What is it really like being single? Do singles truly hate being without a partner or secretly love it? Men and women might be single by choice or by circumstance, for a short time or for a longer time. But most singles surveyed state they don't want to stay unattached forever. The single status has less of a stigma attached to it these days as noted in the last census where 60% more unmarried people chose to call themselves "single" rather than "divorced" or "separated". It is still considered a minority group, but they're catching up and maybe one of these days, there'll be more singles around than couples. Statistics also show a marked increase in single person dwellings throughout Western countries. Nowadays, there's so much more choice in terms of employment opportunities, living arrangements and financial freedom. As a result, getting married is not the exclusive or automatic life choice anymore.
What is a "Single"?
The dictionary would say a single person is one who is unmarried. But what if someone is unmarried yet seriously dating? What if they live with someone without the benefit of a marriage licence? After teaching university courses on being single for the past 10 years, I can honestly say I haven't identified a "typical" single - every one is unique and special. They are as varied as any other group of people.
Society's attitudes can be fairly negative. Singles are often branded as undesirable, bitter, overly fussy loners who are incredibly selfish. Apparently, the latest collective name for singles as a group is "quirky alones" - doesn't that speak volumes in itself?
Let's take a look at what it means to be single today - single but hopefully not dateless and definitely not desperate.
Potential Hassles* Others' negative attitudes and judgements* Pressure from family, friends and married couples to get married* Well meaning but annoying matchmakers* Social pressure to be part of a couple, sometimes even from a job* Stereotyping and being lumped under one standard label* Not being invited to couples-only affairs* Shyness and low self esteem* Being out of practice if returning to the singles' scene after a long gap* Fear of being hurt again after a break up* Cynicism about love and romance* Fear of being attracted to the "wrong" type of person again
So how do singles avoid getting jaded, disillusioned and just plain fed up?
Don't self pity
It's so easy to fall into the trap of believing that "there's no one decent out there". If a man or woman has been in a "failed" relationship or has experienced a recent break up, it's difficult to trust again - that's a given - but with a suit of armour on, it's impossible to let love in again. Hey, never mind love, what about plain, old fashioned fun? Even if it's great to be alone, there are still lots of desirable options waiting to be discovered.
Everyone has a past, a history and emotional baggage and it's better to stay single and work these out than be married and dump them on a partner. The ex doesn't have to determine the next!
Be open minded
Singles who are too rigid in their thinking will only ever get what they've had before and go where they already know the geography. But those who are adventurous, prepared to accept invitations and be daring are saying yes to life. A lot of singles complain about how hard it is to socialise on their own, but by initiating outings and reaching out to others, it gets the pleasure ball rolling. Singles who go out with an open mind, enthusiastically seeking friends of both sexes, not playing either hunter or hunted, seem to have the most success with this lifestyle.
What's great about being single?
What are some of the positive aspects of being single? Having autonomy over one's own life, plans and desires is probably the main one. Then there's the freedom to please oneself and lots of time to explore new interests, people and activities, not to mention hogging the doona and being able to eat crisps in bed whenever!
A common trap, however, is getting carried away with romantic fantasies.
That White Knight guy or Perfect 10 woman doesn't generally show up at any local pub or club and, even if they do, they're usually well disguised!
Having a mental blueprint of an ideal partner is fine, but it doesn't do to flash this list in front of prospective dates. It just might put off a really nice potential lover. Being willing to meet and date people outside comfortable parameters will mean avoiding the risk of missing someone terrific.
Labels are a tight fit any time but, in terms of being single, there are so many unflattering tags placed on unattached men and women that to wear them would be the equivalent of donning a hair shirt, bringing chronic discomfort and torture. Society feels uneasy about singles. Those who remain single or dare to enjoy life after divorce are considered rebels - why can't they just keep to the status quo, get married and be miserable like the rest of us! Why stay single and continue being footloose and fancy free, rubbing our noses in their freedom? What cheek!
It's easy to absorb society's negative attitudes but that's a definite no-no. It's no fun being singled out as a single, but with healthy self esteem, there is every reason to stand proud.
Charmaine is willing to answer your relationship questions to appear in NOVA Magazine, both in print and online. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org