Bridget Jones famously feared dying alone and being half-eaten by Alsatians. But it’s fair to say that most of us hold a healthier attitude towards singledom.
126 women and 27 men were questioned in the survey, which took place via online forums such as Craigslist.
Despite the suggestive phrasing of the question, 39% of respondents disagreed and said they weren’t afraid of being alone; more than twice the amount (18%) who said that they were.
The importance of family and friends
Of those who said that they didn’t fear being alone, the number one reason why was that they had friends and family to turn to (“Regardless if I have a significant other or not in the future, I will always have people who love me and who I love”).
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This was followed by the belief that being single is preferable to being in a bad relationship (“I have grown enough emotionally and psychologically to know that I would rather be on my own than be part of another unhealthy relationship”).
And there was also an element of acceptance and a willingness to try to live well in the mix (“Upon doing a lot of soul-searching, I have come to realize that my state of happiness depends on me…I’m no longer dependent on someone else to make me happy or make me feel worthy”).
Stronger networks, closer ties
Though the sample is small, the study’s findings fit with a larger picture of happily single adults.
Contrary to tired old cliché, this growing demographic of single people are sometimes alone – but not lonely. As Psych Central points out, being “single, without a romantic partner” has little correlation with being alone – or more importantly, feeling alone.
To the contrary, research shows that single people are more likely to reach out to a support network of friends, colleagues and neighbours than those who are married – they make an effort at fitting into society.
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Single people spend an average of 12 minutes a day staying in touch with other people over phone calls and emails, but married people spend about 7.8 minutes doing the same.
Single people are also likely to have more friends than those who are married and are more likely to exchange help with those around them.
Given we’re living in an “age of loneliness” where the ties that pull us together are fraying, the importance of such networks cannot be underestimated.
The glue that holds society together
Far from “being alone”, single adults play a critical role as the glue holding societies together. Of all groups, they are the people most likely to reach out to people, and build ties through mutual help and support.
Of course, being single isn’t a silver bullet. Many single people still hate being single, experience loneliness and crave the physical company of a partner.
“I get lonely sometimes and occasionally miss having someone in my life,” says Lori, a single woman in her 40s, in a Huffington Post piece about living single.
“But overall I enjoy doing my own thing, sleeping alone and being by myself. Since turning 40 and having a couple of bad experiences with online dating, I’ve come to accept that I may never get married, and I’m OK with that.”
Rich emotional connections
It comes down to this: what do we really think of as “being alone”? Being alone in a physical sense is an entirely different thing to feeling alone in an isolated sense.
The latter has scant to do with being romantically unattached and everything to do with fragmented communities and fractured connections.
There’s no need to be scared of being alone, and everything to fear from being emotionally unavailable.
We’re all vulnerable to being emotionally alone yet when you’re single, you’re more likely to be a team player. You’re more apt to give and take from those around you, creating a cycle of mutual trust and a buffer to feelings of loneliness.
At a time of great emotional disconnect, this is something we can all learn from.