My primary interest is in people who are single. Marital status (or coupled status) is a separate issue from parental status. You can be single with kids or married with no kids. I know that’s obvious but the two are conflated all the time. In this post, I want to focus on the “no kids” part.
Psychology journals are overflowing with articles about loneliness, and have been for decades. Recently, scholars are starting to study solitude, in the sense of the positive aspects of being alone. Take a look at what we know so far.
In writing about single life, one topic that comes up especially often is friendship. Below are links to some of my blog posts on (1) the importance of friendship; (2) whether single people get ditched when their friends marry; (3) making friends; (4) breaking up with friends; (5) how friendship is erased and distorted; and (6) other friendship themes.
I have also published a collection of my academic papers on friendship. It is called Friendsight: What Friends Know that Others Don’t.
There is a question that comes up now and then when I’m blogging about singles issues: What kinds of events or places work well for single people, especially single people who are not looking for something they can do to help them become unsingle. I just realized that I discovered one of those places during an unlikely vacation.
I have spent a lot of time and effort debunking myths about marriage – for example, if you get married, you will be lastingly happier and healthier, live longer, have more and better sex, more interpersonal connections, and raise more successful children. (You can find links to all of the debunking here.) But there is one claim about marriage that I do not contest – if you get married, you probably will end up better off financially.
If you get married, will you get more sex and better sex? So far as I know, a methodologically persuasive study has never been done. That would involve following people over time as they stayed single or got married or got unmarried, and seeing how their sexual behavior and sexual satisfaction changed (or didn’t change) with those transitions. All we have are studies that compare married and single people at one point in time. You can never know from those kinds of studies if any differences really are about being married vs. single or whether they are about any of the many other ways that married and single people differ other than in their marital status. With that qualification, here’s what we know.
The assumption that if you get married, you will get healthier is so much a part of our conventional wisdom that it is rarely challenged. Back when I was just practicing single life and not studying it, I had no idea that the supposed truism was actually a myth. I figured that out fast, though, once I started going to the original research reports and scrutinizing them. I drew from what I had learned from decades of doing research and teaching graduate courses in research methods, but some of the mental errors in the claims about the research are so egregious that you should not need any formal training to realize how ridiculous they are.
There are a lot of “why are you single” lists popping up these days. I have mostly stopped clicking on the links. Maybe some of them are fine. Back when I used to look at them, though, far too often they came with an attitude that was insulting to single people – that all single people are single because there is something wrong with them and they need to be fixed. That’s an example of singlism and like all instances of that prejudice, it is unfair to single people. Only rarely did the authors ever concede that some people are single because that’s exactly what they want. Maybe they are even single-at-heart – not only do they like living single, but that’s how they lead their best, most meaningful, and most authentic lives.