In my role as someone who studies single life and practices it, too, I get asked all sorts of fascinating questions. Some of them are professional (for example, about what research has shown), others are personal. Recently, I was interviewed for the November/December 2018 issue of the magazine, Psychotherapy Networker. That gave me the idea to share with you (with their permission) longer versions of the answers I gave the therapists.
This marks the start of a series of blog posts, “Questions I’ve Been Asked.” At first, most of the posts in the series will be from my interview with Psychotherapy Networker. Eventually, I’ll address questions that other people (such as reporters, readers, relatives, and friends) ask me. Feel free to add any of your own questions in the comments section.
Here’s one of the questions Ryan Howes asked me:
Aren’t dual incomes, sharing responsibilities, and built-in companionship and support a desirable thing?
Sure, I wish I had two incomes! But if I have to be married and live with someone to get that, never mind. I love living alone.
And yes, it might be nice if someone else swooped in and did some of the household chores. For example, I love cooking, but I wish someone would magically show up and do the dishes. But here’s the thing – after they cleaned up, I would like them to leave.
I like companionship and I like support. But I don’t want the version that comes with them always being in the same home with me. I don’t like “built-in companionship” in the sense that I’m obligated to always have the same person as my plus-one, and that person always wants me to tag along to their events, whether I want to or not.
All of this does not mean that I don’t value close personal relationships. I do. I like going out to long, leisurely dinners with close friends. Sometimes I like traveling with them. Sometimes I enjoy visits from out-of-town friends or family. I have cherished friendships that have lasted decades. But I want that closeness to be balanced by delicious stretches of solitude.
People who love their single lives often prefer the do-it-yourself approach to relationships and to life. They like deciding who they are going to spend their time with (without it having to be the same person every time), and they like the option of not spending time with anyone at all on a given day.
They like deciding for themselves who counts as the important people in their lives. If you get married, that’s mostly decided for you. Your spouse (supposedly) comes first. Some couples feel threatened if their partner wants to spend time with friends or family, without them.
I think what people don’t often realize is that single people, on the average, do more to create and maintain and nurture ties with other people than married people do. That’s across all single people – not just the ones who want to be single. Studies show that single people have more friends. They stay in touch with friends, neighbors, siblings, and parents more than married people do, and they are there for them more often when they need help. Longitudinal studies show that when couples move in together or get married, they become more insular. They spend less time with their friends and siblings and stay in touch with their parents less. Kids aren’t the reason. Married people tend to do that even if they don’t have kids.
A related question is, “If you aren’t in a romantic relationship, who’s your ‘person’?” I addressed that here.