Research Shows Being Single Doesn’t Mean Being Unhappy


Published: FEBRUARY 13, 2024


The data is in: Single people aren’t unhappy. So why does it often feel that way?

Let’s play a word association game. What comes to mind when you think “single?”

If your brain immediately went to ice cream in bed, a pile of tissues, or a solo Friday night, you aren’t alone. “Structural singleism,” or the stereotypes and judgements placed on single people, are more embedded into our societal fabric than perhaps you’ve even realized. However, thanks to recent research from The Journal of Sexual Medicine, we now have evidence that being single doesn’t actually equate to unhappiness. So why does it very often feel that way?

We consulted the research, the psychology, as well as singles themselves to get to the bottom of “the single stigma,” and how to embrace the scientific fact of the matter: Being “single” is not the same as being “sad.”

Read: How to Stop Hating Valentine’s Day

The Power of “Singleism”

According to the American Psychological Association, “singleism” is the stereotyping, marginalizing, or stigmatizing of single people, leading to discrimination against them. While it may seem overblown to consider single people “marginalized,” consider the way that laws, systems, or customs might disproportionately benefit couples. Married people are entitled to tax advantages such as IRA benefits. Culturally, we celebrate milestones that feel specific to couples – from engagement, to marriage, to starting a family. The prevalence of singleism makes it easy to feel like if you don’t have a mate, you’re disadvantaged or left behind.

“I often hear the misconception that single people must have something wrong with them if they are not in a relationship, particularly once they reach their 30s,” Natalie Campano, MHC-LP, tells Kinkly. “Single people must be lonely, and hate all things relating to love and relationships. [These stereotypes] can further isolate single people from those in relationships, or insinuate that one needs a partner to find joy.”

But the volume and prominence around “the single stigma” may actually be distracting us from the fact that being single isn’t such a bad thing, at least when it comes to overall fulfillment.

One study by The Journal of Sexual Medicine, published by Komlenac and Hochleitner, asserts that one of heteronormativity’s fundamental assumptions is the belief that all people are attracted to and desire sexual activity with other people in the first place. Komlenac and Hochleitner call this “allonormativity.” The prominence of allonormativity in our culture has created social structures that expect and even privilege sexual and romantic relationships.

“Being interested in or romantically involved with another person is expected. The assumptions or portrayals that single people are less satisfied with life or feel more miserable than do people in relationships are propagated by research that reports that together is better,” the research explains. “Single people are a diverse demographic group with different inter- and intraindividual differences and can have varying levels of life satisfaction. Therefore, being single does not equate with being unhappy. To the contrary, endorsement of the belief that only together is better can be a risk factor for poor mental health.”

Understanding the exact origins of “the single stigma,” as well as how they resonate with your individual experience, is important to finding fulfillment no matter your relationship status. It may come in the form of feeling that you’re being left out of major life moments. It may be associated with certain events that encourage us to couple up, such as a wedding or Valentine’s Day. It may come from the media.

Understanding the exact origins of “the single stigma,” as well as how they resonate with your individual experience, is important to finding fulfillment no matter your relationship status.

“Pop culture can often ostracize single people by painting them in a negative light or feeding the stereotype of single people not having their life together,” Campano affirms. “I see an agenda being pushed every time a movie or TV show creates a sad, single, lonely character with one goal: To find love. And then we see their lives change afterwards.”

Komlenac and Hochleitner say that we can absorb our allonormative ideas from any number of places. “Expectations are often communicated and reaffirmed in families, among friends and peers and in communities, cultural practices, religious institutions, educational systems, media, healthcare systems, and other social spaces.”

While we’re used to these portrayals that glorify partnership, your personal quality of life goes far beyond whether you have a significant other. Leaning into happiness is possible, and even more likely, when you embrace your singledom and all of its benefits.

Leaning into happiness is possible, and even more likely, when you embrace your singledom and all of its benefits.

The Single Stigma: Unraveling Misconceptions

If you’ve fallen into the trap of believing the many stereotypes that surround singleness, remind yourself that most of those perceptions are untrue, and only feed the false narrative that being single is synonymous with being lonely or sad. Here are a few misconceptions about flying solo that funnel into “the single stigma,” and should be written off if you’re looking to reframe the narrative around singleness.

You’re missing out on something if you aren’t in love

Not everyone experiences romantic love at every stage of life. That doesn’t diminish their ability to live richly and experience life to its fullest.

Romantic love is superior to other forms of love

In an Instagram poll conducted for The Washington Post, 66% of respondents chose friendship over love when asked what was most important to them. Many of these respondents also identified as Gen Z. While the “single stigma” still remains prominent, perhaps this represents a turning of the tides that aligns more closely with contemporary findings on the happiness of single folks.

You want or even need to date

Even if your context or your community feels like it’s urging you to date, spoiler alert: You don’t have to do so. You don’t even have to want to. In fact, according to The Pew Research Center, over half of single adults in the U.S. are choosing not to date. You’re not alone in maintaining singleness if that feels right to you.

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Article Source : kinkly.com – Sex ed for adults! Kinkly provide reviews, education and perspectives to help you have sex that’s healthy, consensual and fun.

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