Woman single looking at the sky

The 3 reasons why we choose to stay single

To settle down or not to settle down. For some people, this is an easy question. According to the ONS, the number of people choosing the single life in the UK grows steadily every year. Here are the three main reasons why.

Every fairytale, romcom and teen novel seems to end the same way – the guy gets the girl and they live happily ever after. It’s no wonder so many of us grow up with the belief that settling down into a couple is the ultimate mark of success in life. But even though we all seem to be looking for that life-long love, some of us aren’t actually searching at all.

Whether you choose to put your search for love on hold or you decide to commit to the single life for good, staying uncoupled can be an empowering choice.

New research by Menelaos Apostolou outlined in Psychology Today has shown that there are up to 76 common reasons why people stay single. However, all of these reasons can be divided into three main categories.

You put your goals first 

Let’s face it – being in a committed relationship sometimes means putting your ambitions on the backburner. When you have someone else in your life, your personal goals can become less realistic. They might even start to change shape. Plus, settling down usually means giving up the option for casual relationships.

Apostolou calls this reason for singledom “freedom of choice”. According to him, our desire to forgo romance in the name of self-improvement can be explained scientifically. He theorises that we sometimes choose to stay single and pursue our personal goals because, subconsciously, we want to attract more “high-value mates” in the future. Of course, many of us choose to pursue our goals without any desire to make ourselves more desirable for others, too.

He found that men were far more likely to cite “freedom of choice” as their reason for staying single.

You’re too young – or too old 

Apostolou found that age also plays a big part in whether or not we choose to stay single. Young people tend to focus more on education and career than on finding a long-term partner. So, singledom can be a logical choice for young people in a transitional phase of life.

On the other hand, older people can also have reasons to actively choose to remain single. Older people, he found, often have more experience with the ups and downs of romantic relationships. In other words, your previous romantic experience may mean that you no longer romanticise long-term relationships. Being in a couple can be hard work and older singletons may have enough previous experience to be extra careful before they enter into another relationship.

You have (or think you have) “impediments” 

The final reason why people may choose to stay single is what Apostolou calls “relational constraints”. In his research, he found that people who have certain physical or emotional “constraints” stay single because finding a suitable partner is – or at least feels – harder. Apostolou found that people with disabilities or long-term illnesses, for instance, found it harder to find a partner. 

However, he also found that people with self-perceived ‘impediments’ can choose to stay single rather than to seek out relationships. If you think of yourself as less attractive, less sociable or less interesting, for example, these thoughts may, subconsciously, convince you that you’re not worthy of a serious relationship. 

Choosing the single life can be great – if you do it for the right reasons 

There are lots of reasons why we might choose to stay single – in fact, there are 76 of them if Apostolou’s research is to be believed. But most of them fall into one of three categories described above: we prefer to keep our freedom, our age makes a relationship less desirable or our situation (or perceived situation) makes a relationship more difficult.

Remember, if you are worried that something about you makes you undeserving of love, you may be keeping yourself single for the wrong reasons. But ultimately, choosing to stay single can be liberating – especially when you have your own plans, your own dreams and perhaps, most importantly, your own standards.

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