The festive season is famously a time when couples command the spotlight. They may be canoodling under mistletoe or frolicking together in the snow. But, either way, they are Very Much In Love (and certainly not hissing at each other behind closed doors about whose in-laws are the worst).
Those who happen to be single, therefore, may feel slightly self-conscious about flying solo. Even the most banal Christmas cards seem in on the conspiracy to make single people feel awkward.
The pressure to settle down
Slowly, the tide is turning. A growing movement of singletons are working to reclaim the festive season, one sappy greeting at a time. And, intriguingly, a new study reveals that it is men, rather than women, who are more likely to worry about being single.
Dating website eHarmony and relationship support charity Relate teamed up to grill single people about what their lives are like, on the run-up to Christmas. Of the 4,054 people surveyed, 71% of men said they felt under pressure to find a partner, compared to 58% of women.
Just under half said this pressure came from the need to keep up with friends, while 39% said they wanted to be a relationship in order to start a family. Men were also slightly more likely than women to single out loneliness as a downside of being single.
Men and emotional intimacy
“This challenges the traditional idea of the happy-go-lucky bachelor who is more suited to single life than his female equivalent,” says psychologist Dr Linda Papadopoulous, who worked with eHarmony on the study.
“The reality is that single women tend to be more robust on their own. They often capitalise on strong friendships which meet many of their needs for intimacy and prevent loneliness creeping in.
Read more: Being single makes you a brilliant traveller
“Men on the other hand, perhaps don’t necessarily share the same level of emotional connection with their friends, or even family members,” she adds. “Research suggests they also tend to miss physical intimacy slightly more than women.”
The results chime with another recent study by market research firm Mintel, which found that single women living in Britain were significantly happier with their relationship status, compared to single men.
The upsides of singledom
It’s good news in this latest survey too, as singletons listed a raft of benefits they associated with going solo. These included greater independence (61%), time to pursue new hobbies (33%), making the most of nights out (24%), and sexual freedom (10%).
“It’s important that we regard being single as a lifestyle choice which may change at any time, and avoid making judgements about people’s relationship status,” says Chris Sherwood, chief executive at Relate. “Unnecessary pressure from friends, family, and society can lead people to start a relationship before they’re ready or understand what they want from it.”
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