When I tapped my Instagram network to explore how people feel about being single in 2018, I used what I later learned was somewhat of a blunt instrument: “Do you hate being single, love being single? Neither? Both? Tell me about that,” I proposed.

As I read through the hundreds of responses, I realized how much I’d oversimplified and underestimated the depth of the topic. This was no multiple-choice question, this was a goddamn town hall meeting, and I was just grateful to be there.

“At the moment I love being single,” former MR intern Emma Hager wrote me in response. “This does not, however, mean that I feel ‘empowered’ by being single; I think administering/categorizing singledom as either empowering or disenfranchising in a feminist sense is not only lazy but also wildly old-fashioned, as discourse surrounding coupling and romantic interaction have obviously changed!”

She’s absolutely right. Every wave of feminism has fought hard for women to no longer be emotionally, practically and financially defined by men and the pursuit of marriage, so then why ask them to ruminate on their relationship status? Why the focus? Through this lens, my original phrasing takes on a regressive air, like that of a relative who only asks about your love life, and never your internal, professional or creative one.

Still, love is part of the human experience, mating is a biological imperative, and we’re still a largely monogamy-based society. In that vein, the responses weren’t few, they weren’t simple. No doubt because our modern age has ushered in some complications of its own: online dating, for an obvious one, and an individualistic society that places undue pressure on relationships instead of communities, for a bigger one.

All these little threads tie into the complex topic of what it feels like to be a single woman in 2018, whatever such a designation means to her. It’s something I want to keep exploring on Man Repeller in all its varying shades. Below, to get us started, are 14 responses that I felt best illustrated the emotions I saw over and over while reading through the bevy of answers. (In fact, that’s why I didn’t include age: each quote summed up the voice of at least 10 women who said something similar.)

They run a gamut of perspectives and I present them here without judgment or, frankly, narrative. And I do so with the hope that they spark more discussions about romantic love with the view that it’s one component of modern life, rather than some grand inevitability, prerequisite or endpoint.

“Being single is incredibly practical for me. I’m young, I’m eyeballs-deep in the monomania of academia and, for now, I like it that way. I like being able to pour over books and my academic essays until the wee hours; being with someone in a committed way would complicate this. There would be the constant pressure to have to accommodate them or be mindful. And that is not bad! I think the willful compromise that comes about from relationships is tender and necessary. I just don’t feel the need to engage with that now.”

“I’ve been single for seven years and I hate it. Being single is okay/fun for a while, but eventually (especially once all your friends are paired up) it’s just very lonely. There’s a lot of things you can do on your own but you can’t cuddle or hug yourself; the lack of intimate (not sexual) touch is really hard. Nobody really talks about that. Also, dating takes up a lot of time/money/energy I’d rather spend on my career.”

“I have been single my whole life. Oftentimes I felt like my comfort with being single was ‘to my own detriment,’ as other people put it, because I was so comfortable being alone that it meant I didn’t have someone/wouldn’t find someone because I was too independent. But I think that notion comes from antiquated ideas of gender norms based on the idea that women need men for economic, emotional, and physical support. My greatest discomfort with being single has definitely stemmed from outside pressures that stipulate what it means to be ‘normal’… It took me a while to eschew these ideologies and realize that not having a significant other at any point didn’t make me weird, and that there really can’t be a standard of ‘normal’ that you compare yourself to when it comes to relationships.”

“Being single is enjoyable for the typical reasons, like freedom and independence, but I find it’s kind of… relieving? I get more time and space to be with my unadulterated self without feeling like I have to ‘show up’ for another person (even with authentic connections — I’m inherently introverted, so I feel a difference). It sounds selfish, but I feel like I have a tendency to bear that responsibility of another person’s feelings quite heavily, which just makes me end up feeling exhausted.”

“My feelings on being single vacillate wildly — it’s like a secondary mood. I’ll be totally obsessed with being single. I’ll feel empowered and secure in my independence and then in a second can feel incredibly vulnerable and unhappy about it. Usually, this happens when I begin to think about the future and the questions start to take over my brain — Will I get married? Will I have kids? Is this just it!!?? Some days those questions just don’t weigh on me and some days they’re all I think about.”

“I used to be someone who hated being single. I had a pattern of staying too long in relationships that weren’t right for fear of being alone. My most recent breakup has absolutely changed that. After I ended my last relationship, my friends and family said I had a ‘post-breakup glow’ and I could absolutely feel it. Newly single, my life is once again full of experiences and people that feed the glow. It took ending my unhealthy romantic relationship for me to realize how much I’m loved and how much I have to offer. Single feels bright, joyful and full right now.”

“I love [being single] because of the freedom and personal growth it offers. With men, I tend to always try to make things work, even if that means sacrificing what I want more than he ends up sacrificing. I also can be completely me all the time. I hate it because I get lonely and miss having a companion. One to share activities I love with and laugh and cry with. And of course, human contact. Just being touched can have such a positive impact on mood.”

“Most recently, I’ve recognized that I like being single and will be until someone can complement my speed. I got tired of telling men what they needed to be and trying to be the right woman for the wrong man. Ultimately, you don’t want those conversations to be the bread of your relationship.”

“While I continually would like to meet someone, being single is one of the greatest things that I’ve done. It makes me more driven at work and happier with my own agency. I have the ability to do whatever I want — and that is beautiful. I set my own routines, eat really well, do a ton of yoga, and have built a sweet Saturday morning routine independent of anyone else. It is freedom to the utmost extent.”

“I once loved it (and maybe pretend I still do) but I’m starting to feel I am permanently alone whilst people move in and out of relationships constantly. It makes me feel hideously abnormal and that something must be gravely wrong. In the words of Morrissey, ‘because tonight is just like any other night, that’s why you’re on your own tonight.’ I feel that.”

“For most of my twenties, I really hated [being single], and around age 25, when all the weddings were happening, I felt behind… Like all my friends were moving into different chapters and I was still in the same one, alone. I felt I would never find it, and I needed to just accept it. Currently, I’m at a different point. I’m so happy I’ve had these years alone to learn about myself and what I like and who the fuck I am. I would have been a monster if I was in a relationship at 25. I also feel grateful, as of late, for my freedom and independence. Some days of course I want a boyfriend, but most days I’m so happy I get to do whatever I want. I still think I’m learning and I still think, for me, it’s best to focus on myself and my own insecurities before burdening someone else.”

