The Revealing Questions No One Is Asking About Single Life

The questions that might completely change your view of single life

Posted Jul 14, 2016

Stereotypes can be sticky things. There are now well over 100 million people in the U.S. who are not married – close to half of all adults 18 and older. Just by our numbers alone, we should be able to dispel all those notions that our lives are somehow second rate. But that hasn’t quite happened.

There are lots of reasons why negative perceptions persist, even when they are wrong. Part of the blame falls on the laps of people who do research. They have been preoccupied with studying married people – almost always with the assumption that getting married makes people better off in all sorts of ways. (It doesn’t, except financially, and that’s because of the unfair economic benefits people receive simply because they are married.) With their marital mindsets, researchers miss out on the kinds of experiences that can make single life so meaningful and so satisfying.

Here are just a few of the questions that have only rarely been posed in research studies. Some of these questions have never been asked at all, so far as I know. If we did have answers to these questions, I think we might have a very different view of single life than we do now.

  • To what extent have you been able to make the life choices that you find most fulfilling and most meaningful?
  • To what extent are you pursuing your interests and your passions? To what extent are you doing so guiltlessly?
  • To what extent can you save or spend your money as you see fit?
  • How close are you to getting the amount of solitude that you desire?
  • How close are you to getting the mix of time alone and time together that you consider ideal for you?
  • How meaningful is your work? (A longitudinal study suggests that single people value meaningful work more than married people do.)
  • To what extent do you have a sense of self-determination? (The scant research that is available shows that single people fare better than married people on autonomy.)
  • To what extent do you have "a sense of continued growth and development as a person"? (The one relevant study shows that single people fare better than married people on personal growth.)

Single people, I’d love to hear from you. What questions do you think researchers should be asking? What is it about your single life that you find especially meaningful and rewarding, that you don’t see acknowledged in all the headlines about the latest research findings? Share your thoughts in the Comments section, if you are willing.

 [Notes. (1) I’m giving a plenary address at APA this year, “What no one ever told you about people who are single.” I may incorporate some of your answers into my talk. Stop by to say hi if you are going to be there. (2) This post is adapted from a much longer article I wrote for Unmarried Equality, “We the Unmarried: Universities Just Aren’t into Us, and That Needs to Change.” Thanks to Unmarried Equality for allowing me to share it here. The opinions are mine and not theirs.]