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Are singles happy?

Posted on Monday, August 30, 2010 in dating, Happiness, Kat, Relationships, Singles

“What a beautiful view,” Sara said as we sat at the Mountain Home Inn soaking in the amazing vista, resting our tired hiking legs. “I just wish I had someone to share it with.”

“Excuse me, Missy, but am I chopped liver? Aren’t we sharing it?”

“You know what I mean; a guy.”

“You’ll find him, sweetie,” I said, trying to sound reassuring even though I know there’s a very real possibility she won’t.

She sighed. “I’m just so tired of being single.”      

Ah, yes, “being single” — the condition in which many married people wish they were, and in which many single people wish they weren’t.

Which is kind of odd because so much of what Sara loves about being single is her freedom; me, too. No one to answer to, no one to compromise with, no one who has to nag remind us to leave the toilet seat down or to replace the toothpaste cap.

All the niggling details of being coupled that tear away at intimacy and romance and often leave resentment, bitterness and disappointment in their wake.

If only being single wasn’t so … alone.

Except, I’m perfectly happy being alone.

Does that make me weird?

There’s a perception that being alone means lonely; OK, sometimes they’re one and the same. There are 104 million single people in the United States — there’s just no way to know how many are happily single and how many want to be coupled or “unsingle.” Despite surveys that proclaim how happy singles are, the never-ending stupid “How to be single and happy” Cosmo, eHow and Helium articles would make you think, well, perhaps we’re not all as happy as we say we are.

Regardless, learning to be happy alone is one of the most valuable gifts we can give ourselves. Because only we can create our own happiness, no one else. And, we may end up being single for most if not all of our lives. Then what?

There’s nothing worse than being single and wanting not to be single … except perhaps being not single and wishing you were. Feeling alone in a relationship sucks. So does the desperation of wanting to be coupled so much that we find ourselves in relationships we really shouldn’t be in just so we don’t have to be lonely alone.

Despite the whole Quirky Alone movement (which probably has already gone the way of chia pets and pet rocks) and the writings of such singles advocates as Bella DePaulo, author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, I wonder if most singles feel totally happy and complete being single for the rest of their lives, or if they see it as a temporary situation until someone comes along.

And I wonder if women worry more about being single than men do (or is it that society feels more uncomfortable with single women than single men? She’s the old maid or spinster, he’s the lifelong bachelor — which sounds better?).

Interesting what John DeVore, the Frisky’s Mind of Men columnist says:

Men don’t fear the “single” label. We have our own issues and fears, but they are likewise illusory, socially created scarecrows … Men don’t mind being “single,” because we have mythologies that celebrate the whole notion of being on your own.

True; aren’t most of the heroes of our myths men whose women live in the periphery of their lives — if they even have them, that is? Do women have the same mythologies? I don’t think so, but I think society has many mythologies for us (see old maid/spinster references above, or the rumors swirling around powerful women who aren’t married or mothers, like Elena Kagan).

Look at “Sex and the City’s” Samantha, a single woman who wasn’t all that concerned with being coupled — just copulating. She seemed perfectly happy being on her own, enjoying her career and having her close connections with her friends (who mostly did want to be coupled). But her happiness in her life as a solo woman was judged because she was a sexual solo woman (although if she wasn’t sexual, she’d be judged, too — spinster, anyone?)

Like Samantha, I don’t know how to make being single work unless I have the sexual part, too. That’s part of the “happily single” formula for me because I’m just not into the celibacy thing.

Of course, I’m not single right now — I have a boyfriend and love, even though we don’t live together and I am often alone. Nor am I alone — I have a kid who lives with me part time, so that’s hardly “alone.”

Boyfriend or not, though, I’m happy being by myself (I’m pretty good company) and I’ve been happy being single — as long as I can have sex in my life.