“I just don’t want to be pressured! I don’t like people nagging about how you can only be truly happy when you have a partner. And I think I hate the opposite even more — those super happy women shouting how happy they are being single and constantly repeating it… Right. How I really feel? Sometimes I’m feeling very fulfilled and okay with it, sometimes I’m very lonely and sad and that’s also okay. I definitely don’t want to beat myself up for anything.”

“I go along with the ‘single person who loves it’ category I think, but also it’s more along the lines of I don’t really revel in it — I just don’t think or care about relationships. For example, my friends are in relationships and that’s all fun and I like to meet their significant others, but when they ask me if I’ve found someone, my brain thinks, ‘What? Oh right. I’m single and people think I shouldn’t be.’ I’m not sure if that makes much sense. To add to that, I would say I have been in relationships, but the longer they go on the more I resent the person I’m dating. And when we finally break up, all I feel is relieved.”

“‘Being single’ is terminology that feels isolating. I’m not an Other when I am not in a romantic relationship; I do not change when I am in one. I am connected to hearts around me, weaved in a world of love. When I find someone with which to share my most intimate parts, these things won’t change. Being single forces me into intentionality in my friendships, and I like that. My loneliness is also a place of great depth and inspiration. I embrace it knowing that it is part of me, just as love is. I think we would all feel more fulfilled and whole if we embraced the loneliness that comes when we’re single; when we accept that no one could ever truly give us everything we need; that sadness and misunderstanding and disappointment are vessels that take us to lands of strength. I think it’s a process of discovering that is necessary, a process I enjoy.”

Collages by Louisiana Mei Gelpi.

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  • BS

    Hayley, this is such a moving piece! I’m single right now and felt like this piece articulated the spectrum (read: rollercoaster) of emotions that comes with singledom. I loved: “‘I think that we would all feel more fulfilled and whole if we embraced the loneliness that comes when we’re single; when we accept that no one could ever truly give us everything we need; that sadness and misunderstanding and disappointment are vessels that take us to lands of strength. I think it’s a process of discovery that is necessary, a process I enjoy.'”

  • BK

    “I’m not an Other when I am not in a romantic relationship” —

  • Aleksandra Tyka Grzesiak

    This article is so great! I think I feel a bit of everything what’s written here. Selflove isn’t selfish, its needed. As RuPaul said: “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell you gonna love somebody else?”.

    • Adrianna

      Girl we have similar Polish surnames

      • Aleksandra Tyka Grzesiak

        This is fun! Best regards from Warsaw in Poland! You can visit me anytime 😉

        • Adrianna

          I was born in Warsaw! My parents are from Zambrów and Węgrów

          • Ania

            just commenting to say hi from another polish city! greetings from Wrocław 🙂

          • Olivia AP

            I’m not even Polish (sorry for jumping into the conversation like a crazy person), but I stayed in Wroclaw for 6 months and man, I felt in love with Poland. Such a beautiful country and people are amazing. I remember grandmas hughing me in the tram (happened like 3 times) lol. They were all so nice I was shocked

  • Adrianna

    I talk about my relationship on MR all the time, so it’s not surprising that I hated being single. But I also didn’t get in relationships just to be in one. I do feel I established my “own identity” by being single all through college.

    Despite my best intentions, my college experience was defined by how lonely I felt, even though I was surrounded by friends and acquaintances every day. I truly felt like something significant was missing. I have since learned that I am an *INFJ,* meaning that I feel fulfilled by one deep connection.

    Being in one relationship through most of your 20s is a specific experience. I walk around with a degree of confidence because of my emotional security at home. I’ve learned a lot about communication and conflict management. But I also know I’m stunted in other ways.

    • Andrea

      Fellow INFJ here! I think this is why I’m so bad at casual dating–I can’t ignore how much I want that deep connection!

      • Adrianna

        Casual dating – same here. I was just recently wondering why people who are seemingly perpetually single are “dating experts” (a previous male Man Repeller contributor, Sex with Emily, Millionaire Matchmaker) – but maybe I just have a different definition or end goal of dating.

        • H

          I am not an INFJ, but can I just say I revere you people, even though there are only about seven in the whole wide world haha. My mum, The Oracle, is one and also my boyfriend- the level of penetrating insight and psychic powers is phenomenal. Love your powers!

        • Lizlemon

          Cobbler who has no shoes syndrome? I had a psych prof who was a relationship therapist and was single at 50. She knew why she was single (wanted perfection) but her clients never had a problem with it cause they felt she gave good advice

          • Adrianna

            I could imagine a trained professional can be a good therapist and help others outside of her own worldview. My main qualm with (casual) dating advice is that it’s almost always a singular approach and a list of rules to prevent scaring a potential partner.

      • Gabe

        I’ve finally found other INFJs!

        I totally feel the same way and those intentions for a deep connection are never “cool” in casual dating, sometimes in dating in general.

        • belle

          Same (another INFJ!) The thought of a first date (or second or third or tenth) makes me want to puke, but the idea of having a long term partner sounds like something I could get on board with. Sadly the casual dating / initial dates are the roadblock…

    • Cate

      I think that there are a few ways to interpret that trait of being an INFJ. I’ve never felt like something profound was missing, because I’m extremely picky about who I date and have rarely connected with someone who I felt was worth it.

    • Sq

      I feel the same, except I haven’t been single since I lived at home with my parents! I feel fulfilled by having that connection with someone, more so than I do through other things such as work.. I feel as though I’m almost not allowed to say that though.

    • Agnes

      Oh my gosh, INFJ here too and I definitely get fulfilled by deep talks with ANYONE, deep connection with my boyfriend, etc. I was single for 14 years before meeting my boyfriend and I also couldn’t do the casual dating thing for more than 1-2 dates each guy. I did online dating because everyone said I ‘should’ but I found it soul-destroying. I have tons of sister-friends that I had all that time to invest into, and I think it’s my talent more than anything else. I could really improve my money management skills, for example though haha. I’m a therapist too and my bread and butter is giving space and listening to others’ deepest souls. I have always felt different to most people! Being single was so hard at times, but so worth it to wait for the right person!

