But more people — particularly straight women — are realizing that partnerships aren’t always happy or healthy, and that dating culture can be emotionally draining, anxiety provoking, and sometimes downright humiliating. A 2019 analysis of US Census data shows that about 40% of adults between ages 25 and 54 were unpartnered (neither married nor living with a partner). That’s up from 29% in 1990.
For some, it’s a choice. For others, singlehood is something they fall into through the death of a partner or a breakup. Divorce is more acceptable now than in decades past and women in particular have more educational and career opportunities that allow them to thrive solo. More people are opting for a child-free existence, and even if they want kids, they may have the financial means and social support to do so without a partner. While there are fewer research studies that have focused on how queer people feel about being single and the similar or different challenges they face, emerging evidence suggests singlehood among the LGBTQ community can be just as rewarding — and complicated.
Circumstances aside, it’s possible to be both single and happy, according to the experts we spoke to.
“There’s a misconception that single people are bad at relationships or need relationship advice,” Silver said. “We don’t need relationship advice, because we’re not in relationships. We need singlehood advice.”
Now more than ever, though, those who are doing life solo are overcoming the social and financial hurdles that stand in their way; they are swiping left on dating culture, doing away with traditional partnerships, and rejecting the ever-present stigma of a partner-free life.
“A Saturday night on my couch watching my Netflix with my cat and my glass of wine,” Silver imagined. “Like, don’t threaten me with a good time.”
People are doing just fine without partners.
Being single, for some people, is truly how they live their best, most authentic lives. Bella DePaulo, an expert on singlehood who works in the department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara, calls these people “single at heart.”
“Just about everyone who is single at heart experiences a love of solitude. They like that time they have to themselves,” said DePaulo, who wrote the book Singled Out. “They don’t worry about being lonely. They don’t feel lonely. And that’s something both men and women share.” Because of this, singles live “psychologically rich lives,” she added. They’re able to pursue a variety of interesting and novel experiences that enhance their lives and boost overall happiness and satisfaction.
“From the littlest thing to the biggest, like deciding whether you’re going to pick up your life and move across the country, single life is a life of possibilities,” DePaulo said. “They’re not trying to put their dreams and wishes into a mix with what a romantic partner wants.”
In turn, single people may have more time to prioritize their mental and physical health than partnered people.
Joules Lo’Well, 39, has experienced these benefits firsthand. After leaving an abusive marriage, the Texas resident said she spent too much time dating to try to fill a void she thought she had. “I was always stressed out. I was always anxious. Then I noticed that when I wasn’t dating, I felt more at peace,” Lo’Well said. “I felt healthier. My skin was clearer. I didn’t have any worries or stressors.”
After Lo’Well posted a video on TikTok sharing why she’s perfectly content staying single forever, which has been viewed more than 2.2 million times, she learned many people feel the same way.
“We’re told that marriage is the pinnacle of success for a woman. That’s what you’re supposed to strive for in life. That if you don’t have a man, you’re lonely. But that’s not true,” Lo’Well said. “Women have female friends. We have kids. We have family members. We have our pets. We’re taking art classes.”
Data from 2019 show that while half of single adults say they aren’t looking for a relationship or dates, single men (61%) are much more likely to be seeking a partnership compared with single women (38%).
There’s less research that explores queer people’s opinion on singlehood. But one 2016 survey found that 63% of single people in the US who identify as gay or lesbian have always wanted to get married, while 25% said they’re OK with never tying the knot.
Generally, research shows that single people have a much stronger network of supportive relationships than those with partners because they’re better able to stay connected with family, friends, and coworkers, for example.
“Single people are actually more sociable than married ones, and growingly so in past few decades,” Elyakim Kislev, an associate professor at the School of Public Policy and Governance at the Hebrew University and author of Happy Singlehood and Relationships 5.0, said in an email. “We tend to think that the era of ‘bowling alone’ is because of singles,” but it’s actually married people who are more likely to turn inward and forget their social surroundings, Kislev said.