  • How do you define happiness as a single person?
  • Could you be happy as a single forever, or do you plan to have your singledom be just a transitory phase?
  • How much does sex factor into that?
  • Is being “alone” for you a happy thing, or is it “loneliness”?

More single ramblings:

Commitment and freedom; can you have both?

photo © Nathalie P – Fotolia.com

Bring on the comments

  1. I’m happy being alone and single (especially over being in a unhealthy relationship) but do I want to be un-coupled for the rest of my life? NO.

    I do agree that men who are single are percieved differntly than single women. The men are seen as enjoying their bachelor life while a single woman has somehow “failed” to be in a succesful relationship.

  2. KC says:

    Single… I’m single, but I have a girlfriend. So, does that make me “coupled”? All of these titles… I’m Happily single. I don’t have any desire to “tie the knot” again. I don’t live with my GF. We spend a couple of nights together during the week and then most weekends. Lately I’ve been busy doing “Guy” things on the weekends. Something that I have done for most of my life and I’m not about to change it. My former “relationships” were always jealous of my going away on the weekends. We have a couple of ranches and during this time of year, only the guys go to the ranch. It’s just a guy thing. I think that my “single” freedom tends to put pressure on my relationships. I know it did when I was married and I can feel it in my present relationship. I do try to make up for it by being extra loving and caring and by taking the GF out more or by SEXING her up so that she feels satisfied that I care about her… I don’t know if it helps but at least I put in the effort to try.
    I won’t marry again even though I know she would want to one day. It’s just not in my cards but I also don’t want to be “single” I love having someone to share things with. I love SEX but hate the “dating game” I love the wildness that can come from two people being secure with themselves.
    I guess, at this point, I’m a committed SINGLE guy…
    Happy Monday!

  3. dadshouse
    Twitter: dadshouseblog
    says:

    I don’t mind being single, although I’m itching for a live-in girlfriend again. I can handle being alone just fine. It does get lonely on occasion, and that part I don’t like. But I’d really enjoy some built-in spooning again. And adult dinner talk.

    http://dadshouseblog.com/2010/08/16/my-daughters-off-to-college-and-i-need-a-live-in-girlfriend/

    You’re right that men don’t care about the ‘single’ label. it doesn’t bother me one bit.

  4. Eathan
    Twitter: iswirls
    says:

    I can truly say I’m happy being single. I enjoy the freedom. You are totally correct, learning to be happy regardless of your relationship status is very important. I’ve never understood people that only find happiness when they are with someone.

    And I do think women view being single worse than men do.

  5. Kat Wilder says:

    Can #singles really be #happy being alone all their life? http://katwilder.com/?p=2521

  6. Kat Wilder » Are singles happy?: Look at “Sex and the City's” Samantha, a single woman who wasn't all that concern… http://bit.ly/auGEOg

  7. Kat Wilder says:

    Mindy — I think you, and I are the singles who might skew all those “happy singles” studies. Because, we don’t want to do it forever!

    KC — I think if we’re in a relationship, we are coupled, if you have to “label” it. I think we’re truly single if we are unattached (even though you’d mark single — or maybe divorced — on your taxes/census forms). Now, as for your guy time; why are your women tweaked about that? Jealousy? Insecurity?

    Dads — I know you’ve been itching for a GF. You’re not alone either; with a kid at home even part time, we don’t have quite the same solo time. You’re like Mindy and me — we can do the solo thing just fine, but it’s not what we’d chose forever. I always wonder if the ones who chose it forever do it by default.

    Eathan — I think you’re right, women do see being single differently than men. But, society views it differently for us, too. A lot of questions come into play, about our sexuality (see Kagan) and our personality — golddigger? crazy? needy?