    • Rosanna Turner

      Huh- I am also an INFJ and have never thought about how it might affect dating/relationships. I’ve been single for a very long time but have to admit that I really do crave that deep connection with other people (friends, family, romantic partner) – no wonder I can never stay on a dating app for more than a week! Also had no clue that INFJ is the rarest personality type?!

      • Kim

        I recently found out that it is the rarest type for women and men combined, but it’s actually the third rarest for women only… still pretty rare though!

      • belle

        I’m an INFJ and since I don’t like the bar scene or dating others in my industry I tried online dating. I hated it and I actually only went on one date (it was good, but the guy was only in town temporarily). I hate the process of texting or chatting, talking about basically nothing. Especially with apps like Tinder – how are you even going to know anything about me from five photos and a stupid bio? It all seemed very fruitless to me.

    • Jessica

      “I feel fulfilled by one deep connection” – oh yes, so with you here. I have always been better with small numbers of very close friends than being part of a big group (where I tend to get lost/fade into the background because I am quite quiet).

      So a small number of deep connections, be it friends or a relationship, makes me much more comfortable.

      • Adrianna

        I’m also a very quiet person, which people falsely interpret as shyness. It’s not my first impulse to contribute or dominate the conversation if I’m with a larger group of people. (“larger” aka more than two)

    • Kim

      INFJs unite! If there’s one thing that shouldn’t be casual for me, it is relationships. Which certainly gave me a lot of trouble in my late teens/early twenties, when no one else seemed to want the same thing…

      • Adrianna

        I definitely expected way more from friendships and casual dates than the other party did when I was in college/early 20s. I’d probably still be searching for one single person to take on all my energy if I were single.

  • Teddie

    Thanks for this, Haley. I would love to see a version with the range of opinions of non-single folks, too. My sister ended a six year relationship, I’ve been with my partner for five years, and I think the difference in our attitudes is interesting. She’s pining for what I have, and I’m (slightly) envious of the freedom she has to chase her dreams and do whatever she chooses! Having a partner in life is great, but it also means taking another person into consideration when making life decisions.

    • Court E. Thompson

      The freedom envy is real. I noted how many of the posts commented on that and getting to create their own routines. I wonder if men, either single or in a relationship, feel that way or if there’s something we as women do/don’t do/feel pressure to do or do not that makes us feel like we can’t chase our dreams in the same way.

      • mhck

        I wish I thought that were true. I’ve been struggling a lot with that feeling and with accepting that meeting someone I really love means permanently agreeing to compromise my time and my choices, and while it’s a great problem to have it’s definitely a big question. When I’ve brought it up to my partner, he doesn’t feel that way at all, and neither do any men he knows–and to be honest, in a traditional heterosexual relationship, why would they? He still has all the freedom he wants, AND someone else is stocking his fridge and making vacation plans and throwing him birthday parties. I suppose the traditional corollary is that they give up sex with other women and that’s supposed to be such a hardship for men that it makes up for everything women give up, but we’re not monogamous so he’s not even giving up that! I’m trying to be disciplined about asking for as much as I give, but it’s HARD. Those gender roles really tug on you.

        • Teddie

          Honestly I’ve never read something that describes how I feel so eloquently. I love my boyfriend, I see my future with him, but I still feel like I’m compromising on my dreams to do what’s best for “us”, while he doesn’t have to.
          He works in a small town, 1 hour away from our home city, and there are absolutely no work opportunities there for me (he’s a chemical engineer working and I’m in media). I don’t think he would consider living at home and commuting the hour so that I could have a career I love, or even living somewhere in between, but I feel like I’m expected to do it for him. Ughhh life.

    • Ana

      Having a partner can give you freedom, too. I have a lot of friends who went freelance/went back to school/moved to a different country/etc. because they had the financial (mental/everyday support) support of a partner.

  • Andrea

    Thanks for this, Haley! I’ve been single for a very long time, and the hardest part is seeing my closest friends settle into committed relationships. I am very happy for them, but it’s incredibly isolating to realize that you are not anyone’s number 1. I often feel like my parents are the only ones who are willing to go out of their way for me, and that makes me feel very immature, like I should have more serious relationships with other people. (Even though I know no matter how old I am, I will always be their child.) But regardless I still LOVE that tomorrow I could up and move across the world and no one can tell me not to. That’s a freedom I feel hesitant to give up, no matter how much I do pine for companionship.

    • Katrin H

      I relate to this so hard. Most of my friends are either married or engaged, a few with kids. I’m so happy for them, and for the most part I also really like their partners – I consider many of them good friends, too. But being one of the only single people in a group that’s mostly coupled up is indeed isolating. I need my friends in ways they no longer need me. It’s tough. And in trying to be reassuring, sometimes my friends make it tougher – they’ll insist that our friendship hasn’t changed, that it’s still a priority, etc. And I do believe they genuinely mean that. But the truth is that things have changed, and it’s difficult to have that conversation (I think maybe more so for them than for me). I also don’t think people really talk about the financial advantages of coupling up. Many of my coupled friends are able to afford things (like houses) that I’m simply not able to at this point. And I think that feeds into that feeling of immaturity you describe – that I’m not an adult not only because I don’t have a partner or children, but because I haven’t established a really tangible financial foothold.
      I don’t regret or resent my singleness. I was one of those women growing up who always had a guy, and there was a lot of internal stuff I wasn’t able to really tackle until I made a conscious decision to be single and prioritize figuring my own stuff out. I’ll never regret learning how to not internalize other peoples’ biases, expectations, upset, etc. I’ll never regret really learning how to speak up, and stand up for myself, and advocate for my needs. I’ll never regret the time and energy I’ve been able to invest in my career (I’m a therapist, so the career is definitely something that’s taken all kinds of energy). But I do feel tinges of resentment every now and then when my singleness makes other people uncomfortable, or when I’m not taken as seriously because of it.

