- According to some estimates, approximately half of adults find it difficult to be in long-term intimate relationships.
- Research shows that having a job matters more to our happiness than having a spouse.
- People who are higher on the openness dimension of personality tend to be free-thinkers may have more of an appetite for alternative lifestyles.
Societal standards sometimes leave singles feeling like social pariahs. Friends and family members may prod: “Are you seeing somebody yet?” “When are you going to settle down?” “I don’t want you to be lonely for the rest of your life.”
But there are many people for which singlehood is a conscious choice. It works better for them, just as marriage works better for others. As a society, we should be respectful and tolerant of people who choose to live alternative lifestyles.
Research suggests the preference for singlehood is more common than we might think. According to some estimates, approximately half of adults find it difficult to be in long-term intimate relationships and thus spend considerable amounts of time being single. And that’s totally okay.
How do you know if you are one of these people? Here are three signs that you might prefer the single life over more traditional arrangements.
Having kids is less of a priority for you
Biological forces dictate that most people will experience the drive to procreate and have a family. But biology and evolution aren’t the only factors at play. Many people choose to dedicate their lives to things other than having children. And there’s nothing wrong with that. The important thing is that you are true to yourself.
When facing difficult decisions like whether or not to start a family, make sure that you come from the right place: “Is this what I want to do?” Not from the wrong place: “Is this what society or others want from me?”
By the way, there are plenty of influential people who decided against having kids (and certainly not due to a lack of resources) such as Oprah Winfrey, Condoleezza Rice, Jon Hamm, Ricky Gervais, and Gloria Steinem.
What does the research say about the happiness levels of parents versus non-parents? It’s what you might expect. Non-parents experience a higher degree of in-the-moment happiness while parents experience more reflective happiness or a heightened sense of life fulfillment. (Research also shows that having a job is more important to life satisfaction than having a relationship or being married.)
Furthermore, it’s not at all clear that one type of happiness is better than the other — it really comes down to you and your goals. If your goals are to feel better moment-to-moment and you are less concerned with taking stock of your life as a whole, then having kids, or even being in a long-term relationship, may not be the right thing for you, at least not at this point in your life.
With that said, it’s not a good idea to ignore biological realities in favor of some stylized vision of what your life should look like.
Evolutionary psychologist Menelaos Apostolou urges us to remember that human nature has been shaped to seek and maintain long-term intimate relationships — and that not being in such relationships can, for some people, trigger a cascade of negative emotions.
“If people choose to stay single and not have a family, they may frequently experience loneliness, a lack of purpose, sadness, and so on,” says Apostolou.
If you are highly career-focused
Katherine Hepburn famously said, “I would have been a terrible mother because I’m basically a very selfish human being.” Talk about radical honesty.
There’s absolutely nothing wrong with being focused on you. We are all selfish in our own way, and it’s okay to be career-focused to the point that you don’t really have an interest in love or relationships. I’ll remind you again: Research shows that having a job matters more to our happiness than having a spouse.
What would be wrong is if you are highly career-driven yet you choose not to pursue such ambitions due to external pressures. These types of missteps can haunt you for long stretches of your life.
You feel most comfortable when you don’t fit in
In most industrialized societies, marriage, monogamy, and living within the family unit are the norm. And that works for most people. But some people prefer going against the grain. They feel most comfortable when exercising their freedom in unconventional ways. It’s part of their personality.
How might you know if you are one of these people? Personality psychology can help. Personality psychologists often speak of personality in terms of five overarching traits or dimensions. They are:
- Emotional Stability/Neuroticism
- Openness to experiences/Non-openness to experiences
This fifth dimension, openness to experiences, might predict your appetite for alternative lifestyles. People who are higher on the openness dimension of personality tend to be free-thinkers. They are likely to have progressive ideas on sex and sexuality. They have a deep intellectual curiosity and they appreciate beauty and aesthetics. And, as the name indicates, they are open to new experiences — they enjoy traveling, seeing new things, exposing themselves to new ideas, and adopting the perspective of others.
Alternatively, people who score low on the openness dimension of personality tend to be conformists, rule-followers, and are more likely to subscribe to societal hierarchies.
Conclusion: The decision to enter into a long-term relationship or start a family is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make. Taking the time to reflect on the type of person you are — in terms of your desire to have children, your career interests and ambitions, and your core personality traits — can help steer you in the right direction.
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