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How Lonely Single Men Can Redefine Love

Sociologist Kris Marsh offers hope for single men everywhere.

Key points

  • Single black middle-class women are redefining love and thriving.
  • Thriving single may require a shift in core beliefs that women in this cohort have already made.
  • Black men in the cohort held the belief that they would eventually meet someone, whereas women had shifted the paradigm on its head.
  • Black women in the cohort were building businesses, careers, large networks of friends, and chosen family who would inherit their wealth.
Dr. Kris Marsh/used with permission
Source: Dr. Kris Marsh/used with permission

In her upcoming book The Love Jones Cohort, sociologist Kris Marsh describes a cohort of single black middle-class women who are redefining love and thriving. Lonely, single men can learn from them.

Single and thriving may seem like a new concept, but Marsh's research suggests it's already here.

The aspirations of this cohort suggest a broader definition of love that includes being single, an increasingly attractive option to many.

This structure of love beyond monogamy and marriage would recognize a tendency to overemphasize these choices and undervalue others, Marsh suggested in a recent conversation.

It is clear that valuing friendship and community has significant mental health benefits and prevents an overreliance on romantic partners in the relationship landscape.

Yet, in the Love Jones Cohort, these friendships and community bonds become the mutually nurturing and supportive ingredients to an emotionally rich life.

And there appears to be a fundamental gender difference within the cohort that illustrates a fundamentally different core belief about social connection across gender.

While both male and female participants experienced racism and other social constraints, black men in the cohort still preferred a relationship and believed they would eventually be in one. Black men, like most men, generally believe they will eventually find a partner.

This is a problem for all men. Here are three reasons why:

  1. It limits our inclination to imagine a future where we exist outside of a marriage and this is clearly a rising potential.
  2. It will likely limit our choices of where we invest our emotional energy (building friendships, community, or reconnecting with family).
  3. It may limit how we consider financial choices as we get older, who we consider our family, and the building of intergenerational wealth.

The intentionally single women in Marsh’s sample are making new and different decisions for themselves. In an increasingly competitive and confusing dating landscape, their innovation, resilience, and new ideas challenge long-term romantic relationships as a central facet of life.

Around the world, most of us are clumsily negotiating and co-creating new dating and romance norms. This is happening in both gentle conversations between lovers at home and fierce domestic and international battles that are being fought for independence and freedom of choice.

And yet there is a third way, a new norm that hasn’t been talked about as often or valued as highly. It’s choosing to be single rather than settle for underwhelming or unsatisfying relationships. It’s choosing to be single rather than being an unloving and oppressive bond.

When we broaden our conception of love and connection, the dominant narrative shifts. It has already shifted for many middle-class single black women.


Marsh, K., Darity Jr, W. A., Cohen, P. N., Casper, L. M., & Salters, D. (2007). The emerging Black middle class: Single and living alone. Social Forces, 86(2), 735-762.

Marsh, Kris. (2023). The Love Jones Cohort. Cambridge Press.…

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