Isn’t it interesting how fiction has often told us that single women are a bit sad and hapless, whereas single men are empowered and masterful? Naturally, the truth is rather different. Studies have blitzed the stereotype of the poor lonely spinster out of the water, revealing that women are actually happier being single than men. Further research has shown that single women without children were happier than both men and married women with children.
In research by Mintel, 61% of single women said they were happy with their relationship status, compared to 49% of single men. A further 75 % of single women were not looking for a partner, compared to 65% of single men. Single women are actively revelling in their solo status as a long-term and enjoyable thing. Here are some of the reasons behind why…
Dating someone no longer requires us to surrender our crown
In the 16th century, Elizabeth I said no to marriage. Why? Even in the face of overwhelming social pressure, she recognised that matrimony would compromise her sovereignty and that she was far more powerful alone. Fast-forward several hundred years and dating someone no longer requires us to surrender our crown, so to speak. Yet we’ve been socially conditioned to believe it can still mean an awful lot of compromise.
This can show up in good ways; compromise is the way of the world, a tool of selflessness and growth. On the other hand, at a time where the gender pay gap stands at 31.2%, it’s likely that (in heterosexual relationships, at least), it’s women who end up compromising more. This could mean things like taking a hit on your wage for maternity leave, for example, or being the person who takes on all the social arrangements or gives up the comfiest side of the bed. We might have made it out of the era of Stepford Wives, but a few sacrifices still remain.
Women invest more of themselves in romantic partnerships
Of course, many people have wonderful and rewarding partnerships in life. But you can understand why, after a long and complicated history of cultural subservience to men, an increasing number of women are choosing to fly solo, seizing the freedom that this lifestyle brings.
We welcome not only the physical liberation of being single, but also the ability to shrug off the emotional burden of a relationship. Typically, women invest more of themselves in romantic partnerships (we get heavily involved in problem-solving and arguments), and it can be a huge relief to draw a line under this draining process.
Being single increases the social connections of both women and men
Look to Japan where a spirit of singledom is being celebrated among many women with a culture carved out for doing things solo. “Women on their own are everywhere,” reads an article from the Japan Times. “From hotels and cafes to women-only apartment blocks and urban spas, the sight of a ohitorisama (a person living or doing things alone) getting a little respite from the business of living has become common enough that no one gives her a second glance. Behind the phenomenon is the low, low marriage rate,” it goes on. “More women are opting out of long-term commitments that would almost certainly cramp their style.”
Single women are also more likely to be at the focal point of a wider intersection of relationships than married women or men altogether. “Single individuals are more likely to stay in touch, provide help to and receive help from parents, siblings, neighbours and friends than the married,” states a 2016 study from Boston College and the University of Massachusetts. “Being single increases the social connections of both women and men.” While married people tend to be more insular in their relationships, singletons are more open. They have a greater tendency to reach out and connect to those around them. And connecting to others, whether in a casual, neighbourly sense or in terms of forging lifelong bonds, is a key pillar of happiness.
Women are good at meeting their needs in other ways
This skill for building up a network of relationships seems to come more naturally to women. “Women tend to be better at having alternative social networks and other confidantes, whereas men tend to rely quite heavily on their wives for that and have fewer other social ties,” Emily Grundy, social research professor at the University of Essex told The Telegraph.
“Certainly there’s a common finding from a lot of studies that women who don’t have a partner tend to do more social activities and have more friends compared to women with partners, whereas with men it’s the reverse. Men without a partner tend to do much less of that.”
Relationship expert Susan Quilliam, writing in the Evening Standard, agrees. “Women often have a good social life and are good at meeting their needs in other ways,” she says. “Women are sourcing what they need often from a wider support network than men.”
Women are able to make a sort of spirituality out of singledom
Single women are not only better at connecting with people, we also seem to be better at savouring our singledom. We build up intricate rituals that bask in our ability to fly solo. Just listen to Linda Rodin, a beauty mogul who is single in her 60s and lives happily alone in her Manhattan apartment. “I need time to unwind — no magazines, no music, no phone. I pretend I’m at the beach; it’s very peaceful.” she told the blog, Cup of Jo. “I’ve always been a very, very independent person,” she adds. “I loved being in relationships with wonderful and really interesting men. I just never felt the need to marry them. I never felt convinced.”
Women, in particular, are able to make a sort of spirituality out of singledom. We draw strength from it and build our lives around having the space to be alone – not as a transient state, but an aspirational one. This extends to travel, too. Anecdotally, single women seem to be better at motivating themselves to get out there, and female solo travel is on the rise. They make the most of their solo status and lack of figurative baggage to follow their dreams and explore the world.
By following the path of women, men can actively reclaim their singledom
Most probably, single women were never the unhappy image they were once made out to be. And probably not all single men were smug have-it-alls. But either way, we can accept that there’s been a cultural shift in how we now view single women. And while more and more people are choosing to be single overall, women seem to be happier at it.
Where once upon a time, the single man of the Mad Men era poured himself a whisky and congratulated himself on eluding the masses – now the guys are playing catch-up. This isn’t a catch-all. Some men are perfectly happy single; they’re sociable, well-connected and love to travel the world. But if we’re generalising, then it seems men have a bit of ground to make up.
So, how to re-dress the balance? Maybe single men need to look outwards a little more. Perhaps they need to take more risks and actively move forward with their single lives. This could mean cultivating rich relationships or it could be challenging themselves on a round-the-world solo adventur. By following the path of women, men can actively reclaim their singledom for a life well-lived.
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