A patient came into my office frustrated, complaining about people constantly asking him why he is not in a relationship, is he dating, etc. He is single, but he feels something must be wrong with him that he does not feel the need to be in a relationship nor does he enjoy the process of dating. He would like to meet people, enjoy their company, and perhaps have some enjoyable sex. But having a committed relationship, not so much.
Single people are often asked, “Why aren’t you married?” The question often implies a judgement as if something is wrong with single person. It also implies that the only appropriate state is being paired and everyone who is not paired in some form must be defective. When asked this question, singles feel awkward, sometimes embarrasses, and stumble around for a reply, often ending up with some lame response such as, “I just haven’t found the right person.”
We rarely ask people why they chose to be in a relationship or want to marry. The assumption is that being paired is the natural state of affairs. So when we ask, “Why would someone choose to remain single?” we are implying that singleness is the anomaly; single people are required to account for their choice, married people are not.
It rarely occurs to people that one could choose to be single, after all, who would to that!? The fact is that for many people living a single lifestyle is a choice. They simply prefer to remain alone and are not necessarily lonely. They are perfectly content and psychologically comfortable with their single status.
The fact is that there are advantages and disadvantages to remaining remaining single or being married.
Advantages of being single:
- The freedom to come and go as one pleases. No accountability to someone else.
- The autonomy of being responsible exclusively for themselves without having to consider the opinions or desires of others, e.g., choosing a career or job that is dangerous, requires extensive travel or keeping late hours, etc.
- The freedom to choose multiple partners with whom to spend time.
- Avoiding the inherent messiness of being in a committed relationship.
Disadvantages of being single:
- Experiencing and having to cope with occasional loneliness.
- Always having to be proactive in developing relationships.
- No one readily available with whom to share the ups and downs of life.
- No one with whom to share decision making and household responsibilities.
- Not having a steady supply of affection.
Advantages of a committed relationship:
- Having a partner with whom to share life experiences.
- Experiencing the challenge of developing an intimate relationship.
- Being able to develop a sense of family with another person.
- Someone with who to share responsibilities and decisions.
Disadvantages of a committed relationship:
- Loss of freedom to come and go.
- Always having to consider the impact on another person.
- Responsibility for and to another person other than just oneself.
- Required sacrifice as part of accommodating the needs and wants of another person.
- Having to deal with potential loss of a partner, e.g., dissolution, death, divorce.
Each person must evaluate the pros and cons for him or herself. Careful self-examination is required to be certain that the choice that one makes is not due to social pressure, familiar expectation, or fear of intimacy and commitment. The ultimate decision is up to the individual. Either paired or single, it is your decision, your choice, with no right or wrong, better or worse. Being single is a choice just as marriage is a choice. Choose wisely.
[Dr. Dreyfus is a nationally recognized clinical psychologist, relationship counselor, sex therapist, and life coach in the Santa Monica - Los Angeles. The profits from his latest book, LIVING LIFE FROM THE INSIDE OUT along with his other five books, are being donated to charity through the website Book Royalties for Charity and can be purchased through Amazon.com. Please become a friend on his Facebook Fan Page by indicating "like" on the page by clicking here. You can also find more tools to help you experience a more fulfilling life by clicking here to visit his website.]