Single At Heart
Perhaps it was the influence of all those “A Woman Needs a Man Like a Fish Needs a Bicycle,” bumper stickers on college campuses in the late 60’s. But I found this little poem I wrote in an old college notebook from 1966:
I love being single
With never a worry
No house to clean up
And no baby to cry
I love being single
And since there’s no hurry
I may stay unmarried
Til the day that I die
Of course, my life did not ultimately play out that way. Still, it makes me wonder who among us may be what a massive new research study out of New Zealand calls the “single at heart.” These are people for whom “living alone allows them to live their best, most authentic, most meaningful lives,” according to Dr. DePaolo in the book, Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After.
Living a married life has enormous advantages from income tax structure to child rearing. We know that the social life in the U.S. is structured around couples, that nature has us coupling for reproduction, and that many surveys and polls report that people, especially men, are happier and healthier married. On the other hand, the latest US census data has the unmarried rate at a record high. It’s just over 50 percent. This does not necessarily mean it’s what people prefer. That statistic includes those looking for partners, widowed, delaying marriage, divorced, and living together not married. But it also includes those who are alone by choice.
Alone by Choice
Despite the pressures of social norms, there remains a group of people who feel better suited to living by themselves. What might be some advantages of living without the built-in comfort of a life partner? Well, living alone challenges you to be fully responsible for your own well-being. The expectation that someone else will make you happy, just may wind up disappointing. Also, you are free to follow your career choices and may well wind up being a more productive, more successful and happier worker. The compromises of considering a spouse’s or a family’s needs come at a cost. Your sense of self flourishes while living alone. The gift of time for yourself helps you dig into your values and interests not muddied by a partners influence. While the fear of loneliness is often cited as a reason to partner up, those who are single at heart crave solitude. They also deepen their friendships, according to DePaolo, in order to prevent feeling alone. Creating your own routines and having more control over your life are obvious benefits for those who prefer to set their own course. The New Zealand study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science states that people who are single at heart strongly wish to avoid social conflict. Living by yourself guarantees an absence of conflict at home.
So how does the Ethical Culture Society provide a haven for those who are happily coupled, happily single, those in transition and others? The range of activities available to members of the Bergen Society provides for those who are living alone, not necessarily by choice, through the Caring Committee. Adult Education programs foster groups that do not pitch specifically to couples. Attending Platforms, those who are married, coupled, divorces, widowed, searching singles and those single at heart all have a place to connect. Those single folks whose passions for justice and social interests are deep and unfettered can join the partnered ones who share their interests. There are plenty of causes and events to join and a real opportunity for everyone to find the warm embrace of common ground.