Dispelling the Myths Around Single Life Being S***
Single life is sold as a death sentence. How can you possibly be happy when you don't have anyone to share your life with? And aren't you lonely going home to an empty house every day?
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These are some of the most comment perceptions that are put on singles when being unhappy isn't exclusive to those that are single, and neither is feeling lonely. I get asked all the time if those that are in relationships can come along to The Single Girls Club events because they feel lonely even in a relationship, and want to have friends.
So this week, I'm referring to author, social psychologist, and expert single life advocate, Bella DePaulo's work and combining it with my own experiences and expertise, to spread the message that DePaulo persistently represents which is ensuring that people know single life is valid, that you can be happy and live a fulfilled life being single, and in my words, to realise that single life ISN'T a death sentence!
Myth 1: Being single means you'll be unhappier
Truth: Long-term Singles aren't significantly less happy than those who are are married
When I first separated from my ex-husband, this was one of the first questions that cropped up from others: Are you seeing anyone else yet? I hadn't been back living with my parents for more than a month before this enquiry became a common question after people learned of my separation.
It's a commonly held belief in society that being in a relationship will make you happier, and that marriage is the single end goal of true success. Even my mother sat on my bed one day during a particularly tough time during the divorce and reassuring me that one day, I would get married again.
Admittedly, I was dating - as mistake that's very easy to see in hindsight; I was trying to heal the wounds of a relationship that had covered the majority of my life so far with attention of others and the prospect of a new relationship to feel valid again. And somewhere in the first sixth months or so of being separated, I realised that was what I was doing, and reshaped my impression of love and relationships all round.
I started to question what love was, how relationships really worked, and what really made people happy.
In Bella DePaulo's book, "Singled Out"*, she shares the the same sentiment, delving into the online articles and research published that make claim to married life making you happier. With her research background, she questions the validity of some of the research that is presented and considers the approaches taken during the studies and the impact on the outcomes that are presented.
Instead of studies which look at married and divorced people separately, which DePaulo argues will remove some of the unhappiest of those who got married and skew the remaining to be married data positively, she shares the details of her own longitudinal study with Wendy L. Morris, whereby happiness was studied over time.
For those that got married, they experienced a slight increase on average happiness of the group on the year of marriage, and this slowly declined back to pre-marriage levels over the years that followed. Single people's happiness however, generally stayed the same over the same number of years.
The study also showed that we overestimate how happy we'll be if we get married, by +1.5, but even more so, overestimate how unhappy we'll be if we stayed single forever, by -3.8 or so, when in actual fact, happiness of both groups remains around 7.
Whilst there will always be some individuals who really are happier single, and other individuals that are much happier staying single, on average, marital status doesn't affect your happiness level.
Myth 2: Being single means you'll be lonelier
Truth: Singles are more connected to others than those who are married
There's confusion over the idea around loneliness. For most, it's an association with not having people around. That's what being alone is. But loneliness is the feeling we experience when we're disconnected to the life around us.
Johann Hari goes into the nine causes of depression in his book, Lost Connections*, (one of my very favourites), which he describes as a series of disconnections; from meaningful work, from other people, from meaningful values, from status, from nature, from a hopeful future, as well as it being due to genes, childhood trauma, and changes in the brain.
Whilst depression isn't synonymous with being lonely, or being single, understanding the disconnections we can have from the world around us and the way it makes us feel is notable.
As a result, The Single Girls Club was created to help solve the loneliness experienced through single life. by providing an opportunity for connecting to others. It was the chance to look beyond a relationship to solve that sense of connection and to look towards another solution in the form of making new friends, specifically those with a common background that could bring a true understanding and empathy towards being single.
And it turns out that Bella DePaulo's work shows that singles have those connections, more so than those that are married, or even those that are divorced too.
In her article on Psychology Today, she shares the studies that show that singles have more friends, do more to maintain their friendships, and they also get more fulfilment from those connections.
It's easy to rely on that relationship when things go wrong in life, and you can end up relying on this one person for everything. The experience of my long-term relationship that led to marriage was exactly that, and through my 3 years of singlehood, I relearnt the value of valuing my friends, keeping up with them and how to deepen that experience. My friendship network hasn't significantly grown - I remain social and have met a number of women through coaching and events, but my inner circle has remained the same and the connections within them have deepened.
Myth 3: Being single means you don't have a purpose. What's a life without a family?
Truth: Having a purpose goes further than your idea of family alone, and your relationship status doesn't determine your purpose.
The expectation for your life, as determined by society, is to do well enough at school to pursue a job, (or a career, if you're lucky), to save up and take out a mortgage on a house, alongside finding a suitable partner to marry and then create a family with. The idea of success in our society is determined by these steps and that's the most "valid" form of a life to live.
So when someone doesn't follow that set of steps, that choice in life is questioned. Because what is a life if it isn't about having children and raising a family? A question that unintentionally forgets that some people have that choice taken away from them - are their lives really not valid if they can't have children? And then, what's the difference if you choose not to pursue that path, and decide to pour your time, efforts and energy into something else.
The problem comes from this limited idea of family, that the most important thing in your life should be your relationship and subsequent children, the nuclear family. But this is a far cry from our ancestors, who raised children in tribes and worked together to function in society.
The idea of children was one of the reasons that had me questioning my marriage whilst still in it. Despite conversations about the names we would call our imaginary future children, after we were married and the narrative became all about children from others, I started to realise the truth in what having children would mean. It is a lifetime dedication, a particular devotion to another being, that uses up resources of all kinds. And whilst that might be deemed honourable to do, it was something I felt more confined by the idea of that expansive of the love and joy it brings with it too.
I turned to my values, looking for what I wanted to do with my life. And to me creativity, autonomy, connection and growth were predominant, and I looked at other ways that I would be able to create a sense of success and belonging in those.
Your single life can have a purpose if you determine it to do so. Is it friendship that brings the connection for you that is the equivalent to creating a family of your own? Do you get fired up creatively at work, or through your hobbies, over the creativity of inspiring children?
Living true to yourself and your values is the key to purpose - not just the tick box of family life.
Single life is tarnished with a negativity of perpetual doom and gloom, but as a walking talking example of someone that loved being single and chose not to be scared of the conditions it brought, alongside the research to say that single life doesn't mean some of the stories we're told, you have the choice to enjoy your single life too (and to stop letting it hold you back!)
If you're want to work out your values so you can take the first steps to feeling confident in your single life, you can book a FREE 15-minute Sort Your Single Life Out session with Chantelle. During the session, Chantelle will help you identify what's working best for you and what area you can focus on. To book your free session click HERE.
Don't want to wait? Take the Single Life Confidence Quiz HERE for instant, personalised feedback on your Single Life.
Listen to Episode #86 of The Single Girl's Guide to Life podcast below:
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