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Singlehood

Why Some People Flourish as Singles

Less loneliness, closer friendships, and fulfilling later years.

Key points

  • The single at heart are people of any age or stage in life who live their best lives by living single.
  • The single at heart are happy because they are single, not despite being single.
  • The single at heart use their freedom to live authentically and meaningfully.

Here at “Living Single,” in 2010, I coined the term “single at heart” and asked, “Are you single at heart?" Now, 13 years later, on December 5, my book on the topic will be published. Single at Heart: The Power, Freedom, and Heart-Filling Joy of Single Life is based on the life stories of people who are single at heart that have been shared with me over the years, as well as data from more than 20,000 people from more than 100 nations who answered an online survey. It is also grounded in social science research from other labs around the world.

Here are some key insights about the single at heart.

Who are the single at heart?

  • The “single at heart” are people of any age or stage in life who live their best lives by living single—their most authentic, meaningful, fulfilling, joyful, and psychologically rich lives. The single at heart are happy because they are single, not despite being single. They are not organizing their lives around a romantic partner.
  • For the single at heart, the risk is not what they would miss if they do not put a romantic partner at the center of their lives, but what they will miss if they do. They would miss the power, the freedom, and the heart-filling joy of single life. They would miss out on getting to live authentically, to be who they really are.

What kinds of people are single at heart?

  • People who are single at heart include women and men and people who identify as neither.
  • They include parents and people who are not parents.
  • They include the rich and the poor, the young and the old, the formally educated and the self-educated, people who are disabled and people who are not, people of all gender identities and orientations, races, and ethnicities. Among their numbers are many kinds of believers as well as nonbelievers. Many hail from WEIRD (Western, educated, industrialized, rich, and democratic) societies, but substantial numbers do not.

What kinds of romantic relationship histories do the single at heart have?

  • The single at heart include people who tried and tried and tried to do what they knew they were expected to do—find “The One” and commit to that person for the rest of their life.
  • Some have been in romantic relationships with people they loved and who loved them—but, somehow, they felt like they were living someone else’s version of the good life. Coupled life just wasn’t their most meaningful or fulfilling life. It didn’t feel authentic. They longed to be single again.
  • The single at heart also include people who were in romantic relationships they did find fulfilling. They weren’t fantasizing about being single. Some even felt devastated when those relationships ended. But, for some, something curious and totally unexpected happened—they discovered that single life really suited them, and they were not interested in coupling ever again.
  • The single at heart also include people who have always known that single life was the life for them.

What are the special skills and advantages of the single at heart?

  • The single at heart invest in their single lives. They don’t spend time or money or mental energy searching for a romantic partner or being preoccupied with a partner they have. They create living spaces they love. They invest in their friends and family—they often have “The Ones” rather than “The One.” They invest in themselves, developing skills that will serve them throughout their lives, and using their freedom to live authentically and meaningfully.
  • The single at heart are very unlikely to feel lonely. They like having time to themselves. And, most people who are single at heart also enjoy spending time with other people. So they enjoy being on their own and they enjoy being with other people, and they can decide for themselves how much of each they want to do.
  • Because the single at heart do not center their lives around a romantic partner, they are often among the most devoted friends. They can also spend time with, and care for, as many people as they want; they don’t have romantic partners who are going to want that attention for themselves.
  • The single at heart have an open-hearted perspective on intimacy and love. To them, intimacy encompasses far more than just sexual intimacy, and love includes so much more than romantic love. For example, about intimacy, a 61-year-old single-at-heart woman said: “When people share their deepest sorrows, fears, and joys with you, that’s intimacy. Giving people long hugs is intimacy.” About love, a 47-year-old single-at-heart schoolteacher said: “I love my blood family. I love my chosen family. I love my students, my pets, and pursuing my creative endeavors. My family, pets, and friends love me. My students love me.”
  • Contrary to all the stereotypes and scare stories, people who are single at heart often fare particularly well in later life. Here are a few reasons why: (1) They invested in themselves, they invested in the people who matter to them, and they invested in their single lives. As they grow older, they enjoy the benefits of those investments. (2) They didn’t marginalize their friends the way some people do when they become coupled, so their friends are more likely to still be there for them. (3) They often have more different kinds of skills because they’ve been figuring out how to get everything done by themselves, instead of splitting chores with a romantic partner. (4) They weren’t counting on a spouse to be their caretaker or financial backstop, so they prepared all along to be ready for their later years.

Some people are powerfully drawn to coupled life and they really will be happier coupled than single. No one needs a book about that—it is just assumed. What is new about Single at Heart is the point that the same is true for many people who are single—they are powerfully drawn to single life, and they really will be happier single than coupled.

Facebook image: Mangostar/Shutterstock

References

DePaulo, Bella (2023). Single at Heart: The Power, Freedom, and Heart-Filling Joy of Single Life. Apollo Publishers.

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