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The Double Standards of Single Life

If you are single, your choices will be judged by a different standard than the exact same choices made by a married person. That’s the double standard of single life. A recent book, One: Valuing the Single Life, by the Australian author Clare Payne, pointed out several such double standards. One offers many other insights and observations as well.

Clare Payne comes from the world of finance, having worked in global firms in Sydney, New York, and London. As a single person, she did not have a lot of company, especially as she moved up the ranks, and she did not get much validation, either:

“When I looked around senior management, I rarely saw a single person. In the conservative fields of law and banking, divorces were quickly met by remarriage. The more senior I got, the fewer single people I worked with, and the lack of understanding and judgements of others began to envelope my work life.”

Something good came out of her frustrations – the research and thinking that went into her book. Here is a small sampling from One:

At an event, the head of a large firm “thanked the wives and husbands of the staff for keeping them all ‘sane’. The executive didn’t seem to realize that the implication was that anyone without a wife or husband might be ‘insane’.”

“If a single woman has an expensive bag, she can be perceived to be spoiling herself because no one else will, rather than being admired for having her own means or good taste.”

“I’ve often thought it odd that it’s entirely legitimate for a woman to spend thousands of dollars on a wedding dress which is worn once, when a single woman will feel self-conscious buying herself something expensive.”

“We should question that a photo posted online of a single person on holiday having what looks like the time of their life might be thought of as indulgent while the snap of a family skiing holiday is considered cute.”

“The persistence of the belief that married people are more ‘stable’ than singles is surprising given the high rate of divorce…”

About the tax breaks that married people get, such as on inheritance taxes: “there’s a case to be made that it’s more appropriate for tax concessions to apply to single people, considering they won’t inherit wealth from a partner.”

Previous guest bloggers here at “Single at Heart,” such as Amy Carpenter and Tricia Parker, prefer “solo” or “independent” to “single” when describing parents. Clare Payne likes “solo,” too. Here’s how she describes what solo can mean:

“In ocean swimming, solo swimmers are more respected and revered than other swimmers. To swim solo is more of a challenge than being part of a duo or team that shares the load, swapping places and having breaks along the way. When a solo swimmer makes it to the finish line and stumbles up the beach, the crowd swells and roars with delight, because it’s a feat that is enhanced, not diminished, by it having been done alone.”

Hats off to that!

The Double Standards of Single Life

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. (2019). The Double Standards of Single Life. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 1, 2020, from


Last updated: 29 Jan 2019
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