Have you noticed that writings about single people are overwhelmingly about single women? That’s true not just in popular writings, but also in academic ones.
I think that’s because single life is supposed to be more of a problem for women than for men. Women are the ones who are believed to be yearning for marriage and crushed if they never do marry. We think of them as fantasizing about building a nest to share with a spouse and children. Men, on the other hand, are presumed to care more about their independence. They are adventurous. They have other things that give their lives meaning—for example, they can dedicate themselves to their work.
Such stereotypes persist despite evidence to the contrary. Now there are even more stereotype-shattering findings, thanks to the recent Tinder survey of 1,036 single adults between the ages of 18 and 25. Previously, I told you about some of the striking findings, but not how men and women differed in how they thought about single life. That’s what I’ll share here.
How Young Single Women Defied Stereotypes
When asked if they thought being single benefited them in other parts of their lives, overwhelming numbers of men (79 percent) and women (83 percent) said yes. What benefits did they see?
It was the women, more than the men, who said that they got to be more dedicated to their work. That difference was bigger than the gender difference for any of the other reasons. The next biggest difference concerned the potential benefit of getting to make new friends: Single women also endorsed that one more often than single men.
More than 70 percent of the single people in the survey said that they had made a conscious decision to stay single for a period of time so they could focus on other things in their life. What were those other things?
It was the women, more often than the men, who said that they wanted to stay single for a while so they could focus on studying or getting their degree. In a finding that is consistent with stereotypes, the men said they wanted to focus on their career more often than the women did. But that difference was much smaller than the one showing that women were more interested in focusing on their studies.
There were two other big sex differences in response to that question. Women were more likely to say that they chose to stay single to prioritize themselves and their own needs. Men were more likely to say that they stayed single for a while to focus on a specific hobby or interest.
In several different ways, it was the women who more often said that they value independence, adventurousness, and their own space. They are the ones who feel more empowered by being single.
When asked why they are currently single, women were more likely than men to say that they want to enjoy the journey and the adventure of being single while they are still young. (Men were more likely to say that they were single because they wanted to date lots of people.)
When asked how being single makes them feel, women were more likely than men to say that being single made them feel empowered. (However, more of the women also said that being single made them feel lonely.)
When asked what they feel uneasy about when thinking about settling down in a romantic relationship, it was the women, more often than the men, who said that they worried about losing their sense of independence.
The women were also more concerned than the men about settling for someone for the wrong reason. They also worried about spending less time with family and friends if they got involved in a romantic relationship.
When asked about the aspects of romantic relationships that are not appealing to them, it was the women, more often than the men, who said that they did not like sharing space. (The men were more likely to say that they don’t like making major life changes such as moving to a new home, having a wedding, or having a baby.)
There was one way in which the single men were consistently more positive about single life. That’s when they were asked to compare being single to being in a romantic relationship. Both the men and the women evaluated single people more favorably than people in relationships on all four questions they were asked, but the single men favored single people even more than the single women did.
The statements they endorsed were:
- Single people are more open to new experiences than people in relationships.
- Single people are more fun to hang out with than people in relationships.
- I’m more likely to say yes to new experiences when I’m single vs. in a relationship.
- I am a more fun person when I am single than when I am in a relationship.
(There are also differences in how single men and single women think that single people are portrayed in the media and in society. I described those here.)
It Is Time to Update Our Understanding of Single Women and Single Men
Today’s young women are embracing the time they spend single. It makes them feel empowered. They like the adventure and the journey of single life. When they think about being in a serious romantic relationship, they worry about losing their independence. The thought of sharing their own space is less appealing to them than it is to young men.
Young women appreciate that when they are single, they get to focus on studying and getting their degree, and they also get to be more dedicated to their work.
All the single ladies, it seems, are not that desperate to put a ring on it after all.