Welcome to another post in my new series, “Questions I’ve Been Asked.” I was so glad that Ryan Howes asked me this question when he interviewed me for Psychotherapy Networker.
Does being a single person yourself who is a proponent of the single life add or subtract from your message?
That is such a great question. I have had journalists interview me and then, in their articles, say things like, “of course she is biased.” I call them on it. There are probably thousands of social scientists who have studied marriage, and said positive things about marriage in interviews and at conferences and in the manuscripts they submit to journals. I have never once seen any one of them challenged for that. So far as I know, no married researcher or writer has ever been told that they are biased because they are married. And the galling thing about that is, many of them are making causal claims that cannot possibly be supported by the studies they are doing or reviewing. I think many of them really are biased. Not in any malicious way; they are just taken by the prevailing mythology of our time, just like so many other laypersons are.
I wrote my first draft of this answer on a day when I had just gotten an article published in the Atlantic, “Single people aren’t to blame for the loneliness epidemic.” I was so happy about that. I’m passionate about getting my positive, evidence-based perspective on single people out there, and the Atlantic reaches a lot of smart, curious, and (I hope) open-minded readers. My article drew from stacks of studies. A friend posted a link on her Facebook page, and immediately, someone I don’t know posted a comment saying I was unethical and biased! Not just that she disagreed, but that somehow I was a bad person for making the case that single people and people living alone are often blamed for the loneliness epidemic and they shouldn’t be.
On the other hand, sometimes my experiences give me extra credibility. When I talk about living single for your entire adult life, I’m someone who has walked the walk. (And chosen it!) As a social scientist, I like to use research studies to make my points. But lots of people who are not social scientists are much more moved by personal stories. So I do some first-person writing, too, and that is often very well received.