Are you better off single?
|Attention, unmarried people of America: You can splurge on a fancy new wristwatch without having to explain yourself. You can stay out till 3 a.m. without having to phone home. You can leave the toilet seat up. In fact, there are many, many ways that single life rocks, though you may forget that fact when your relatives are grilling you about settling down.
Not only do you have the freedom to do anything you want—it’s also the best time in history to be flying solo. The marriage rate has declined nearly 50 percent since 1970, according to the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University, and right now, there are approximately 100 million singles in the U.S. And there’s strength in those numbers: “Today’s choose-to-be singles differ from the poor-me singles of past generations; there’s less of a stigma attached to being single, ” says Jerusha Stewart, author of The Single Girl’s Manifesta. “Singles are traveling, buying homes and doing everything they want to—you don’t have to get married anymore to live your life with style.”
Want more specifics on why you should celebrate being single? Here, 10 fascinating benefits to being unmarried:
Reason #1: You have a better body.
We’ve all been there—you get into a relationship, and suddenly you’re trying out new recipes all the time and cuddling instead of exercising. Well, things tend to get worse with marriage. A recent Cornell University study found that women generally gain five to eight pounds in the first few years of marriage and unhappily married women gain an average of 54 pounds in the first 10 years.
For the unmarried, though, the motivation to stay slim remains: “Singles look at themselves through the eyes of others and want to be attractive to potential partners,” says Susan Davis, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist in New York City, “so they’re still ‘working on themselves.’” In short, being single is way better than any New Year’s resolution or exercise DVD to motivate you to stay in shape.
Reason #2: You’re more likely to achieve great things.
It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you have the time, the quiet and the lack of familial responsibilities. In fact, your premarital motivation to excel in life may be biologically programmed. According to a study conducted at the London School of Economics and Political Scientists, male scientists who stay single longer peak in their careers later in life and tend to be more productive than their married counterparts. Researchers theorize that men, in general, may show off their talents to win the interest of women and then, once they’ve won a wife, get comfortable and do less. In fact, studies have shown that testosterone levels, which boost action, decrease after a man gets married and has children. So single folk should know they are primed to achieve — whether that means turbo-charging their careers or honing their rock-climbing skills — and get out there and work it!
Reason #3: You do less housework.
You know that saying about a tree falling in a forest and there’s no one there to hear it? Well, if you leave a sock on the floor but there’s no one else there to see it, does it really need to be picked up? If you’re a single woman, you can contemplate deep questions like this one because you have more free time. According to one study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, women do less housework when single than when married. Men, on the other hand, do more housework when unmarried (that’s probably because there’s someone picking up after them once they’re wed…). So the message here is for unmarried women to enjoy their less chore-filled life; fill those free hours with classes, good books, blabbing with friends—whatever makes you happy.
Reason #4: You can do what you want with your money—including keep it.
Go ahead: Splurge on that pricey moisturizer or that obscenely large plasma TV you’ve been lusting after. You don’t have to justify your purchase to anyone but yourself. Once you mix money with marriage, though, things change—and fast. According to a survey by SmartMoney magazine, 40 percent of women and 36 percent of men have lied to their spouses about a purchase. “When you’re single, your finances are your own,” explains Phyllis Chase, a Los Angeles–based psychologist and co-host of the radio show Shrink Rap. “When you’re married, you have to deal with different styles of spending and saving, and you may take on your partner’s debt.” And a marriage that doesn’t make it for the long haul can also have a major negative effect on one’s wealth. According to researchers at Ohio State University’s Center for Human Resource Research, during a divorce, men and women generally lose three-fourths of their personal net worth. Double ouch.
Reason #5: You have better sex.
