Long Reads

“Stop single-shaming me – I don’t need a partner to be valued”

There are plenty of benefits of being single – in fact, women who are single and childless are reportedly the happiest. As a new study finds 40% of women would be happy being without a partner for the rest of their lives, one woman argues why it’s time we stopped single-shaming, once and for all.

Just the other day, one of my closest friends unintentionally single-shamed me.

She uttered the words: “You’ll find someone soon, you deserve someone great”. This was directly after I’d told her that I wasn’t looking for anything romantic. That I just wanted to be on my own.

I’m not angry at her because, of course, I do deserve someone great. Everyone does. No one should have to settle for someone who is less than great. But that isn’t the point. The point is that I told her I wasn’t looking for anything – not a partner, not a one-night stand, not even a regular hook-up. I just want to be entirely and completely alone. 

But for some reason, she couldn’t respect that.

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We’ve all heard that line, whether it’s from a well-intentioned parent, grandparent, co-worker or – like me – a good friend. They inquire after our relationship status and then feel let down and disappointed when we say we aren’t looking.

They then pry, push, question and query why we’re totally happy to be alone. It’s as if being in a relationship is everything – and we’re not worth anything if we’re single. As if we’re not smart, or interesting, or valued enough to be able to make it without another person to hold our hand.

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Benefits of being single: 34 is now the age we are most likely to settle down

According to Match.com, 50% of us meet our life partners in our 20s, so it’s a brave thing to say that you want to be alone. Especially when the entire world around you is coupled up: parents, friends, even Instagram influencers who fit the mould of #couplegoals. And if that’s what you want then great.

But the world is changing. Thirty-four is now the age we are most likely to settle down, while 2017 research by the Office for National Statistics found the average age of first-time mothers has increased to 28. 

What hasn’t changed though is society’s ingrained views that being in a relationship (or married with children) while we’re young is a common trajectory. And if you’re seen deviating from that then it’s easy to feel like there’s something wrong with you. 

Even within our media, we aren’t shown anything different. In films and TV, single women’s plotlines are often just spent looking for partners, whether sexually or romantically, because if you aren’t in a relationship then you should be looking for one. It all drills in to the same narrative: if you aren’t looking for your other half, then you’ll never be whole.

So when you fully reject the idea of having a partner because you just want to do what you want to do, you have to really stick to it. Because more often than not, you’re the only one who’s believing in it. And if you stop believing in it, then you’re much more susceptible to falling into the same trajectory that so many have before us.  

Because if we don’t invest it in ourselves, then who will?

how to be happy single
Benefits of being single: “It all drills in to the same narrative. That if you aren’t looking for your other half, then you’ll never be whole.”

We, as women, have already got it tough enough – a study by the TUC shows that women essentially work 65 days of the year for free due to the gender pay gap, while the Chartered Management Institute found that men are 40% more likely than women to get promoted into management roles.

We should not, and do not, need a partner to defend us from these every day sexisms. A need to be in a relationship only serves to make us settle for the mediocre. Relationships which are only ever ‘just fine’, end up with us feeling resentful.

Considering all of this, it makes sense that women who are single and childless are reportedly the happiest, according to Professor of Behavioural Science and author, Paul Dolan. So why do we still have to stand so strong against everyone else’s need for us to be in a relationship? Against our own families and friends, who should believe us when we say that we’re happier single?

So go, and tell everyone you’re single because you want to be. Shut down anyone who tries to make you feel otherwise; call it your act of rebellion. Make people think twice about ever trying to take you to war over your own life. And most important of all, love yourself first.

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This article was originally published in December 2019

Images: Getty, Unsplash

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