Have you ever been asked the question have you met anyone yet? Have they ever looked at you with pity after you responded no? And how many times have they tried to set you up with someone because they assumed that you are lonely and unlucky in love?
As a woman in her mid-twenties, do you have a boyfriend is one of the top three questions someone asks me when I am introduced to a new group of people. As if being in a relationship suddenly will make me more interesting and as if it will prove that I live a fulfilling life.
On the contrary, if I dare to confess that I've never been in a relationship before or that I don’t want to be in the future, people will act as if I am speaking a language that no one understands. In the best-case scenario, they will keep quiet because they will assume that I am suffering from previous love trauma.
You must know that western society easily tends to consider people without a romantic partner as unhealthy, abnormal and problematic...Singlehood is usually only valid in someone’s late teen years or as the result of a serious breakup or a loss.
But while the world is being manipulated into embracing the conventional stereotype that no one truly wishes to be single, let me tell you that there are thousands of people out there that truly enjoy their singlehood. And they choose to be single, not because they can't find anyone to partner up with, but simply because they don't want to be in a relationship.
And as brave as it seems to defend their choice by flourishing in their meaningful and fulfilled single lives, the label "single forever" often raises anxiety and discomfort. And this is simply because the world around us is made for couples.
In this piece, I will explain why having a partner immediately levels you in a privileged position of holding more socio-economic benefits, while singlehood serves often as a social punishment and a financial burden to those who are single, whether you have chosen to be so or not.
Surely, you can guess that the majority of female-identifying people are married, were at least once married, or expect to get married at some point in their lifetime. Most of them are living with partners while cohabitation is the new norm, since there is not as much pressure for marriage as there used to be.
As for the others (the pitied-on singles) that are the minority in this case, some suffer from not being in a relationship, while the rest are labeled as being single by conscious choice. The latter are judged harshly in an absurd way.
For example, when a female-identifying person is single and is having casual sex, she might meet, in one way or another, societal disapproval (especially from older people). If they are single and don't have any lovers, they become victims of pity, since they are considered lonely and miserable.
If you think that such assumptions do not exist anymore in these “modern” times, I still recall the day when a married man in my neighborhood asked my parents if they had a single friend to introduce to the unmarried lady next door. Of course, who can blame the man that felt sympathy for the "spinster" neighbor and took the initiative to rescue her from presumed and prejudiced loneliness?
Surveys have shown that a single person looking for a relationship receives more societal approval than when this person is doing the opposite. Even in romantic movies or books, we've rarely seen the main character remaining single at the end. And if they do so, probably it’s because they got dumped or their interest in love died away. But why? What would be so disappointing, if the main character chose to be single and they were absolutely fine with it?
Please, let’s dismiss the idea that un-partnered individuals spend their free time with messy hair and in weirdly-patterned pajamas, sitting on their couch, drinking wine while their cat is roaming around in a room full of used tissues. In reality, singlehood most of the time involves having fun, going out on adventure, and more independence than the lifestyle of a couple!
When you are single, you are more likely to go out often to bars, clubs, concerts and join fun activities that fill your day, since you are free and no one demands half of your time. The only problem is: you are more likely to spend all of your money.
The truth is that while partnered people increase their income by 50% (if we assume that both have a job) and they are more likely to save money since they also prefer to spend time together at home, the single ones are double burdened by covering their basic needs and attaining a social and fun lifestyle.
The cost of living of a single person in the Netherlands could be estimated at around 1500 euros including housing, bills, food and health insurance, while a couple for the same goods spends an estimated amount of 1700 euros. Ideally, a single person should spend half of the money that a couple spends on the same services. In this case, it is just 200 euros difference.
Moreover, with the global increase in rents, most people cannot leave their parents’ homes and live alone. In my own experience, I rent a room in a shared flat and I still pay 2/3 of the rent amount paid by a couple living in a studio. Being single often precludes you from getting access to private housing because of a lower income and forces individuals to keep sharing a house for longer and longer.
Not to mention that couples may take the step of moving in together way more quickly than before just to obtain better housing. And yes, the problem lies not only in being or not being single, but also and more importantly in the fragile and insane rules of the housing market.
Recently, I have met a married childless couple on the verge of a divorce that was forced to remain together simply because they just couldn't afford to rent an apartment separately. And it's not all about sharing an accommodation! What about furnishing, bills, student loans, car gas and insurances?
Even in hotels, a room is more expensive for a single person- as they have to pay the same price as a couple would do. Of course, the room has the same cleaning costs and taxes, but isn't it quite unfair for a person alone to pay double for the same services two people would receive?
We must acknowledge how difficult it is to exist as a single person within a system that doesn't support our choice to define the relationship status according to our own will. Sadly, society is not designed for single people to fit in…
However, nothing stops the world from changing and evolving, more people choose to stay single today than they did in the past. Maybe the problem is that we expect them to survive within an old, traditional and shaking institution. Does it seem right, to let single people pay a price (literally and metaphorically) to ensure their freedom and independence?
Let us appreciate all those brave people out there who defend their choice of singlehood. It's time to relieve a burden on their shoulders by adapting and adjusting to new ways of life. So let's stop asking single people awkward questions and start building a world a little more inclusive. A world in which everyone, single or not, could thrive in!
By Costantina Kyriacou