Do You Have A Personality That Prefers Singlehood?
Psychological research offers three ways to tell.
By Jourdan Travers, LCSW | August 18, 2022
Societal standards sometimes leave singles feeling like social pariahs. Friends and family members may prod, "Are you seeing somebody yet?" or "When are you going to settle down?" or "I don't want you to be lonely for the rest of your life."
But the truth is that there are many people for which singlehood is a conscious choice. It works better for them, just as marriage works better for others. As a society, we should be respectful and tolerant of people who choose to live alternative lifestyles.
And, research suggests the preference for singlehood is not as uncommon as we might think. According to some estimates, approximately half of adults find it difficult to be in long-term intimate relationships and thus spend considerable amounts of time being single. And that's totally okay!
How do you know if you are one of these people? Here, I'll talk about three signs that you might prefer the single life over more traditional arrangements.
The first sign you may be suited for singlehood is if having kids is less of a priority for you
Sure, biological forces dictate that most people will experience the drive to procreate and have a family. But biology and evolution aren't the only factors at play. Many people choose to dedicate their lives to things other than having children. And there's nothing wrong with that. The important thing is that you are true to yourself.
When facing difficult decisions like whether or not to start a family, make sure that you come at it from a place of "Is this what I want to do?" and not from a place of "Is this what others or society wants from me?"
By the way, there are plenty of influential people that decided against having kids (and certainly not due to a lack of resources). Here are a few: Oprah Winfrey, Condoleezza Rice, Jon Hamm, Ricky Gervais, and Gloria Steinam.
What does the research say about the happiness levels of parents versus non-parents? It's what you might expect. Non-parents experience a higher degree of in-the-moment happiness while parents experience more reflective happiness, or a heightened sense of life fulfillment. (Research also shows that having a job is more important to our life satisfaction than having a relationship or being married.)
Furthermore, it's not at all clear that one type of happiness is 'better' than the other — it really comes down to you and your goals. If your goals are to feel better moment-to-moment and you are less concerned with taking stock of your life as a whole, having kids, or even being in a long-term relationship, may not be the right thing for you, at least not at this point in your life.
With that said, it's not a good idea to ignore biological realities in favor of some stylized vision of what your life should look like.
Evolutionary psychologist Menelaos Apostolou urges us to remember that human nature has in many ways been shaped to seek and maintain long-term intimate relationships — and that not being in such relationships can, for some people, trigger a cascade of negative emotions.
"If people choose to stay single and to not have a family, they may frequently experience loneliness, a lack of purpose, sadness, and so on," says Apostolou.
The second sign that singlehood might agree with you is if you are highly career-focused
Katherine Hepburn famously said "I would have been a terrible mother because I'm basically a very selfish human being." Talk about radical honesty!
There's absolutely nothing wrong with being focused on you. We are all selfish in our own ways, and it's okay to be career-focused to the point that you don't really have a strong interest in love or relationships. I'll remind you again: research has shown that having a job matters more to our happiness than having a spouse.
What would be wrong is if you are highly career-driven yet you choose not to pursue such ambitions due to external pressures. These types of missteps can haunt you for long stretches of your life.
A third sign that you might prefer singlehood is if you are the type of person that feels most comfortable when you don't quite fit in
In most industrialized societies, marriage, monogamy, and living within the family unit is the norm. And that works for most people. But some people prefer going against the grain. They feel most comfortable when exercising their freedom in unconventional ways. It's part of their personality.
How might you know if you are one of these people? Personality psychology can help. Personality psychologists often speak of personality in terms of five overarching traits or dimensions. They are:
- Emotional Stability/Neuroticism
- Openness to experiences/Non-openness to experiences
It is this fifth dimension, openness to experiences, that might predict your appetite for considering alternative lifestyles. People who are higher on the openness dimension of personality tend to be free-thinkers. They are likely to have progressive ideas on sex and sexuality. They have a deep intellectual curiosity and they appreciate beauty and aesthetics. And, as the name indicates, they are open to new experiences — they enjoy traveling, seeing new things, exposing themselves to new ideas, and adopting the perspective of others.
Alternatively, people who score low on the openness dimension of personality tend to be conformists, rule-followers, and are more likely to subscribe to societal hierarchies.
As such, singlehood may appeal more to those of us who score high on the openness dimension of personality.
The decision to enter into a long-term relationship or start a family is one of the biggest decisions you'll make. Taking the time to reflect on the type of person you are — in terms of your desire to have children, your career interests and ambitions, and your core personality traits — can help point you in the right direction.