      • Andrea

        “I need my friends in ways they no longer need me. ” Yes! I find I don’t have anyone to confide in as much anymore, or even just someone to text about the mundane shit that happens during the day. When I travel for work I always call my mom before I go to bed because I have no one else to check in with lol. And I feel you on the financial benefits–I work for a nonprofit and most of the people I work with are able to go on lavish vacations and buy themselves nice things because they have spouses with higher salaries. It’s not that I want an S.O. to subsidize my plane tickets or new shoes, but it would be nice to have that extra “fun money.”

        • Ana

          I was gonna quote the same sentence. So true. Being single, my friends are my priority but I’m no longer theirs.

        • Katrin H

          So much yes! Re mundane stuff, you know what I really miss? That phase of life where you and your friends just “hang out.” I do lots of social stuff now, but I always have to go out to do it. Which means wearing real pants, a bra, etc. It’s not the same as just hanging out in your sweatpants, talking about anything and everything.

        • Helen DuGan

          It’s so interesting for me to read this perspective. Of many of my closest friends in college, I am the only one in a serious relationship. I feel constantly insecure that they no longer need me and have moved on in a way. They do all the things we used to do together without me, and they have so many inside jokes and group-chats I am no longer a part of. It’s been so hard to feel like I’ve lost that closeness when the truth is, even with my relationship, I still need my girlfriends! Similarly, they don’t check in on me with mundane things because they assume my relationship takes care of that. No guy will can ever replace that bond between girlfriends for me. I guess it has more to do with being the only one in your friend group in a different relationship status than with being single/committed.

        • Mareike Borkowski

          Oh God, I feel the same. I’ve been single for a couple of years but I’ve never noticed this as much as recently. Went on holiday with large group of my friends last year and it was amazing. Guess what: This year no one is available because they have plans with their partners. Also, my best friend got into a serious relationship recently. We still see each other and talk regularly but this week is her birthday and it will be the first time since we knew each other that we won’t be celebrating it together because she’s going away with her boyfriend. And I am honestly so happy for her but it also makes me a little sad and anxious. I’m afraid that soon most of my friends won’t have time for me and I’ll be sat there on my own. I mean, I’m way past my party-age but I also don’t want to fall asleep in front of the tv every Saturday night. The irony is, that I don’t really feel like dating either because the last years of it (online and other) have just left me a little hollowed out by bad experiences.

        • Miciah

          The money part resonates. ( speaking from sum1 who wants a room mate)

      • Ashley

        Yes! I’ve been single more or less for 5 years and now, having just turned 30, it’s starting to play on my mind a bit more. Especially being the only single girl in a group of very settled down friends, it can be difficult to come to terms with not being a priority for them anymore.
        I LOVE being single for the most part, I’ve learned so much about myself but I do have moments in the evening or when everyone is busy all weekend that I would love to have a person to do nothing with.

      • Lakeera Uneek Clinkscale

        “But I do feel tinges of resentment every now and then when my singleness makes other people uncomfortable, or when I’m not taken as seriously because of it.” This is such a beautiful way to put this! Thanks for sharing.

      • EmKay

        YES to this so hard. I love being single and don’t consider myself to be “dating” or pursuing a relationship, but the activities I enjoy/get a thrill out of just aren’t the same as my friends anymore. This also feeds into my feelings of immaturity because I’m seen (at least I think) as the partier, the one who always wants to go out, and the one who cares too much about makeup ( for the record, I don’t think thats possible and I genuinely enjoy putting makeup on). I think I should try BumbleBFF again…I don’t need a man, I just need more single friends!!!

      • LeBongChoix

        Well said. I think I realised I needed to sit out dating for awhile when I was thinking “But you really need a man so you’ll finally be able to buy a house” and then head to slap myself with “That’s an awful reason to commit to someone!”

      • Emily

        Echoing this statement about feeling less of an adult because I don’t have a partner. I live in New York City, and between student loans and my non-profit job, I cannot afford to live by myself. I have a great apartment with awesome roommates, but it still sucks to feel like I won’t ever have my “own” place until I either find a partner or somehow significantly increase my income.

        That, and while I like what I do, I’m definitely not obsessed with my career the way a lot of other single people in big cities seem to be. It makes me feel a bit adrift at times–I have neither an epic career plan nor a clear personal journey to follow (i.e. from dating to engagement to marriage to babies) so I’m not always sure what path I’m on instead. It’s freeing but also a bit anxiety-inducing!

        • Andrea

          I am 100% there with you! Also have lots of loans and work for a nonprofit. I want to be a badass independent lady, but I literally cannot afford it. It sucks.

      • belle

        I moved across the country to a city where people tend to pair up and get married young, and it has been so strange and difficult for me. My previous/existing friendships felt normal – I had a few friends who were in long term relationships, but I am close with both partners and would hang out with both of them together and separately, so it all felt natural. Here, single people seem laser-focused on finding partners, which makes it hard to focus on casual friendships with other single people. It’s also hard to sustain friendships when I don’t have a partner because so many social activities depend on having a plus-one, going on double dates, etc. Even when that’s not the case, I find that people who are married tend to start gravitating toward other couples to fulfill their social needs. Recently, one of my coworkers even referred to the fact that I don’t have a “family life” yet, and I felt slighted, as if they think my real life hasn’t started until I settle down with a partner and have a baby. I know I don’t want children, and I’m not sold on the idea of marriage, so that idea is offensive to me in general. I have a family – my parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents who are scattered all over the country. Just because it’s only me and my pets living in my home doesn’t mean it’s not a family, and I don’t think I should be socially pressured to put my life on hold until I find a partner. I also feel you on the financial resentment, but then I think about the fact that I could theoretically pay half the amount for my apartment, but I’d have less than half the amount of privacy and freedom I have now!

      • Hannah Johnson

        Katrin!! Yes!! Thank you for validating the exact way I feel. Especially friends insisting things haven’t changed when indeed they have. It’s been a sinking feeling for me and took a bit to come to terms with how my friendships have changed. Not only have they all paired off, but with my moving abroad, it seems it has only intensified my feeling of isolation from them. I wish I knew the answer; I have made new friends but I still miss the way things were with my old ones.

