Tags: Health Topics | Religion | discrimination | friends | faith

Being Single Doesn't Make You Inferior, or Better

opting for the single life

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By Thursday, 04 March 2021 11:29 AM Current | Bio | Archive

Is There a Stigma to Being Single?

The Perception of Singlehood Is Evolving

Have you ever been in the process of filling out a form only to arrive at the question about marital status. "Why are they asking?" might be your first reaction — particularly if you are unmarried.

Never mind the separate issue about why they are asking if you are "single" versus "divorced."

Unless such a distinction is relevant to the reason you are filling out the application in the first place, many people don’t think past failed relationships should be anybody else’s business.

Perhaps the most immediate question, is why the defensiveness in the first place?

After all, as I note in a previous column, many single women are blissfully happy.

But not everyone.

Singles stigma is significant — Singles comprise an appreciably large segment of society.

The Rise of Singleness

Alexandra N. Fisher and John K. Sakaluk (in 2020) noted that within the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and many Scandinavian countries, there are more singles than couples (married or common-law).

They view this as a trend attributable to the fact that people tend to date longer, marry later in life, divorce more frequently, and often value career over relationships.

Accordingly, there are scores of activities designed specifically for singles, recognizing that they comprise an enormous demographic.

But Fisher and Sakaluk (ibid.) observe that despite the cultural shift toward flying solo, marriage continues to be viewed as a symbol of status and success.

They note that most people believe marriage will bring happiness and a sense of personal fulfillment, stemming from experiences of married couples, as past research demonstrates a link between marriage and enhanced well-being.

Unfortunately for the unmarried, Fisher and Sakaluk (supra) recognize that societal adulation of marriage devalues singlehood.

Perhaps not surprisingly, they note that research indicates that even in modern times, singles may be a demographic still plagued by discrimination.

Singlehood and the Accompanying Sting of the Stigma

In their research, in the aptly titled, "Are Single People a Stigmatized 'Group'?" (from 2020), Fisher and Sakaluk note that similar to members of other stigmatized groups, singles face prejudice and discrimination, stemming from negative beliefs, attitudes, and stereotypes.

They point out that singles also face economic challenges because they earn less and often pay more for social benefits, healthcare, and income taxes as compared to their married counterparts.

They even note that some people admit engaging in overt discrimination against singles, giving the example of some people voicing their preference to rent an apartment to a married couple rather than a single.

Regarding identification and group identity, Fisher and Sakaluk (ibid.) found that singles were less likely to identify with other singles as compared to identification with other identities, or as compared to the group identification of those who were "partnered."

Compellingly, they also found that contrary to expectations, single people did not perceive less discrimination towards singles as compared to other facets of their identity.

Regarding prejudice, Fisher and Sakaluk (supra) found that prejudice towards singles was "more acceptable than prejudice towards national and sexual orientation groups."

They note that the acceptability of such prejudice was predicted in part by the perceived responsibility for being single.

Single: Satisfied

The good news, is that many people really enjoy living unattached.

And for those who don’t, Fisher and Sakaluk note that their research indicating how singles both identify and are perceived as a group, while also maintaining a sense of uniqueness, is a valuable first step towards addressing the experience of singlism and ways to enhance well-being.

On the bright side, from fitness, to friends, to faith, being single frees up time to pursue a wide variety of life-enhancing activities and practices. True, their coupled-up counterparts enjoy their own advantages and challenges, but they are merely different, not better.

This column was originally published in Psychology Today.

Wendy L. Patrick, JD, MDiv, PhD, is an award-winning career trial attorney and media commentator. She is host of "Live with Dr. Wendy" on KCBQ, and a daily guest on other media outlets, delivering a lively mix of flash, substance and style. Her over 4,500 media appearances include these major news outlets: CNN, Fox News Channel, HLN, FOX Business Network and weekly appearances on Newsmax. She is author of ''Red Flags'' (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of The New York Times bestseller "Reading People" (Random House, revision). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, participates as a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus, and plays the electric violin professionally with a rock band. Read Dr. Wendy L. Patrick's Reports — More Here.​

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WendyLPatrick
From fitness, to friends, to faith, being single frees up time to pursue a wide variety of life-enhancing activities and practices. True, their coupled-up counterparts enjoy their own advantages and challenges, but they are merely different, not better.
discrimination, friends, faith
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2021-29-04
Thursday, 04 March 2021 11:29 AM
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