Let’s start with the fact that you have more time for…you.
There are so many celebrations associated with relationships these days—from engagement bashes, to bridal showers, destination bachelor/ette parties, 14 separate wedding parties (looking at you, Priyanka Chopra Jonas), and all the photo shoots that come with those events—that being single can seem like a sad status.
That actually couldn’t be further from the truth, however. There’s so much value in being single that people often overlook, when we should be embracing and appreciating it instead. When you’re not legally bound to another person, you have the freedom to learn, grow, and explore, without any of the guilt associated with taking time for self-care. And the payoff there is that if you do decide you’d like to pair off with someone, you know exactly who you are and what you want.
The reality is, 110.6 million Americans ages 18 or older (or 45.2 percent) are single, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau—a number that’s been rising since 2015. And people are staying single longer than ever before; in 2018, the highest median ages ever for a first marriage were reported: 30 years for men and 28 years for women.
So even though you’re technically “alone” as a single, you’re far from an anomaly. In this era, you’re actually the norm. Here are the benefits of being single that you can start celebrating:
There’s more time to develop strong friendships.
Single people aren’t exactly sitting at home moping about their relationship status, despite the fact that a 2008 study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology found that other people often think singles are unhappy. For what it’s worth, the happiest demographic might just be single, childless women, according to Paul Dolan, a professor of behavioral science at the London School of Economics and author of Happy Ever After.
That happiness isn’t due to their solitary status; in fact, singles actually have super strong relationships. “One of the major benefits of being single is having the space in your life to spend quality time with friends,” says Roxy Zarrabi, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist. And being single actually increases social connections, according to a study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships. That’s because they reach out more to their social networks, and give and receive more help from those contacts compared to their married counterparts.
“It’s important to have strong friendships whether you are single or not, but there is no doubt that when you’re single you are able to spend more time deepening the friendships that you find most valuable.” By the way—the better you are at developing your platonic relationship skills, the better prepared you’ll be for a romantic relationship should you decide to pursue one.
And to focus on health.
Research suggests that unmarried people tend to be healthier than their married counterparts. People who were single and had never married exercised more frequently every week than married folks in a survey of over 13,000 people. Single women were found to have lower BMIs and risks associated with smoking and alcohol than married women, according to a 2017 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health. And perennially single men, for their part, were less likely to suffer from heart disease than those with any other marital status, research published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found. Of course, take this all with a grain of salt, but it can be suggested that those who are single have more time to focus on exercise, etc.
Which includes having more sex.
Finally, just to throw this out there, single people are having sex more often than married people are, according to an analysis of survey data collected from more than 26,000 people between 1989 and 2014.
You learn about yourself.
“One of the most important relationships you will have is with yourself,” says Zarrabi. “Being single can provide a valuable opportunity to learn about your likes/dislikes, embrace your authentic self, and explore hobbies or activities you’ve been itching to try.”
Maybe your last partner hated running, and you’ve always wanted to try a marathon. Or, perhaps you’ve dreamt of traveling to Hawaii, but you were waiting for a partner to share those romantic massages on the beach with. Instead, embrace your own independence.
“Being single, you’ll learn to value your freedom, make decisions for yourself, and become more accountable for your choices, actions, and goals,” says Russell Thackeray, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in the UK. “People who can make their own choices and choose when and how they connect with other people develop their own ‘inner strength,’” he adds. Remember: No partner “completes” you—you need to be a whole, happy person on your own before sharing your life with someone else.
And you’ll have fewer regrets.
“It’s not uncommon for people who didn’t have a chance to explore life on their own terms to experience regret,” says Thackeray. Use your single status as an opportunity to be a little selfish about your desires. The reason is twofold: “The more you spend time with yourself and get clear about what your values are, the more likely you are to attract the type of partner that is the right fit for you,” explains Zarrabi. That is, of course, if that’s of interest to you.
Selfishness is a healthy state to experience, adds Thackeray. “It lets you maintain a sense of self-identity when interacting with others,” he explains. Many people (often women) can vanish in a relationship as a ‘wife’, ‘partner’, mother’ to the point where who ‘they are’ is lost.”
How do you enjoy being single?
Spoiler alert: There’s no prescription for loving single life. Just live the life you want to live. The best part of not having to share your life with someone is that you can do all the things that fulfill you. And when you’re prioritizing your friendships, making time for new hobbies, and keeping yourself healthy and fit, how can you not enjoy yourself?
That doesn’t mean you’ll be happy 100 percent of the time. “The ability to be on your own without becoming lonely is a skill,” says Thackeray. It takes time and practice. But “it is one of the greatest learnings a single person accomplish.”
Is being single better than being in a relationship?
That’s a trick question, because of course there’s no right answer. “With either choice, there are advantages and drawbacks, so this depends on what your current priorities as well as values are,” says Zarrabi.
“Many people fall into the trap of listening to what society or others think is best for them rather than listening to themselves when it comes to making this choice,” she adds. If you’re happy being single, don’t change that just because you’re experiencing societal (or social media) pressure to be in a relationship. If your current relationship isn’t making you happy, don’t stay because you feel like you have to be paired up. And if you love the idea of being in a committed partnership, by all means, find your person.
But the most important thing, really, is that if you’re hoping to have a happy relationship with a long-term partner in the future, you have to learn how to be happy being single first. As RuPaul says, you have to love yourself before you can let someone else love you.