    • Julia

      I saw this poll and tried to articulate my feelings on being single because I have been my whole life but it was just so hard. I think for me it was because I’ve never had a committed relationship or even a fling or short stint with dating. I’ve always been a very independent introvert and sometimes I wonder if I’ll ever open up even to casually dating. I think I enjoy being single because if I didn’t wouldn’t I have found a way into a relationship at this point? But I also hate it because I do want that one person to rely on. I so feel how “incredibly isolating to realize that you are not anyone’s number 1.”

      • Brandi

        same, julia, same.

    • Yes to this: ‘it’s incredibly isolating to realize that you are not anyone’s number 1’. The other thing that feels surprisingly isolating is people’s assumption that you will (sometimes literally) take a back seat to couples because they are two and you are one – while they share the front seats in the car, the nice double beds on vacation, you sit in the back like a kid and sleep on a roll-out single cot…

  • Thank you so much for this article. I really identify with a lot of what was expressed in each of these experiences and its nice to know that others feel the same way as I do about being single.

  • Pterodactyl111

    I think learning how to be happy by yourself outside of a partnership is so important. I’m engaged now, but I was single for a very long time before that and I think in some ways it made me a better, more well-rounded person. I feel very secure in who I am.

  • Jessica S

    Love this topic, Hayley! I’ve been grappling with this myself, as I just turned 30 in November and have been single for about 2 years now. Its hitting even harder now that I’ve reached peak coupling off age and find myself in the midst of my family’s “SO WHEN ARE WE GONNA PLAN YOUR WEDDING TO THE BOYFRIEND YOU DONT HAVE OH YAH AND WHENS THE BABY SHOWER???!!!/!!!?” gaze. My thoughts on singledom definitely echo most the statements here…most days I’m super into it…somedays i’m not. I will say that I revel in the freedom that comes with it…i was getting sick of my hometown of LA and decided to up and move to another state on a whim last year with no one else to explain myself to which was quite liberating! BUT on the other hand, I feel like this somewhat selfish single mindset is keeping me from finding someone, because 1. my “do what I want” attitude doesn’t give off the dependable, respectable girlfriend vibe most men are looking for (even though they don’t want to admit it)…and 2. I’ve gotten so comfy in my single lifestyle that I don’t really care to change it.

  • Rebecca

    “My feelings on being single vacillate wildly — it’s like a secondary mood. I’ll be totally obsessed with being single. I’ll feel empowered and secure in my independence and then in a second can feel incredibly vulnerable and unhappy about it. Usually, this happens when I begin to think about the future and the questions start to take over my brain — Will I get married? Will I have kids? Is this just it!!?? Some days those questions just don’t weigh on me and some days they’re all I think about.”

    this isnt me but wow its me 100%!!

  • Susanna

    “..the lack of intimate (not sexual) touch is really hard.”This is something I am constantly trying to explain to people in relationships, but think no-one takes really serious. Skin contact and the love it gives has a huge impact on psychic health, and it’s something I missed a lot.

    • Andrea

      I remember one time I was having a bad week at work–I hugged my coworker goodbye because she was (ironically) leaving to get married, and it was crazy how much my mood instantly improved. Sometimes I don’t want sex, I just want a hug 🙁

      • Susanna

        Totally! Sometimes I’m even avoiding hugs because they feel so overwhelmingly good that I get sad at the same time, realising how much I miss them 🙁

    • Alanna

      I really feel this which is why I am a huuuge proponent of platonic intimacy. Kiss your friends faces, hold their hands, hug them really tight for a really long time, tell them you love them! Intimacy and skin contact, if it is something you crave, can come from all sorts of relationships – i just don’t think we talk about the need for it or our desire to connect with people in that way nearly enough… Maybe it would be different if we weren’t living in “an individualistic society that places undue pressure on relationships instead of communities”.

      • Kiks

        Yes, yes, yes to all of this. I always kiss my friends’ faces, hug them super tight (and cradle their heads because I am taller than basically everyone) and tell them I love them constantly. It’s so important to create and maintain those physical connections. I also used to love taking naps with friends.

      • Regina

        This.^^ I agree it’s part of the American culture to be more reserved when it isn’t in a romantic context. I say this because I went to college in the US and I kept missing feeling close to people. Then I went through a break up with an American boy there and the thing I missed the most was the physical closeness. Now I am single and back in Latin America and I don’t have that issue because I get it from my family and friends.

    • Jessica

      I think this is really my biggest thing too when I’m single. That warm skin-on-skin feeling isn’t something I can really reproduce just by hugging my friends, or holding their hand. Sometimes I just want someone to come stand behind me while I’m making coffee and wrap their arms round my waist.

      • Ana

        💯 it’s just not the same with friends. I kind of don’t like being touched unless it’s in a romantic context.

    • mhck

      I think it’s hard to understand when you’re in a relationship because the opposite so often happens–while I’m so appreciative of the love and support my S.O. offers, there are moments where I get so touched out I literally want to hit him. I was single for such a long time and I remember that feeling you’re describing so well, even as I experience its exact opposite. I could see how after a long-term relationship where that’s always available you would forget what it feels like, though.

    • DP

      Yes! I feel this is someone only people who have been single for some time can relate to. I remember having a male friend stay over one night as he was locked out and I made it clear to him that I didn’t want anything to happen between us, but was happy to cuddle while sleeping. He was ok with it, and it made me realise how much I missed and needed that in my life.

    • LeBongChoix

      I have a dog and her affection and love is all I need.

    • Suzy Lawrence

      In 2014 I decide to hike the Appalachian Trail. It took me about a year to prepare and the sacrifices were crazy (mainly to save money). One big adjustment was ending a relationship because it was distracting me from my goal. I ended up spending 3 months on the trail, then headed to another state where I knew no one, and about 6 months later (so a year of being single, 3 months alone in the woods, and another 6 months where I didn’t know a soul) I got a massage. Zero sexual stimulation (get your head out of the gutter :D), but feeling another person’s hands on my body was mind blowing. I’ll never forget that sensation or the realization of how much we can miss physical affection without even realizing it.

