Single or Taken: Why Do We Care So Much?

Last fall, I had three isolated conversations with single friends that were eerily similar: Being single was fun for a while, they all said, but they were over it. More pressingly, they felt ready for “the next step” in their lives but weren’t meeting the right people with whom to take it. Each friend was feeling a distinct resulting sadness.

As I joined each of them in exploring the prevailing thinking on singlehood, our conversations went in an unproductive circle: “Maybe the answer is to learn to love to be alone and really dig into life as it is now instead of waiting for something to change it. Or maybe the more enlightened approach is to be aware and unashamed of what you want and pursue it seriously. Or maybe that’s exactly when it doesn’t happen? Or maybe that’s a myth…”

It didn’t take long for us to recycle and discard all the contradictory looking-for-love tropes. Nothing felt good enough. In the following months, perhaps a little selfishly, I chewed on this a lot. I hated how unhelpful I’d been and how unexamined my thinking was on the topic. I could blame the fact that I’ve been in relationships for most of my 20s (which, of course, comes with its own challenges), but I had a feeling there was a larger conversation to be had. I just wasn’t sure what it was yet.

A few months later, I asked hundreds of unattached people to tell me how they felt about being single. Their answers proved, first and foremost, that being single is a much more nuanced experience than cultural stereotypes give it credit for. It’s not sad or fun as a rule; it can be both, neither, whatever. But weaved within many of the responses was a lesson I hadn’t anticipated and haven’t forgotten since: Not everyone cares to define themselves by the relationship binary.

“‘Being single’ is terminology that feels isolating,” one person told me. “I’m not an Other when I am not in a romantic relationship; I do not change when I am in one. … 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.”

Her answer was smart and beautiful, and it finally pushed my thinking into new territory. It took a couple of weeks to percolate, but I soon realized that, in her words, I recognized an attitude I’ve admired in the body-neutrality movement. If you haven’t heard of body neutrality, it’s a push for women to think less about their bodies instead of trying to love them. In the words of Romy Oltuski, who wrote about the movement for Man Repeller: “A more moderate approach to self-image, body neutrality aims for self-acceptance over self-love, attempting to move beyond the reflex to constantly judge our own appearances, positively or negatively. Where body positivity’s motto might be ‘love yourself,’ body neutrality’s would probably be ‘underthink it.’”

It made me wonder: Does the idea that people have to “love” — or simply feel any specific way about being single — give the concept of romantic attachment too much power? After all, most of us know that relationships don’t solve problems, but rather they change them. If most of us have moved on from the idea that marriage necessarily represents fulfillment, means happiness or signals success, why haven’t we stopped talking about being single as some kind of unfortunate or temporary state that ideally ends? What would “relationship neutrality” look like? To borrow Oltuski’s words, maybe it would aim for single-acceptance over single-love, attempting to move beyond the reflex to constantly judge your relationship status, positively or negatively.

The insistence to either revel in singlehood because it ends, or put an end to it because it’s not ideal, is predicated on the idea that romantic love is inevitable, a prerequisite for happiness or an endpoint for loneliness, none of which are categorically true. The divorce rate and number of people struggling with monogamy are proof enough.

I don’t think feeling any way about being single or otherwise is wrong, but I wonder if those feelings would shift if we all placed less importance on relationship status in general. In the same way that a less aesthetically driven society might free us up to think less about our looks, could a less romantically driven society free us up to think less about about our relationship status? Or better put: Might it enable us to place romance in its place, alongside the myriad big and wonderful things a good life has to offer?

When I asked all those people “how it feels to be single,” I reinforced a binary that I now believe needs less attention, not more. I’m still not sure what a relationship-neutral society would look like. Less “single shame”? Less relationship humble-bragging? Smaller-budget weddings? Less pressure from relatives about “the next step”? Fewer rushed engagements? New measures of success? Maybe I’m thinking too big, but I’m eager to explore it, even just as a mindset.

