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Clipped Wings and Heightened Risks: Singles Quarantined with Other People

Single people stuck in what Annabel Ross calls “quarantine purgatory” – they are living with couples – are at risk of facing the “smug married” dynamic, even if the couples are not married. I discussed that last time. Now I want to talk about some of the other annoying challenges as well as more serious threats to single people in these situations, including when the roommate’s romantic partner was not living there already, but moved in during the lockdown.

Clipped Wings: Single People Love their Freedom and Autonomy

Living with other people can be especially challenging for single people, including even single people who were perfectly happy with their single lives beforehand, because they are getting their freedom curtailed.

Single people love having their freedom and autonomy and deciding for themselves what their place is going to look like and what kinds of chores and such they are going to do and when. Research shows that not only do single people value freedom more than married people do, but they also get more happiness out of their valuing of freedom than married people do. When the partner of a friend or roommate moves into a place that the single person shares, that can be a major disruption to their freedom. In ways big and small, they now have to deal with not just one other person but two, and two who see themselves as a unit. Maybe they even see themselves as more important than the single person because they are coupled and the single person is not.

Find Your Tribe and Go Outside

Dealing with the couple, unless they are particularly gracious and open-minded, is going to be a challenge. What single people really need in this situation, I think, is to be in touch with other singles who really “get” them, who see things from a single person’s perspective. So many conversations and ways of thinking are just so matrimaniacal – people are obsessed with celebrating couples and thinking they are more valuable than everyone else and that their experiences and values should be the standard by which everyone else is judged. That is so narrow-minded, and so tiresome! There are resources for single people, including online communities as well as books and talks and podcasts, that can be real sources of solace and validation for single people who are not about to apologize for being single.

Of course, the best thing single people could do for themselves in these kinds of situations is to get out of the house or apartment and be with their friends, go out and do the kinds of things that make them happy. We also know, from tons of research, that single people have more friends than married people do, and they do more to maintain their ties with their friends, neighbors, siblings, parents and coworkers than married people do. Couples, in contrast, become more insular once they move in together or get married.  The way I like to put it is that couples may have The One, but singles have “the ones.” But under social distancing, single people can’t be with the people who matter to them, the people who make them happy.

If they live in a place where it is considered acceptable to go out on their own to be out in nature, exercise, or wander around in some place with hardly any other people around, that can be a really great thing to do, too.

Heightened risks: It is not just single people’s freedom that is at stake, but their health and their life

One very consequential consideration that is unique to this pandemic is that the romantic partners who move into the place are bringing with them a huge risk. These people may be infected and not know it. So in order to placate the roommate or friend who wants to quarantine with their romantic partner, the single person may be putting their own life at risk. Sadly, that is not an exaggeration. It can cost the single person their health and maybe their life to accommodate the wishes of the roommate who wants their beau around. And once that romantic partner does move in, every time that person ventures out of the dwelling and comes within 6 feet of other people, then comes back, they are endangering the health and the very life of the single person.

What should they pay for that?

Clipped Wings and Heightened Risks: Singles Quarantined with Other People

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. (2020). Clipped Wings and Heightened Risks: Singles Quarantined with Other People. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 9, 2020, from


Last updated: 22 Apr 2020
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