  • Erin Maglecic

    For me, the greatest part about being in a relationship is “feeling single”. While I’m committed and monogamous to my boyfriend, our pairing never infringes on either of our naturally independent proclivities. I think the term single has become synonymous with freedom, which is why being unattached is so appealing to our generation. We have very new expectations and goals and challenges with careers/culture that necessitate individuality. Modern love philosophy is less geared towards partnering up, and while it’s painful in some ways, it’s liberating in most. Personally, I love being single and I love relationships, but hate the hunt. The challenge has always been finding someone who doesn’t detract from my sense of self, my goals, and my needs—and this feeling of independence paradoxically allows me to be a more attentive partner.

    • libs

      have you read the jean hannah edestein artice about being culturally single? sounds like a good way to describe you & your boyfriend, and it’s what i hope to be like when i date again!

  • me

    I’m so lonely, I can barely stand it.

    • Kristin

      It’s not forever and you’re not alone

  • MK

    This was entirely fantastic. I don’t even think of myself as “single.” I’m just my own person sans a partner and that’s who I’ve always been and probably always be. As I inch closer to 22, I was starting to think this was a total abnormality. Like some glitch that meant I was missing something I was supposed to have. But it is so good to hear that there are other people that feel similarly … & that’s just it — at the end of this piece, I feel so much less alone. So grateful to Haley and her instagram community for that.

  • Madalyn Pedone

    Thank you, Haley, for this article as it is so nice to hear from other “singles” because sometimes it can feel like I am just that… SINGLE. THE ONLY ONE. It’s nice to know that I’m definitely not the only one and that so many people are feeling the same things as me.

    I am 25 and have never been in a committed relationship. I have had numerous flings and romances but nothing that ever really stuck. All of my friends are in serious relationships or have at least been in one before. I have spent so much time and energy feeling inadequate due to my lack of relationship experience.

    Recently, however, I tried feeling something new about my singledom… gratitude. I don’t have a man to lean on and honestly, in my mid-twenties, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Now is the time for me to explore my range as a human being and get to know all of the nooks and crannies of myself. Since it is just me at the end of the day, I am everything to myself… my best friend, my rock, my support system… and I feel strong AF. I am learning to rely on MYSELF for my own happiness and I feel that this is one of the most valuable lessons of all. Sure, there are so many times when it is not easy, but I really do feel grateful to be single at this time. I’m learning how to be a whole person, on my own, and when I finally do meet someone worthy of my greatness, I will be able to be with them without sacrificing any of my beautiful self-discovery.

    • Gratitude is – gratefully – contagious. Appreciating your contribution to this thread. Gratitude, in anything, is the gateway to holistically embracing those few as precious epiphanies. And maybe other insights are inclined to emerge more as we give thanks for the current lessons.

    • Camila Restrepo

      Yes! I’m almost 25 and I’m like you! I’ve never been “in a relationship”. I’ve had countless flings and “friends” but nothing that has been “hello, mother, meet my BOYFRIEND”. When I was 18-21/22, I really didn’t care, I remember not wanting anything serious with anyone and thankfully most of my flings were with foreigners so they had an expiration date.
      But in the past two years, I been craving more of a constant, stable affair; without having to renounced my independence. Most of the time I just want someone that I can casually date , sleep with and hang out with and know that we are exclusive, but with no plans for marriage, etc. I feel like most people are either “not exclusive” or “let’s date for two months and then get marry, get a dog, etc”. The past two years have been a huge learning curve in what I want from a person/relationship though. I’m finally starting to speak up, know exactly what I want, etc. Just this past weekend, I spend time with a “crush”/guy that I met a couple of months ago (and been obessed with) and I finally asked him what he thought of me and why we didn’t go past a certain stage and he said “you’re temperamental…. like you are very strong and know exactly what you want and I know myself that wouldn’t really work out”. I wanted to be like “that’s a bad thing?….” Basically you can’t handle me…so actually thanks for telling me this because I definitely need an equal, I’m not going to be submissive for anyone.

  • tiabarbara

    all of these speak to me so deeply.

    i felt tethered to my last relationship and as much as i loved him i was euphoric when i finally ended it. but it’s been a little over a year of being single and now i’m getting antsy and i hate that because in theory i know that being in a relationship is not the be-all-end-all but i see so many people coupled up and i envy them. most days i don’t think about it, and some days i love that i’m only committed to myself, and some days i am completely deflated wondering how at nearly 25 i don’t have someone to turn to for companionship. i can’t help but wonder if i’ll ever find someone i can spend the rest of my life with, or if this is as good as it gets for me.

  • Kartmann08

    I’m smart, creative, outspoken, and have a profoundly happy existence at 67. I was a card-carrying feminist, with a NOW membership at 17 years old. I was married once for a couple of months in my 40’s, but it was a sex-fueled move. Eh. The “I’m enough” statement is true for me as I find myself endlessly amusing; characterized by an overwhelming curiosity about life. I had to develop into it, craft it…. and it was not always easy, socially and personally. Few were comfortable with my ‘vision’ of myself and I wasn’t always ‘true’ to it; affected by cultural ‘norms’, hostility, and ridicule. The ‘movement’ today is the beginning of what should have always been (amen, sister) and will stimulate these sorts of convos about ‘being single’….I see the thread starting to grasp the ‘Catch-22’ quality of the question. When we get to the point that this sort of conversation is no longer necessary (or interesting)…we will be developing into whole beings; strong, individually self-defining, and content. “The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any”. Alice Walker “…the self is not something one finds; it is something one creates”. Thomas Szaz For me….I had to get HERE.

  • I got quoted! I’m blushing.

  • Fayla Garcia

    I have LOVED being single but lately I do find myself hitting those moments of loneliness. But I just don’t see anyone worth giving up allllll that I have gained, which is probably not the best way of thinking about it. But there is a certain fear that I attach now to relationships that I can’t seem to shake.