What do you think about “relationship neutrality”? Does it sound possible? Appealing?

Collage by Emily Zirimis.

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  • Cate

    This might not be the case for readers in their early 20s, but something that has taken me by surprise in my late 20s is how suddenly the timeline to have a family has sped up – and I mean that biologically, not just culturally.

    So when I say I’m “over” being single and want to take the “next step,” yeah, sure, it’s partly because society reinforces a binary. But it’s also because I’ve realized that I’m getting older and when I start doing math- 2-3 years of a relationship! 1 year engagement! 1-2 years hanging out being married! – I’m starting to edge closer to my mid-late thirties, when things like fertility start declining and grandparents start getting older.

    It’s not enough for me to rush something or force a relationship that doesn’t feel right, but it’s definitely a thought that is hanging out in the back of my head as I make big life decisions for myself, as it is for many of my friends. And I think that when you talk about “relationship neutrality” you have to consider the fact that many relationships start with the end goal being some sort of family situation, and that has a very real time limit for women.

    • Patrizia Chiarenza

      Ugh Cate, you make such a great point and I’m 35 so I feel it even more.

      I would love relationship-neutrality. If only because I hate to constantly be looked at or thought of as “lacking” or “damaged” (something HAS TO be wrong if she hasn’t made any relationship stick..) I constantly receive unsolicited advice on how and where to meet men, what to do and not do on my next date…. when in reality, I am quite confident I know who I am, what I want and what I am doing. I honestly don’t see it as a handicap, but simply as not having found the right person at the right time.

      The issue with relationship-neutrality for me is that I am someone who does want romantic love. I have never had career dreams, but always just wanted to find the one and make a family and be a better parent than my parents were to me and my sister. So it’s hard not to feel like I am missing out at 35…

      I guess my point is: yes, the world should be relationship neutral, but I will not be towards myself. Does that make sense?

    • Elizabeth

      Thank you!!! I am content, on a day-to-day basis, with being single right now. Great friends, career is taking off, love my freedom and the life I’ve created for myself. But now that I’m 27, that looming timeline went from hanging out in the back of my head to being front and center all the time. It sucks hearing settled-down friends talk about when to have kids and thinking, “shit, even if I meet the love of my life tomorrow, that isn’t happening for at least 5-6 years”

      • Kiks

        I don’t know if this will make you feel better or worse, but…even if you do meet someone, fall in love, get married…there’s no guarantee life’s timeline is going to match up with what you’ve planned in your head.

        I met my husband at 28, got married at 31, thought we’d definitely get pregnant within a year or so after marriage.

        I’m 34 now. Not pregnant. Haven’t been pregnant. What happened?
        1) Three months after we married, husband’s mom was diagnosed with cancer. We moved to be with her because there was a fairly high chance she wasn’t going to survive. (She did, thankfully.)
        2) I tapered off my anti-anxiety meds in preparation for getting pregnant. Within a few months became suicidal because my anxiety was so severe and constant.
        3) Husband & I waited for months to find out if he’d be approved for a promotion he has been working toward for years. Did not know when we’d need to move across the country. Went back on birth control because there were already too many uncertainties and balls in the air. Just went off it again last month.

        So now I’m staring straight into being pregnant at 35 if I’m lucky. I’m terrified. This is not what I wanted. It will be ok, but it’s not what we planned. If it happens at all.

        Sorry for the long-winded reply! I hope it all comes true for you exactly as you dream and I hope this doesn’t come off as pessimistic.

        I only mean to say that nothing important in life can be put to a timeline…so try not to stress yourself thinking about how many years until X or Y happens. Everything might happen much more quickly than you think, or it might not. Don’t worry if your timeline doesn’t look the same as everyone else’s. (If you figure out how to do this, please let me know 🙂

        • CG Holder

          I had my one and only child at 36.

          • Kiks

            Yes, I know that many women have children after 35.

