Conventional wisdom says that women are not meant to be alone. Single women are often singled out and made to feel like a failure for not being in a permanent relationship or married.
We constantly get the message that there’s something wrong with us, that we must get married in order to live happily ever after.
If you ask me, nothing is further from the truth. Nobody lives happily ever after and single women are not, contrary to common belief, miserable and unhappy.
Scholars who have written books on this phenomenon have found that, contrary to stories in the media, most people who live alone are doing just fine, says psychologist and author Bella Depaulo.
This is just as well since there has been a sharp increase in people living alone. In the U.S. 100 million people live alone and the trend is similar in the U.K. and Europe.
Headlines in the media regularly declare the concern for single people who must obviously be lonely and unhappy. Singles are getting the message from the media that science has shown that their lives are second rate.
This is simply not true.
The research on happiness in marriage is wrong
In the past few years, several important studies and review papers have been publishedmaking it clear that we have been misled about the supposed benefits of getting married. It simply is not true that getting married is better for everyone because it makes people happier, healthier, and more connected, and makes for a longer life, says Depaulo.
According to Depaulo, her research of two decades and other research show that these claims are grossly exaggerated or just plain wrong.
Studies don’t show that getting married makes people happier or healthier. For some people that will apply and for others not.
Marriage doesn’t change a person’s level of happiness.
A review of 18 studies found that people generally become no happier after they get married. At best, they become a bit more satisfied with their lives around the time of the wedding; then they go back to feeling about as satisfied (or dissatisfied) as they were when they were single. That pattern is the same for men and women, says Depaulo.
Women become dissatisfied with marriage sooner than men
Women tend to become dissatisfied with the marriage sooner than men and it’s also mostly women that file for divorce. Once a marriage ends, for whatever reason, women are much less likely than men to get married again.
It’s a myth that women who never married suffer from loneliness. Of course, some do, but many don’t.
You would think that women who never married and who had no children would be the loneliest of all. Not so. One study that looked at women in five different nations, found that women who never had children and had been single all their lives had more expansive social networks in which friends were an important part of their everyday support system.
These lifelong single women were not growing old alone, the study found.
Single people feel more connected
We have always been told that married couples are more connected to other people and that they are the ones who keep communities together. Not so. According to Depaulo studies show that single people go to more trouble to keep in touch with siblings, parents, neighbors, and friends than married people. This is so because when people get married, they typically become more insular.
And how about this?
Women are better at going it alone and they actually savor their solitude more than men do. Psychologists are not sure why this is so, but Depaulo says it might have to do with the fact that living alone liberates women from traditional roles and expectations. No maybe about that.
Education has made women too smart to settle for a union that burdens them disproportionately as caregiver for children, housekeeper, marital companion, good daughter in-law, etc.
To be fair, according to Depaulo, research has found that men also get a lot from living alone, especially younger men. What’s more, young men who live alone are not necessarily lonely. They have networks of friends and relatives and keep in touch with the people who are important to them. They don’t need a wife to have a social life or meaningful human connections.