Being single doesn’t mean you’re lonely

November 29, 2005 — Leave a comment

Salt Lake Tribune

Why is there a social stigma associated with being single?

“Dave” called the radio show the day before Thanksgiving to share the painful memories of his post-divorce, nine-year stretch of loneliness prior to his current marriage. “Holidays remind you that you’re single. I hated every one of them those were the worst times of my life.”

His words struck a chord with me. I suppose it’s during the holidays that my own “singledom” (or singlehood) rings truest. Of course, then there’s Valentine’s Day. (Let’s not even go there.) And, well, summer brings all those beautiful white wedding invitations labeled, “Liz and Guest.” It’s the “Guest” part that always stumps me. Unless you’re dating someone fairly seriously, there is no “Guest” who’s appropriate to bring, trust me.

Human connection provides meaning to our lives. No wonder one of our cruelest punishments is solitary confinement. Nationwide, nearly 26 million people live alone. Whether we are single by divorce, death, choice or still wondering why, for the first time in history living alone has become an established way of life. Yet, being single isn’t how it’s supposed to be, is it? I mean, even socks have mates! It shouldn’t be that difficult. Then again, somewhere between the washer and dryer, even socks wind up without a mate, at least in my home they do!

Some singles have an interesting mind-set, complaining of being the “misfit,” “third-wheel,” “odd-one-out,” “loner,” “tag-along” and “menace to society.” Those are some pretty cruel labels for a situation that also brings some luxuries. Live-aloners have opportunities that marrieds do not. Like standing in a circle with other single women vying for the wedding bouquet the bride is about to throw. (I have become really good about making an exit before anyone even begins to plan the toss.) Single men share this same privilege with the garter-belt.

Even chairlift operators on the ski slope care if you’re single. After all, when was the last time you heard them shout, “married!” It’s only the “singles” that move to the front of the line, to be, of course, with other “singles.”

Anxiety and self-doubt can be compounded by family’s and friends’ friendly-fire of “Why aren’t you married yet?” My favorite reply, “Well, that would take all the fun out of dating! Besides, it gives my father something to live for.”

Remember that being by yourself doesn’t mean you’re abandoned. The world is still there. Embrace your family and friends. Holidays are no time to be stoic. Reach out to others and make their lives more meaningful. Do something for someone else to remind yourself how everyone can single-handedly influence the life of another for the better. Generosity knows no marital status.

Challenge your belief that marriage is the solution to loneliness. Create an environment of social- and self-support. Living alone doesn’t mean you are alone. Singles are part of an enormous, vital segment of society.

What do you think? Why is there a social stigma associated with being single?

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Dr. Liz Hale

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