    • Andrea

      This is such a tricky thing for women. It’s really hard to balance not settling or rushing into a relationship and enjoying singlehood / dating / shorter-term relationships, with the very real biological side where yes, there is an expiry date on your fertility so if you want to have children (within marriage or with a long-term partner, as opposed to perhaps on your own), there is some pressure to find that partner.

      • Gyula Halasz

        how about less emphasis on procreating and more on adoption? seems to solve…almost everything

        • Cate

          Anyone who has ever gone through the adoption process will tell you that it is not an easy fix to infertility. It is extremely expensive, confusing, and often soul-crushing.

          • Gyula Halasz

            i am responding to your biological clock complaints…

            anyone who has had multiple miscarriages or, hey, raised a child, can tell you that it can be expensive, confusing and soul crushing.

          • Cate

            Why is acknowledging the existence of a biological clock a “complaint” to you? Framing it so negatively implies that it is wrong for women to have a discussion about what happens in our bodies as we age.

            Of course raising any child is difficult, whether or not it is your own. But adoption brings along a very different set of challenges that not everyone is able to take on (same as giving birth to a biological child), so saying that it solves “almost everything” is not correct. It creates a different option with its own obstacles.

          • Gyula Halasz

            I’m not implying, you are inferring. Complaints can be valid or invalid. It is obviously not wrong to talk about our bodies, but one could argue that it’s wrong that this thread focuses complete attention on the women struggling to conceive their own genetic material – especially in situations where it causes stress to their relationships and their relationship to themselves – when there are millions of children in this world without families AND our climate’s resources are strained enough without new ones. It’s not all about you personally and the idea you had about what your family would look like when you were a little girl. It’s 2018 and we are trying to colonize Mars. Think outside yourself.

      • Cay

        Yes, that is what I’m struggling with. I actually really love being single, but I do want to have kids some day and the timeline for that seems to have suddenly sped up once I hit 28. I went from “you have all the time in the world!” to “you may want to start thinking about this” in the space of a day.

    • Exactly. I not only want that type of companionship, I want a kid. Moreover, I think I want a kid after I finish a PhD, at which point I will be just about expired.

    • Sabah Malik

      This comes up for a lot of my friends when I try to give them a pep talk about not letting being single wear on them so much. There is a life ahead that they want, and they KNOW they want it, and they also KNOW they want a partner with them for it, and that’s where the real stress of not having a partnership comes from.

      Similarly I bounce between loving not having to care about someone else’s feelings or food preferences, to wondering when I’ll get the chance to experience some of my daily happiness hand in hand with someone I want there with me.

      I’m ‘over’ it and I’m ‘over’ not being sure which way I want to feel about it.

  • Monika

    This. I’ve been single forever (I’m turning 26 this May), and sometimes I think that maybe it will be like this for the rest of my life and I should just learn to accept it: not learn to love my singledom, just accept being “single”, not think about it too much. But as someone who loves love, a hopeless romantic that I’ve always been, it’s not an easy task. I can’t help but *hope* that I will eventually meet someone one day. But then if not, I don’t want to become bitter about my (romantic) love life being non-existent. This comment is all over the place, but I guess so are my thoughts regarding the subject.
    I really like this essay, Haley.

    • Julia

      I feel the exact same. There are so many things that impact my feelings toward relationships. My older sister is about a year and a half into a long term relationship and she is so incredibly happy and has matured because of it. I see this and think about how much I envy her, yet I’ve still never been in a relationship and sort of think that if I ever do meet someone, they’d be the one I marry and there’d only ever be this “person.” But why should I constantly wish to meet someone when it may not be my reality? I love my life and don’t know why my relationship status should have some sort of impact on the way I feel about my life. But it doesn’t help when anytime I see old friends the first question they ask me is if there’s anyone in my life.

