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Why Some Men Decide to Stay Unmarried

Why don’t some men get married? Their answers may surprise you.

Key points

  • There are complex reasons for male singlehood, particularly long-term.
  • Some unmarried men feel deficient, while others adapt and acclimate to singlehood.
  • Potential benefits of singlehood include independence, autonomy, and self-sufficiency.
Image by Vilius Kukanauskas from Pixabay
Source: Image by Vilius Kukanauskas from Pixabay

Unmarried men are often singled out for their singlehood. But is their relational status by design or by default? As I have noted previously, some men choose to stay single to enjoy the freedoms that come with flexibility. Others would much prefer to share their bachelor pad with a partner. What makes the difference? Research reveals some common themes as single men share their sentiments.

The Sensation of Singlehood

Marta Mrozowicz-Wrońska et al. (2023) investigated how men who had never been married experienced singlehood, examining long-term singlehood through interviewing 22 never-married single men between 22 and 43 years old.[i] Their study, which highlighted the complexity of male singlehood, revealed five themes: (1) feeling deficient as a prospective partner, (2) experiencing life outside the script of “traditional masculinity,” including marriage and family, (3) considering the benefits and downsides of singlehood, (4) adaptation to the single life, and (5) the quandary between waiting for the right person and actively searching for a partner.

Although their study was conducted on men living in Poland, a cultural context they describe as characterized by “a strong adherence to heterosexual marriage and weak approval of cohabitation and living single,” the results could very well translate to other cultures or communities with similar social sentiments. Consider the relevance of the individual themes, each of which could be challenged by a prospective partner offering unconditional respect, validation, and expressed acceptance.

  • The Challenge of Change. Some of the men in the study felt they needed to change themselves to have a mate, a goal most view as easier said than done. This can be especially true when challenged cognitively, emotionally, or by mental disorders or addictions.
  • Traditional Norms. The men who experienced singlehood as a failure to measure up to traditional masculinity norms felt inadequate in their ability to be strong, physically or emotionally. Others believed that a man needs to be able to provide for a family if he hopes to establish a long-term relationship.
  • Time’s Up. Some men in the study felt the clock had run on their opportunity to find a mate and start a family, which fueled the fear of singlehood, and decreased satisfaction with single status.

The Bachelor’s Benefits and Burdens

Mrozowicz-Wrońska et al. found that some men in their study experienced benefits of being single, which included a sense of self-determination, autonomy, and the absence of responsibilities and burdens related to fatherhood. Perceived positive aspects of singlehood were consistent with the high value some singles place on independence, which can ease the pressure and desire to associate with others.

Mrozowicz-Wrońska et al. note also, however, that many of the single men in their study expressed an unmet need for intimacy, as well as missing the chance to enjoy family life with a partner and children. And because men place high value on the need for romantic connection, the lack of physical and emotional intimacy was described by study participants as one of the most painful experiences of singlehood. This unmet desire diminished the satisfaction of flying solo and exacerbated the fear of remaining alone.

Single Solutions

From a self-preservation perspective, Mrozowicz-Wrońska et al. found that men coped with status as a single through their work and achievements in other areas. They also observe, however, that single men sometimes cope through maladaptive strategies such as overindulgence in food or alcohol, gaming, or pornography.

A healthy way to adapt and embrace singlehood appears to be acceptance, both through a positive self-concept as well as through socializing with supportive others. In addition to the encouragement of friends, family, and a faith community, professional help is available as well.

The experience of flying solo should not be dominated by looking for a runway. For singles comfortable with their status, in terms of future prospects, the sky is the limit.

Facebook image: LENSLOGIC/Shutterstock


[i] Mrozowicz-Wrońska, Marta, Kamil Janowicz, Emilia Soroko, and Katarzyna Adamczyk. 2023. “Let’s Talk about Single Men: A Qualitative Investigation of Never Married Men’s Experiences of Singlehood.” Sex Roles: A Journal of Research 89 (7–8): 360–76. doi:10.1007/s11199-023-01380-y.

More from Wendy L. Patrick, J.D., Ph.D.
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