Married couples may have more sex (approximately 98 times a year vs. singles’ 49), but singles have better sex. According to a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, married women are significantly more likely to report problems with their sex lives than single women. “People who are dating have better sex because it’s novel,” says Davis. “Married people have to relearn how to play. It’s natural for singles because that’s the nature of a courting relationship—they tease, they experiment, they explore.” Nature lends a helping hand, too. According to researchers at the University of Pisa in Italy, raging testosterone levels in both men and women makes the sex hotter during the first two years of a relationship. After that, other hormones take over—most notably, oxytocin, a bonding chemical, kicks in. While getting connected and comfortable is a positive step in a relationship, long-term lovers have to work harder to keep things hot in the bedroom. Singles, however, sizzle just the way they are.
Reason #6: You’re better rested and smarter.
While snuggling up next to a warm body can be pretty fantastic, according to a survey conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, your bedmate can cause you to lose an average of 49 minutes of sleep per night. Sleeping two-to-a-bed just isn’t as restful as snoozing solo. Other studies confirm that singles generally get more rest — seven to eight hours of sleep a night — than marrieds, which enhances memory, mood and concentration, as well as allows your immune system to recharge. And, according to scientists at the University of Luebeck in Germany, creativity and problem-solving may directly correlate with getting enough sleep. In the study, participants were given a math puzzle; those who’d had eight hours of sleep or more before tackling it were three times more likely to get the right answer than those who slept less. So, singles, revel in the fact that you’re alert, rested and have that extra brain-power edge.
Reason #7: You’re less depressed.
Although the media often perpetuates the image of single people being down in the dumps, overall unmarried people tend to be happier than their married counterparts—if you’re a woman, that is. One report by the World Health Organization indicated that married women, especially ones with children, have a higher risk for depression than single women, and researchers at the University of London found that single women generally have fewer mental-health issues. “Marriage, in many ways, seems to benefit men more than women,” says Davis. “For women, there’s more of a loss of self.” And, of course, today’s women often feel like they need to do it all—have a career, take care of the kids and perform other traditionally “female” responsibilities. “People who aren’t married are still investing in themselves,” says Davis. “It’s not selfish—it’s giving to yourself, and that’s something married people can learn from single people.”
Reason #8: You have better friendships.
Significant others are a wonderful thing, no doubt, but friends count, too. And on that front, one study found that, when women get married and have children, they spend much less time with their friends—less than five hours a week, down from 14 hours. Singles, however, often have the greatest sense of friendship and community—which can actually decrease stress levels, according to researchers at UCLA.
Here's another way to look at this: “Singles don’t rely on just one person to meet their needs. You don’t automatically know who you’re going to spend Friday night with,” says Sasha Cagen, author of Quirkyalone: A Manifesto for Uncompromising Romantics. “The plus side is that you have a lot of different people in your life and potentially a greater sense of social possibilities.”
Reason #9: Your travel tales are enviable.
Marrieds take the most vacations, dominating the market with 62 percent of all trips taken, but singles arguably go on more interesting trips. According to the Travel Industry Association of America, singles corner the adventure-travel market, engaging in activities like whitewater rafting, scuba diving and mountain biking. Being single and relatively footloose certainly allows you to expand your geographical — and personal — borders. “I have lived abroad, backpacked for close to a year, have been in love three times and much more,” says Courtney Davis, 27, a media-relations manager in Boston. “With every place and every person, my world has expanded.”
Reason #10: You know yourself—and what you want out of a relationship.
You’re a better catch now than you were at 20. You may have signs of, ahem, experience etched on your face, but that’s OK because you’re more interesting and more self-aware. Not only have you grown as a person, but you’ve probably been through the wringer a few times in matters of love and now know what you want—and what you don’t. Experts say that bodes well for future marital success and may actually decrease the likelihood of divorce. “When people get married young, they often feel like the other person will complete them, and they have trouble moving past that Hollywood myth,” explains Chase. “But maturity brings so much, because if you’re able to communicate who you are and what you want, the better your chances of having a successful marriage.” And that’s a wonderful message: Your single self is great... and should you find the right person and decide to marry, you’re more likely to thrive in that stage of your life, too.
Dawn Yanek is the author of How to Find the Right Person in 90 Days and Women’s Best-Kept Secrets. She frequently appears on VH-1, MSNBC, and other networks as a commentator on relationships, celebrities and lifestyle trends.