      • Eden

        I’m just like you. I’m a romantic and while I love being alone, I would like to share my life with someone. I’ve only ever been in one relationship. I was alone for many years and then I met “the one.” This guy was perfect – charming, smart, handsome. We had the most romantic story of how we got together too. Everyone ooed and awed over us. His family and our friends told us that they loved and respected our relationship. Well we just broke up. My mother and my good friend made me see that he’s abusive and controlling. I guess what I’m saying is to be careful of finding that one guy who is perfect and it has to work out because he’s the only one you’ve dated. I was this my ex for over a year and I thought I was so lucky to have only ever been with him. I made excused for his behavior because we were “meant to be.” I’m not trying to be cynical, and I hope you do only date the man you’re supposed to be with. Just make sure the fantasy of the destined-to-be-relationship doesn’t cloud your judgment.

        • Amy Putman

          This is so incredibly true. I’m experiencing this right now.

          • Eden

            The best of luck to you! I hope everything works out!

    • Babs

      Go, on, sis! loving yourself as a single person takes work, as everyone (even mom, dangit!) tells us in small ways that it’s not ok.

      That said, a relationship is a value of yours (it’s not for everyone). When the time is right, you will cultivate it. Trust, bb! We got your back!

    • Tatiana

      Hi Monika!
      Hang in there. I’m also turning 26 in May and have been single forever.
      It’s definitely not an easy task, especially when non-singles pass judgement indirectly, and sometimes directly, at your singledom. Just know that there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with you. I’ve struggled to accept this fact for years until recently. You are beautiful. You are worth it–single or not.

      • Monika

        Thank you, Tatiana, for your kind words 🙂
        I feel like I maybe should have been a little bit more clear with what I mean by learning to accept being single as opposed to loving and embracing my singledom. What I mean is that I know that I’m not my “relationship status”, I’m more than that and I don’t want to spend my life worrying too much about it or, on the other hand, become so comfortable and in love with being on my own that I will never want it to change. I just want to “underthink it”, leave it be. If it changes — great, if not — also fine.

    • Dhriti Das

      Same here.

      • Dhriti Das

        But Monica it has also been passed on us by idealizing relationships by society. Specially Hindi movies.

    • moonygirl

      I feel you. I also been single for 26 years (turning 27 this year), and for most of my late teens and early twenties I’ve been kind of on the bragging team. But I tried to look like I was happier and better being single to my friends as a form o self-defense and also to cover up my loneliness. I don’t know if it is because I’m from a Latin America country, but somehow some of my girlfriends kind of found it a little offensive that I had not dated all my life and tried (with best intentions I believe) to matchmake me with some of theirs friends that they thought would be a good match to sometimes disastruous results…
      And maybe because I’ve never been in a relationship I grown accustomed to do things alone and generally even prefer it, like shopping, walking around aimelssly, visiting an art exhibition (I can take my time seeing the art and not having to match whoever is with me) watching a movie (I had several experiences where I was moved by a scene or wanted to discuss a movie I choose and my friends were sleeping, LOL)
      But nowadays whenever I talk about my singlehood with my friends I try to be honest and say that there are some really great aspects to it, but that I also feel lonely/depressed by it sometimes. But whenever they offer to introduce me to someone I kinda shrink from it, and I tell them I prefer that it happens naturally, hahaha.

  • K

    I also think our focus on serious relationships as the be-all-and-end-all means that we undervalue other kinds of romantic encounter: the casual relationship, the fling, just sex, etc. These can be valuable but I read so much dismissal of these as “not going anywhere”, and judgement of those who want them as somehow not serious or not capable of a greater commitment.

    • Babs

      Cool point. i’ve been dating a lot lately to try and break old patterns/figure out what type of relationship/mate I really want. What I sense from others (projecting? idk) is that I’m like this manic little date machine when really, a non-monogamous, non-single state has been a super important journey of self-discovery.

  • Adrianna

    We always think we’re the exception or outlier – single people feel they’re surrounded by partnered people. I feel like everyone I know is single. (In reality, it’s probably more like 50-50 for everyone)

    Everyone is surprised I’m unconcerned with whether or not I’ll marry my long term boyfriend. (6 years.) I think that’s my way of saying that I know I would ultimately be okay if we were no longer together, through choice or tragic circumstances.

