Redefining & Accepting the Single Relationship Status
The meaning of being single has changed over the years and I think it is important to recognize and respect this choice. Being single can have some very surprising and positive impacts on someone such as being therapeutic, energizing, an increase in time, and simply the best choice for some people. The positive benefits of being single are becoming increasingly verified with science and newly discovered through its popularity in communities. If being single is so great for certain people, why did it take us this long and what held us back? One way to help the acceptance, understanding, and normalization of being single is to identify as self-partnered. Abiding by its values and taking the time to understand the term is a positive way to end the stigma around being single and show respect to those who deserve it.
If you don’t get married you have not “failed”
In the past, many have associated being single with “failing” or not fulfilling a life purpose. You can read more about why the “failing” mindset is not beneficial in my blog: 10 Free Ways to Maintain Good Mental Health. Often people can think someone is not successful because they are not in a relationship or are not married but that judgment is simply not true.
Marriage can be a beautiful thing, it intends to create a strong bond between individuals, security by having someone to take care of you (if needed), and someone (or multiple people) to grow with. Although surprisingly the creation of these positive benefits from marriage can also exist while being single (and sometimes even more) depending on the individual. There is definitely a lot of pressure from society and cultures to get married by a certain age because it can be deemed necessary or expected. The intentions are good, but if we let go of some of those expectations I think we have much more to gain and give each other.
The sexism of being single
To be a single male in our culture definitely felt more accepted by society than to be a single woman. As a man, you may often be referred to as a bachelor and are accepted more easily without ridicule or shock that you do not have or need a partner. Being a woman, and considered a bachelorette, we are rarely if ever referred to as a bachelorette. In fact, I think some of society is still shocked we don’t need a partner and for some reason, society can feel offended by this. I decided to look up the definitions and synonyms of a single man vs. a single woman and I found it to support this feeling of not being treated equally. This is not to say that these dictionary sources are sexist, but rather that they provide facts regarding our language and report it to the public.
Redefining a ‘single woman’
Suggested synonyms of ‘single woman’ from Thesaurus included: old maid (fuddy-duddy, goody-goody, lone woman, prig, prude, spinster). I then tried to search for ‘single man’ which did not exist so I turned to an alternative from Word Hippo (which lists both terms in alignment with Thesaurus). Word Hippo did not list any offensive synonyms for ‘single man’ but suggests: eligible man, available, and unattached. I was surprised to find none of these synonyms were listed for ‘single woman’. They did however have a (significantly longer) list of synonyms which included: bluenose (prude), prig (self-righteous), snob (an offensive air of superiority), fussbudget (who complains or fusses a great deal, especially about unimportant matters), and probably the most shocking to me was a hypocrite.
It is no surprise to find that more men are single than women
These derogatory synonyms were very uncomfortable for me to learn because I was not aware of just how much more sexism exists for simply being a single woman in comparison to a single man. I do believe this to vary depending on culture and country. Pew Research Center reports in their study (found here) of U.S. adults (aged 18-29) that 51% of men were single but only 32% of women were single in 2019. Although the reasons for being single are unique to individuals, I think one major reason fewer women are single is because of pressure from society. This can result in wanting to avoid being single because of the terms and treatment that could come with it.
“I had just assumed my whole life I had to grow up, get married, and have babies. It’s even in children’s rhymes and stories. It’s kind of ingrained, at least in my experience. I did all that, and after almost 10 years, we are separated, have 2 kids, and it’s messy. I’m not even out of the same house as them, and I already feel pressure from well-meaning (I’m sure) family and friends to begin dating a guy.” – Anonymous
Women are often underestimated in just how much they are capable of achieving without a man or partner. One (of many) good ways to help end this stigma is to think about whether you would (or should) say the same thing to a man. When considering equality, if it applies to both genders and is unacceptable to say to a man it probably is unacceptable to say to a woman.
For instance, “Don’t mention her young children unless you would also mention his, or describe her clothes unless you would describe his, or say she’s shrill or attractive“ -Thaliakr for Sacraparental in 2016.
Another way I think is great is by altering the perception of words. Combining compliments using words (that are specific to feminine or masculine stereotypical traits) would be very interesting and impactful to normalize. For example, saying your strength is beautiful or I admire your kind leadership. If you want to come up with more, you can use the word list below to mix and match.
Some traits traditionally viewed as masculine include:
Some traits traditionally viewed as feminine include:
You can date as many people as you want, for as long as you want
On the other hand, if women are actively dating they are often still ridiculed for this. This can happen if a women has a history of dating “mutliple”too many” people for “too long”. Women often cannot win and the point becomes obvious that the issue is their gender and is resulting in sexism. Out of curiousity, I conducted an anonymous survey for my peers in 2023. I found that 100% of my peers agreed that women experience sexism & more ridicule if single in comparison to men. It is important women are surrounded by people who support and uplift them. This should apply no matter how they decide to live their lives.
Toxic masculinity affects society as a whole
Women are stigmatized for being single but also some men are too. Men may feel uncomfortable showing signs of generalized/stereotypical feminism traits because of this sexism and stigma in our society. Toxic Masculinity is negative resulting attitudes and ways of behaving in society that is stereotypically expected of men. Men can feel pressure to conform to toxic masculinity to be accepted by a society which supports it. A way to avoid supporting this is by continuing to create more acceptance, embracement, and less judgement of others.
The positives of being single
A major trend I have seen reported as a benefit of being single is simply having more time. This allows people to have more time to think, do physical activity, take career opportunities, and dedicate more time towards bettering friendships described by The Insider. Taking more time to think can result in getting to know yourself better and pursuing your passions in a very dedicated way. When you are single, you usually have more time for focusing on yourself in comparison to those who are married. “Being single allows you to focus on your own needs and wants and to develop a strong sense of self which can improve self-esteem and self-worth.” says Healing Roots Therapy.
Time for yourself is not selfish
In such a fast-paced world, the idea of having so much for yourself may seem unfamiliar or even selfish but I want to be clear that it is not. This in itself can be very therapeutic for the majority of people and could result in much-needed growth and happiness for yourself and also the world you interact with. Having a sense of confidence in who we are is something we all deserve. Spending some (or all) of your time being single to achieve this is an effective method.
Take advantage of your time while single
During the times I am single, I learn so much about how to take care of myself (mentally and physically) and have gained a great sense of independence, secureness, and freedom. I am able to dedicate my spare time to activities that I am passionate about and more quality time with myself and my friends (including my dog). It took me a while to really appreciate the benefits of not being in a relationship because of the stigma and pressure I feel from others to be in one.
Truth is, if I never marry I would still be happy because of what I have accomplished through being single. Marriage is hard work and often leads to divorce which I imagine is very difficult to go through as well. In my opinion, it is a rare blessing to find compatibility and true love with someone which whom you can spend the rest of your life (without taking too much of this type of quality time from you).
Normalize being single
There is a negative stigma around being single which has formed from traditional generations. Removing this stigma can create a positive change in the way we view other people and allow them to establish individuality. When people (especially celebrities) use “phrases like ‘self-partnered’ and ‘conscious uncoupling’ (instead of single), it “challenges the psychological implications and narratives behind the phrases being ‘single’ and ‘getting a divorce’.” says NBC News. Instead of saying a person is divorced (has lost someone) you can say that person is now self-partnered (meaning they have themself). This new term and its definition opens up a different mindset for people to adapt.