  • An article can be a breath of fresh air. Always appreciated. Then, there is the rarity of an article being a wind upon which one can be carried – in a solidarity not oft articulated. Waited to spot the terms, ‘aromantic’ and/or ‘asexual’ here – with the requisite clear distinctions as well as grey territory between the two. Although an exploration of such categories might be an ideal MR post as this topic is further explored, how I appreciated reading such cogent expressions sans any label. Embracing these well-chosen reflections, Nahman. They read as organic as our Earth. An Earth, by the way, now over-populated – no longer necessitating every being currently incarnated to propagate. If partnering is thus optional, how can one’s thoughtful exercise of said option, inadvertently indict one as not progressively reflective but instead, regressively ‘defective’? Maybe that error in mass perception is an invitation to our societal evolution. Perhaps consciously critical re-evaluation of something as elusive as life satisfaction can expand past an ironic ‘singular’ model or pigeon-holed primary route to get there. Socrates was correct in the “unexamined life not [being] worth living”. When we cease to question societal expectations/assumptions of how we are in relation to one another, perhaps we fail our nebulous yet fundamental intent of authentic altruism. Seems like we ‘skirt’ the opportunity for culture-cracking inquisitions. Examples? Empathy abounds – as well it should – for those struggling with fertility issues. However, judgement can be abundant for those who choose not to parent. As an ally, I cheered/cheer loudly, watching state after state affirm marriage equality. However, too many heads still cock to the side at the notion of my own ‘cis’ contentment in solitude. There seems to be more support for those struggling on the margins of the conventional coupling model than a space – simply a validating space – for those content to continue creatively fashioning not a rejection of the norm, but sacramental reflection upon it. Gratitude for MR making such space. We exist. Our ‘sole’ existence is no less. We are elevated by alternative life directions unmapped by open minds to parallel open hearts. Although we are too used to proceeding absent understanding, when it appears – ANYWHERE – we are lifted by the acknowledgement because the weight of elevating ourselves, despite the wider belief system, is lifted.

  • Renee

    I like being single a lot (having my own space, my own time, is all so great) but sometimes I really, miss being excited about someone, basically having a crush. I was talking to my cousin about this over the holidays (I’m 25, she’s 35 and has also been single for about the same amount of time as me (2 years)) and she was like “that’s exactly how I feel! I just want to like someone.” So I think this is a fairly common feeling? It would just be nice to text from someone you actually like (you know, and you call your friend and ask them what you should reply) or meet someone up for dinner and be interested in what they have to say. Maybe I’ve just been on too many bad first dates lately (honestly, on the verge of just abandoning them altogether) who knows.

    So in short, I feel great! I would just like a crush on someone who’s not a celebrity.

    • “I would just like a crush on someone who’s not a celebrity” sums it up. Although sleeping with my One Direction pillowcase is probably not setting the right intention for this to happen in my life

    • Tom

      I think you just lived in LA too long. You seem great! Message me sometime 🙂

  • Elena

    Feeling all of these things all at once. Great insights, single ladies.


  • Lil

    Yup 110% agree. I moved out on my own and started a new career recently, and a committed & *emotionally* fufilling relationship just seems like the next step to becoming a more, “matured,” adult. I never cared for, thought of, or ever saw my singleness as an issue until recently (now that I’m older and the only single friend left). I understand that your romantic partner is definitely your #1 in life, but I just wish that society would place more importance on platonic relationships.

    Because on a sour note (sorry to be so negative), most marriages end in divorce nowadays & who do people cry to when that happens?

  • mia |-/

    This was poetry

  • Lakeera Uneek Clinkscale

    This is an incredibly beautiful & life giving article. I never realized that so many people were doing singlehood happily. I honestly don’t have many conversations about that. I am 1 of maybe 3 single women that I know & I always get the feeling that people are just waiting around for me to get married before they decide to do life with me. But, my life is happening now & I actually really like my life. I really like myself! I’m finding more and more that my issues with being “single” are not so much internal ones, but the inevitable ways that it affects conversation with those around me. I.e people just not knowing how to talk to me or putting relationship with me on hold until they can relate to me better. Lol. But, such is life. I’m saving this article & choosing to come back to it often. It has done wonders in helping to overturn old ways of thinking & allow freedom to rush in.

    • “But, my life is happening now & I actually really like my life.”

      Ironic, ain’t it though? Isolation isn’t experienced in my own company but rather in attempts to sincerely engage others, refusing to defend/define what feels to me the stark difference between solitude and loneliness.

      Here’s to our NOW – waiting for no one/nothing, accept society to catch up to solo solidarity.

      • Lakeera Uneek Clinkscale

        Here’s to our now! & The beautiful ways Jesus chooses to use and define our lives!

  • Katya Lopatko

    The last one is so beautiful and how I feel about being single at the best of times

  • DoubleDNYC

    I got married in my mid-twenties and am so jealous of my single girlfriends. Marriage is a lot of work, especially for women. You become social secretary, mommy, nurse, shrink, career coach, maid, chef, and travel agent (and that’s before you actually have kids!!!) It’s exhausting. Sorry to sound bitter; I swear I love my family.

  • Jay

    Puh, Haley, you got a certain talent for making me not return to work after lunch break – which is when I read manrepeller – but ok, that might also be due to other circumstances.

    Single is a tricky one.

    Like I was that „I am single and that is great“ kid who grew up with SATC and wasn’t that much into boys anyways, cause there were so many other things… (Plus I played sports with them… and knew how badly they smelled after)

    After some really short and really senseless relationships or dates during school by the time I turned 20 I was pretty sure I‘d rather be alone, read, write, travel, hang out with my GFs, do whatever I want and whenever I want.

    Then, in my late 20s, when everyone around me was getting married, I had the first real relationship of my life. Real real. And I could not imagine ever being single again.

    Until – ffw four years – I am.

    And maybe I need this right now. Tried dating. But it feels wrong. I am still working on that whole long serious relationship thing. And the breakup.

    So no, not happy being single.

    But better it is.

    Cause I guess it is true what they say: You need to be able to love yourself before you can enter into any kind of loving relationship.

    And well, maybe this is something that some singles can do better than some other people. Or have figured out at least.