  • Ooo this is super interesting to think about in context of things like weddings and big relationship events. My friend and I were actually talking this weekend about how we don’t understand the pressure to have a huuuuge wedding and invite everyone we know. I don’t think weddings should be one way or another, big or small, because they all come down to individual taste, but I don’t understand why I’ve felt pressured in my OWN life (by friends, family, etc) to have a statement wedding, when the idea of a smaller wedding or a maybe nonexistent one has never really been presented to me (and I’m only 21 ahhhh!).

    I like this idea even more given that we’re in a day and age where defining relationships doesn’t seem to come easy (at least, that’s how I feel as a 21 year old New York college student) and people are always asking themselves, are we together? Are we a thing? Are we exclusive or just hooking up? My friends and I have been in tons of situations where we don’t really know what we’re doing with someone and we don’t want to ask because we don’t want to ruin what we have, but then we wind up stressing ourselves out and beating ourselves up because we think we should be defined but also, should we? Relationship neutrality definitely sounds appealing in that sense and like it would take so much pressure off of the situation and just let things happen as they may. I’m very down for it!

    • Adrianna

      I mentioned to a female friend how I would have a family dinner in a nice restaurant as a “wedding” at most (I love food), and her response was basically “ugh, lame.” Why do people feel entitled to expect an invite to a wedding? To party? Even “cheap” weddings are expensive – $5,000, $10,000 is a lot of money, and I’d rather spend it on a vacation.

      I was a 21 college student in NYC (NYU) and my dating life was very different once I graduated. But, I joke that I had to find a boyfriend in NJ. (Hoboken)

      • Right! I don’t understand why people think small weddings or no weddings at all are a problem. It all comes down to personal preference, and everyone values different things.

        Dating in New York at this age is so hard! You would think it’s easy to meet people since the city is so big and there are so many options, but that’s exactly what makes it feel near impossible. I’m dating someone now, but I met them when I was home for the summer in CT hahah

        • Adrianna

          Honestly, dating in NY didn’t feel much easier 2007-2011. I still used Facebook and Craigslist to meet guys, but back then it was something to be embarrassed about.

          But, I witnessed a big difference once everyone had smartphones. Before, complete strangers used to start a conversation with me in the park or in coffee shops, just out of boredom. Now they’re on their phones.

  • Cat

    I’m all for optimistic dreams of utopia but think it’s silly to think the world would be better off with less lasting romance. Romantic entanglements bring excessive joy not because of society’s obsession with them. Society is obsessed with romance because the fusing of mutual care and desire that comes from romantic relationships results in excessive joy. Being vulnerable and still desired with a passion (uncommon in platonic relationships) is a transformative experience. I think it’s easy, as someone who has been experiencing that joy for most of your 20’s (I have been too!), to forget how substantial it feels. I’m all for a shift in focus away from “milestones” of love toward a more all encompassing understanding of romantic love, but I think it may be a stretch to hope the world stops wondering if people have found someone to love. It’s a special type of fulfilling and stretching of the soul to be in love, and it’s natural to want that for everyone. I think the “obsession” with relationship status should be interpreted less as an obsession with labels as it is an obsession with love, the oldest and most inspiring of muses.

    • Babs

      Lord, darling. Please consider the excessive joy I feel from eating sourdough toast and drinking roasted green tea in my bed alone every morning. Please consider the special fulfillment I get from planning a life that is entirely mine. Please consider reading Everything I know About Love by Dolly Alderton, which describes so viscerally the real and often discounted love we have with our friends. If nothing else, do consider goddamn Linda Rodin. Your relationship joys, while great, are not greater than that of a single person.

      • Cat

        Thank you for the recommendation! I love finding new ways to express the deep and abiding love I have for my friends. Sadly Dolly’s book isn’t available for purchase in America yet, but I will certainly keep an eye out for it!

