranked higher than those I’ve just discussed: #8, “I will not be better off.” That category includes just one reason, “I believe that being in a relationship will not make me happier than I am right now.”

If you are interested, think about these findings some more. How would you interpret them? If you wanted to generalize about the over-arching reasons why people stay single, what would you say?

I’m asking you this because I’m guessing that your answer is going to be different from the author’s. In a future post (Part 2), I will tell you how the author interprets his results, and how I do.

Reference:

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