    Plus: Short one on the stigma – all you 20sths – one of my great (and slightly older) friends said on her 40th bday: „Well, now the good guys are being free Again, and this time it is my time to play…“ (alluding to the fact that at 26 everyone was getting married, at 30 everyone is having a kid and at 35 everyone is getting divorced… – which is sad but true)

  • Rebecca Santos Siegel

    This is like *Exactly* the kind of thing that would be playing in early SATC when Carrie poses that episode’s question and we have a montage of random attractive New Yorkers commenting on how they feel.

  • DP

    This is a great idea, loved reading through the responses.
    I haven’t been single for a while, but was for about 5 years in my twenties and the only way I could describe that period was ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times’.
    The best of times were around the intoxicating freedom – I quite my job and travelled around Europe and south america for a year; lived with friends on an amazing inner city suburb; learned to salsa and samba, learned spanish, met so many people from different walks of life and made some amazing friends.
    The worst of times – the loneliness, it was so unique due it’s persistance, the type that no amount of fulfilment in other areas of my life could make up for. It did lead to me having a few short term flings which weren’t good for me, as the craving for intimacy got to me at times. There was the nagging concern at the back of my mind as time went on – will I ever have a family? Fall in love again? Because I loved being in love, and couldn’t imagine my life without it. I also find I perform better at work and studying when I’m in a solid relationship.
    As you observed, its not an either or situation, but an area with a lot greys in between.

  • Anna

    I would have loved to see the thoughts of men about this topic too. Because like you wrote about women aren‘t defined as much about being in a relationship or not anymore. But it is still interesting on an individual level. And I think it would also be interesting to see the male pespective because I‘m quite sure there would also be a huge spectrum of answers

  • LeBongChoix

    I’m with the person who said they always end up resenting the person they’re with. I’m exactly the same. Get into a relationship because that’s the “normal” thing to do; then become increasingly pissed off at the burden of emotional labour I’m expected to carry/ housework I’m expected to do/dreams and goals I’m supposed to compromise or sacrifice, and eventually can’t wait to see the back of him. I’ve been single for a few years now, just focusing on my own goals and I’ve never been happier. I could quite easily never be in a relationship again. I’ve got a beautiful dog and great friends and family who give me affection and love, and I don’t miss sex at all. Dating just seems like a huge hassle and my life is great so if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it I figure.

  • Thanks for this Haley! I’m 30 and I’ve been single my whole life. And the things is that… I don’t even think about it much. I don’t dedicate much time to thinking about whether I should be with someone and meeting new guys is at the bottom of my priorities list. Not because I don’t like dating or being with someone for a while (it’s been fun when I’ve done it), but because the thought of actively trying to be not-single does not cross my mind often. I’ve never felt sad about being single, but I’ve also never felt that it was empowering or that it made me some sort of super-special-super-woman. Being single is just part of who I am.

    I think it’s hard for people, specially people who are used to being in relationships, to understand that you can be happy being single. Some of my friends think that I’m missing out on something or that there’s an empty space in my life, and I always tell them: “I’ve never been in a committed relationship but I think I can imagine why being in one would make you happy. So why is it so hard for you to understand that I can be happy not being in one?”.

  • Daisy Arevalo

    Ask my grandma

  • Hannah

    I love this article, I’m surrounded by a group of friends who are all young single women (#girlband), we all have these kind of thoughts on being single that can change from month to month. The moment I stopped caring about ‘being single’ was the moment my life took off. I committed myself fully to my university degree and I took opportunities I wouldn’t have if I were in a relationship! Now in my mid-twenties and living abroad for my 4th year, I’m in a place I could never have imagined myself in before. My independence means everything to me and I really don’t *need* a boyfriend, which can make me incredibly stubborn and fear showing any vulnerability. Saying that, I watched a dating programme recently where an older lady said about her late husband, ‘the moment I met him, was the moment my life started’. And I also think that’s really nice, something that is more of a partnership and you power through life together, that makes me fear vulnerability a little less!

  • Brooke W

    Love this! i didn’t respond to the prompt because my feelings on being single are complex, dynamic, vague and sometimes can’t be put into words. But these put them into words! Thank you to all the people that articulated their experience– I FEEL YOU.

  • Ida

    it’s a relief to read all comments (I really did!) and see how strikingly similar are our thoughts and feelings. I’ve been in 2 serious relationships (5y and 2y) and been single for a year now. I’m a quite lonely person so I do enjoy my time and space and liberty a lot, but on some days I just feel the need of a man’s touch (and no, having a fuck buddy is not going to give you the same feeling, I tried it) and I miss the feeling of knowing you’re loved and someone cares for you. also, hugging my friends does not help either, it’s more of a sexual need.

    I think it’s wrong to glorify single life, as we all fall down sometimes too, but as one of you said in a comment, most marriages end up in divorces, so a couple life isn’t to be glorified either. it’s somewhere in between, we just need to hold on to ourselves until we find a balance and in the meantime, take care of ourselves. so happy to read all of you strong and inspiring women! I just think we’re really lucky, I feel like us women have never been more connected and I mean globally! 🙂

  • Ira Honings

    Impressive stories. Curious to know their ages though… I am well over 50. My loneliness now (after several relationships and 2 marriages) feels way different (I am happy, content, calm) than me being single in my twenties (I felt restless and incomplete).

  • allymichelle

    Wow, these two parts: “With men, I tend to always try to make things work, even if that means sacrificing what I want more than he ends up sacrificing.” and “…I feel like I have a tendency to bear that responsibility of another person’s feelings quite heavily, which just makes me end up feeling exhausted.”
    I just went through a breakup and that’s exactly how I felt throughout the relationship… I thought I was alone in this! I’m optimistic about being single again. I just have to figure out what I’m going to do with myself now that I’m not trying to make things work with another person. Read this post at the perfect time.

  • Miciah

    I like how most of these are mostly positive. Some people do not have the choice of being single ( if ur looking for quality), like myself. It’s nice to hear others revel in the fact that singleness is such a gift and tht being in a relationship shouldn’t make me more of anything.

    Besides it’s not about being in a relationship. It’s more about WHO you’re in a relationship w/ that makes all the difference and I’m willing to take time 2 come across a suitable match.