        • Babs

          lol please just temper your “excessive joy” around single friends. feels hyper exclusive

          • Adrianna

            But why do I have to coddle my single friends? Do my friends have to temper their excitement about their career successes, just because I am still struggling to find mine? No, because I am an adult. Learning not to feel triggered by someone else’s joy and success is part of growing up.

          • Babs

            Mm I see your point, but I’m wary of the comparison. Sounds like you’re saying single=struggle and relationship=success. My issue with the original comment is the idea that having a relationship unlocks a level of happiness that single people aren’t privy to. It felt disrespectful to/dismissive of the very real happiness single people experience, hence the advice to temper/slow down/consider alternatives before assuming you’ve got the best thing since sliced sweet potato.

          • Adrianna

            “Sounds like you’re saying single=struggle and relationship=success.”

            I didn’t – we all define our own “successes” and “struggles.” Based on how you’re reading people’s comments, it sounds like you’re insecure about being single, and that’s perfectly fine.

          • Gyula Halasz

            adrianna, you compared being in a relationship to being promoted. babs is just saying that over-hyping romantic love with extreme earnestness is a little much.

  • Ciccollina

    So good Haley. I have noticed that in Sydney, being single is very much seen as “sad”, whereas now that I live in Berlin, it’s fun and/or neutral. No shame, no “work at it!”, just life. It’s beautiful.

    • TinySoprano

      This! I just returned to Melbourne after two years in Sydney and I’ve noticed this too… I was always having to waste energy convincing people that I was happy by myself in Sydney, whereas here it doesn’t seem to matter.

    • Omg this is so true. I hypothesise that it coincides with everyone still aspiring to property investment, that is most realistically achieved in a partnership. I feel like I’m living in an Austen novel sometimes tbh

      • Ciccollina

        Yeah maybe that is it! But I generally think that Sydney people are more….homogenous?! Obviously there are exceptions but I feel like once one idea takes hold, the whole city is doing it, ya know?!

  • Kristin

    I really like this, but I don’t think it works for marriage. Like if you are marriage-neutral you probably get divorced.

  • Susanne

    I’ve really been enjoying these discussions you guys have been having about relationships in this extremely weird and interesting dating world we live in today. This has been a topic that’s heavy on my mind as of late as well. I’ve been single for a little over 2 years now, and while I’ve been open to the idea of letting someone else into my life, it all just seems kind of daunting at the same time as well. I go out with guys and its fine and all, and I’ve met a few that were interested in taking it to “the next step”…but I can never get the energy to keep things going. I worry if my chronic singledom has caused me to be too complacent in the life i have now…and adding a boyfriend to it just seems like a lot of work and unwanted drama lol (double the family holiday visits, meeting families in general, having to be available 24/7, weekends are automatically booked, etc). Then again, you could also argue that I just haven’t met ~*THE ONE*~ and that once I do, my feelings toward this will change.

    I don’t know. Its all alot to take in lol. Sometimes I even feel that the past relationships I’ve been in weren’t really out of wanting to be with that person, just more about feeling like I needed to be IN a relationship and the guys were decent enough (I’m 30 and i’ve been in two serious relationships), so why not go ahead and try it out? So now that i’m really taking my time and valuing being on my own rather than having a boyfriend for the sake of having one…i wonder if it will happen at all…or if i even WANT it to happen. I know its corny to say but there really is so much more to life than being considered someone’s significant other. Bleh…so many thoughts!

  • magiblin

    “I don’t think feeling any way about being single or otherwise is wrong, but I wonder if those feelings would shift if we all placed less importance on relationship status in general.”

    This really stuck out to me, and it brought up memories of early Facebook times, and obsessing over people’s relationship “status”.