  8. brian says:

    been single all my life
    don’t think about it at all or at least haven’t for probably 15 years or so when i was in my mid to late 40’s and came to a conclusion that i’d probably never marry and didn’t want or need to
    never looked back
    don’t feel lonely at all
    more content and at peace
    think this is an easier path for men in part because women are more social and that drives a need to be coupled to fit in
    also growing up as an only child you learn to be independent and more self reliant and how to manage your time and life

  9. Ed says:

    * How do you define happiness as a single person?
    -Happiness as a single person is about focusing my thoughts on what I have not on what I do not have.
    * Could you be happy as a single forever, or do you plan to have your singledom be just a transitory phase?
    -My plan is to be happy regardless of my relationship status. That said, I would be lying if I said I did not want someone to share my blessings with.
    * How much does sex factor into that?
    -People put too much emphasis on sex. Sex is wonderful, but too many have failed to give it the respect it deserves. Sex is a divine gift from God and whether your into casual sex or not, you should always respect your lover. I’ve lived large parts of my life happily without sex. Do I want it, Yes. Do I need it to be happy, No.
    * Is being “alone” for you a happy thing, or is it “loneliness”?
    -Being alone is my default state. I was raised by a single mom who had to work long hours and also went to college to better herself. I learned and am very good at being happy by myself. I’m still learning to be happy around other people.

  10. Kat Wilder says:

    Could you be happy being #single forever? http://katwilder.com/?p=2521

  11. Simone Grant says:

    RT @KatWilder: Could you be happy being #single forever? http://katwilder.com/?p=2521 <- great post

  12. Kat Wilder » Are singles happy? http://bit.ly/auGEOg
    (via @SimoneGrant)

  13. BigLittleWolf
    Twitter: BigLittleWolf
    says:

    Thought-provoking post. There’s a big difference between being single and being alone. Samantha (in SATC), as representation of a woman comfortable with being single, is not alone. She has friends who are and have been her family for decades. Loneliness comes in a variety of flavors at various points in time. We’ve all experienced it. But it’s more likely we’ll experience it when we are truly alone – no friends, no family, no co-workers, etc.

    All that said, I liked being single before I was married. I have nothing against marriage. I like being single now. I have no need to be married again. But I’ve always enjoyed being in a good relationship. That’s something I would like to experience again.

  14. The Observer says:

    This hits hard at the Maslovian heirarchy. I’m married but “single” in a big part of my life. Recalling actual singlehood I’d say loneliness or happiness is an inside job. I can be lonely when I am un-single. Or extremely happy and lead a fulfiling life. Depends on the dude or dudette.

    Having an active life and pervasive interests and passions are tantamount to defining how happy you (pointing at myself) will be. Single or not. A for-instance: I have zero love-life within my marriage, but I do enjoy the companionship–so sex alone is not (for me–your experience may vary) the most important aspect of being single, or even being partnered up. From my perspective. Yes, to answer your next question: It would be much, much, much better with a sex life, as well.

    I have grown to enjoy alone-time, and yet, wonder how I could get by if my partner of 35 years no longer existed. That sounds extremely depressing. Turn back on: happy thoughts.

    Kat, I hope you are truly enjoying your relationship and that you find all the good things along your path to savor. Great blog subject. Cheers, T.O.

  15. Henway says:

    It’s a clique but if you’re not happy by yourself, you can never be happy in a relationship.

    I think society places so much emphasis on the romantic relationship, and romantic love that they don’t recognize the psychological harm it causes when we can’t get love. Some ppl will brush that concern aside when you tell them, and tell you “Don’t worry, it’ll happen”.. excuse me? How do you know? You were born with this innate wisdom that love magically happens to all of us?

    The right perspective is not to view love as everything. Put love where it is.. it’s not the end-all and be-all of life. Love actually causes a lot of resentment and emotional suffering. True, pure love is something you don’t need a partner to share. It can be shared with friends, family, or even strangers through volunteering. The other type of love, romantic love is based on clinging, ego gratification, making me feel special, etc. That’s not the type of love to be celebrated and strived after.

  16. RT @KatWilder: Can #singles really be #happy being alone all their life? http://katwilder.com/?p=2521