By Karen Espig
Imagine having complete autonomy: deciding where your time, money, and energy are invested. Imagine seeing who you want, when you want. Need alone time? No problem. When you are single, you decide what is best for you, right now and in the future. You can live your life on your terms.
According to Pew Research Center, 38% of adults in the USA aged 25-54 were unpartnered. In 1990, the number was 29%. With this shift in numbers, we also see a change in attitudes—single-ness is becoming an acceptable choice and not just an accidental state of being.
So now that we know you are in a growing community let’s examine what choosing to be single is all about.
Living Your Best Life
Being single should not be viewed as a failure to find a partner. It is a valid life choice. As a single, you have the emotional space to figure out what you really need and what your dreams are. Your focus is not centred on a partner or a compromised joint goal.
And not only can you discover your dreams, but you are also more likely able to follow them than if you are in a committed relationship. Dreams can come true!
Healthy Relationship With Yourself
There is a cultural narrative that being partnered means being healthier. This concept surfaced in 1858, according to findings by William Farr. More recent and nuanced studies have shown that while being partnered does indeed have its health advantages, it must be a psychologically healthy union to do so. An unhealthy one has the inverse effect on health, including chronic stress and increased risk of cardiovascular disease—not to mention the mental health impacts.
Growing support indicates that being single may be where it’s at from a health perspective. Studies suggest singles exercise more regularly, practice more self-care, and are more socially resilient.
Single ≠ Loneliness
There is a misconception that being single means being lonely. According to psychologist Becky Spelman, there are actually four types of loneliness; emotional, situational, social, and chronic. All of these experiences of loneliness occur in both partnered and non-partnered individuals. And single people may actually be better placed to work through these feelings.
What About Intimacy?
Humans are social animals that thrive on connection—yes, even introverts. As it happens, there are several types of intimacy—sexual intimacy being only one. Being single doesn’t mean you cannot meet this vital group of needs. In fact, being single, you may actually have a wider social network, which means more chances for meaningful connections.
Here’s where the friends-with-benefits paradigm fits. This concept is thrown around a lot in current culture. While it is a great way to meet some of your physical intimacy needs, it must be nurtured in a healthy way that ensures the friendship part of the equation doesn’t disappear.
Sexual intimacy with friends is fraught with emotional and social risks. I am not saying it’s a bad option, but it needs to be approached with open eyes and clear, honest communication for a healthy result.
Non-Sexual Physical Intimacy
Meeting these needs is much more straightforward. Non-sexual physical intimacy includes hugging, a gentle hand on the arm, shoulder, or back, and simply sitting close to a person (within their personal space). Sustained eye contact also falls into this category. Studies show that non-sexual physical intimacy reduces stress, lowers blood pressure, and increases immunity.
When we speak about emotional intimacy, hopefully, all of us (partnered or not) develop and nurture this in our close friend and family relationships. This kind of intimacy is about sharing our innermost thoughts, dreams, fears, and disappointments with someone who listens, accepts, and supports us without judgement.
There is a tendency, especially from family and partnered friends, to try and fix the fact that you are single. It is viewed as a problem to be solved. Or perhaps they question whether you are going about finding a partner in the right way (even though you aren’t looking at all).
This is part of the experience of single-shaming; like all other shaming, it sucks and is hurtful. You might even be doing it to yourself, so take the time to examine and be clear about your inner dialogue.
It’s important to note also that not all your coupled friends are as happy as you think or as content as they say.
Single and sad? I don’t think so. I think more partnered people could learn from the happy singles out there. If you decide to be single and choose not to focus on partner-searching, you will have more energy and emotional resources to create a life that really works for you.
So, I don’t know about you, but I think the single life looks pretty good!