    You could identify as “single”, “it’s complicated”, “in a relationship” and more. In the movie The Social Network, Mark Zuckerberg’s character plays up the sole “lightbulb moment” of inspiration for the Facebook as a way to see people’s relationship status because that is what people cared about most (in the context of college/dating). I feel like it’s such an ingrained facet of society to want to put a label on your relationship status – not to mention your gender, sexuality, political views, etc.

    I mean, I remember freaking the efff out when my high school boyfriend and I broke up, and I had to switch my Facebook relationship status. And because it was on Facebook, everyone would know. I cannot begin to tell you what a relief it was a few years later when we could turn off that functionality on our Facebook profiles. And not because I was sad or ashamed at being single, but because it wasn’t anyone’s business.

    (Though then one could argue that “you have social media so you’re putting your life on display anyways, if you wanted to be a private person you shouldn’t post things”, but let’s not go down that particular – but very valid- argument.)

    • Susanne

      I agree, social media has definitely made your “status” more of an issue than it needs to be. I had one relationship that I was pretty open about on Instagram end and i know that completely unnecessary stress of having everyone know your business all too well…..and i will most definitely never have a significant other on any social media again until our honeymoon lol. Contrary to popular belief, it really is no one’s business whether you’re single, dating or whatever. Plus i’d rather someone just come to me and ask what’s going on than them quietly scrolling through a handful of pictures and making their own conclusion about whats going on in my life.

      • Kiks

        I’m very happily married and I post photos of/with my husband less than once a month on average. I love him more than the entire universe, but being married is certainly not the most interesting/impressive thing about me.

        • Amelia

          “but being married is certainly not the most interesting/impressive thing about me.”
          I like this comment a lot!

          • Kiks

            🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Sofia Salles


  • Florisa Benitez

    Who wouldn”t want to be in a relationship, of course everyone deserves to be happy with somebody to be with, to love and just to have a special person in life. It makes you feel complete and contented. But sometimes, life is unfair, you couldn’t choose who will come into your life, in other words it’s better to be alone than to be with an asshole.

    • Gyula Halasz

      some people just would rather be alone. your experience isn’t everyone’s experience.

  • Tara

    This captures precisely why the question of “how does it feel to be single” is never a neutral one, and one that I find to be actually hurtful. As someone who doesn’t date/isn’t interested in being in a relationship, being asked this question (for instance, by a friend who had recently broken up and was upset) is basically being confronted with the subtext: well your life is basically awful, how do you do it?
    Of course some things are harder when one does not exist as part of a couple (that’s the fault of how the world is set up), but posing the question in that way places the burden on the person who doesn’t fit in/assumes they are automatically suffering, in a way that I never know how to respond to.

  • Emily Smith

    I love this article. And this idea. I’ve been basically living relationship neutrality for a while, and I like having a word for it.

  • Hannah ハナ

    I never thought about singleness this way, and I kinda like that idea.
    Been single for about 5 years, and the happiest I’ve ever been in my life. Sometimes I think it’d be nice to be in a relationship, but I think the only reason I think that way is because it’s more out of curiosity then actual need. My friends and family fulfill my companionship needs, and flirting with dates/casual friends kind of fulfills that sexual intimate “need”. The more I think about it, being in a relationship isn’t really any better or worse then my singleness. It’s just different.

  • joe nobody

    Almost 45 year old single guy, who lives in a very rural area. Dated everyone here, and after more than 25 years of trying.. Never had a physical relationship.. not even a kiss. I have given up hope of love, wife, kids. My siblings all moved away, but I cant leave my good paying job, and basically go into poverty to have a dream that will never happen. Depression is now my biggest enemy, and the hope that I will die young is my only hope in life. There is no consolation when you go home to an empty home day after day. I fell in hobbies to kill time, and to keep my mind off of life. Being single today sucks, because women have wrong expectations today of men (women initiate 75% of all divorces).

    • NikNak

      Jesus joe I can’t tell if this a joke or you really need a friend…

      • joe nobody

        My life is a joke… except I cant cry anymore!

    • Kiks

      At least you have plenty of free time to collect statistics on why women are to blame for everything that’s wrong with your life

      • joe nobody

        I have seen it first hand with divorce of friends and family. I dont blame women. I blame the liberal progressivism that is destroying women today.. into thinking that they should not conform to their traditional gender rolls (same for men). It is no wonder that men have a 400% higher suicide rate today! I have had a few friends kill themselves and I can see why! Just look at what happens to men when they do get a divorce… 95% of men in my state lose custody of their kids in the courts! Most have to pay both child support and alimony, even when the ex-wife makes more money! Please explain to me the over 50% divorce rates today? Or the over 71% in black communities!? Or the over 55% who are single today!? Or the exploding STD rates, crime rates, blue collar theft rates… I can go on and on about the breakdown of American society in the past 40 years.

        • Jasmin Sander

          Can’t really tell if you’re trolling, joe, but assuming you’re speaking from the heart, the concept that women owe it to you to conform to traditional gender roles won’t get (hasn’t gotten) you anywhere. I sincerely second the recommendation that you get your butt into therapy ASAP. You deserve love. There’s no such thing as too late (cliché because true). Wish you luck.

    • Gene

      Dude. Seek professional help immediately. No one is going to come along and give your life meaning. This is something you must do on your own and once you do the likely hood of meeting someone compatible with you, your goals and what you want out of life will increase exponentially. If you continue wallowing in self pity you will effectively repel every woman you come into contact with and the depression will only get worse.

      Best of luck.

      • joe nobody

        I dont care anymore. I am resigned to dying alone… hopefully sooner than later.

  • Francesca

    Great piece. Great vision.

  • Mayba

    I’m 27 and have basically been single all my life, never really had a serious relationship. A thing I get asked a lot is, “you seem so awesome, why are you still single?” like there must be some hidden fault that means no one wants me!
    It’s annoying because I’m honestly OK being single. Would it be nice to have a partner? Yes, but as an add on not a necessity. I’m not lonely, I’m not sad. I’m content.

  • Emilie

    Haley, I love the concept of relationship neutrality! Now that I’m in my late 20s and am very much my own fully formed person, with my own established opinions, experiences, and network of friends, I want a relationship that’s an intersection of two individuals — not an identity in and of itself. Not that having a strong connection/relationship isn’t important, I just definitely don’t ever want to feel like my relationship status as a “girlfriend” or “wife” (or “single person”) is a defining feature of my identity. Just looking for a dude who feels the same!

  • Virginia

    this is the only thing i’ve ever read that has made me feel at all better about being the only single person in my friend group… thank you!!

  • Virginia

    This is the only thing i’ve read that has made me feel slightly better about being the only single person in my friend group… thank you!!

  • Virginia

    also, sorry my comment posted twice but is not the same– oy vay (thought it didn’t go through the first time. i’ll get the internet one day!)

  • I love the idea of relationship neutrality. One of the things I sort of dreaded with getting into my new relationship was the idea that some part of me was again described by whether or not I was dating. I am a person. I have interests and hobbies and activities and a job and a relationship and favorite foods and a pet. I want a relationship to be one of the many facets of me, not a “first and foremost”

  • I think this is a very important topic. Finding a partner, or being in a relationship, is part of that structure of a life we’ve been taught -get a job, marry, buy a house and have your kids- and breaking such established schemes is scary and uncertain. I think we need to figure out our own way to live our lives: that also means that everyone should find the most fitting way to live relationships and if that means having none, it should be perfectly good and neutral. I’m mostly thinking about big life plans, but I guess the same would apply to being single at an specific point of your life.

  • I’ve been single since I was born. I mean, I dated around but never really found anyone I’d like to be in a relationship with. I love being single, and it is so important to love being alone before you can be with someone else. However, in saying that I’d love to meet someone I can share my life with, and travel with, and just be with! I can’t say how many times I’ve been told I need to find someone, but it is ridiculous how much other people care if you’re in a relationship or not!