Last Sunday, the Boston Sunday Globe magazine cover story was Single and Loving It, about single people buying houses, having babies, and vacationing alone - "and they couldn't be happier." The article bothered me on two levels: 1) it makes being single sound like a great adventure, when it's a lonely place for most people and 2) it diminishes the institution of marriage in many ways. First, we'll deal with part 1. I'll save part 2 for another day.
As a woman who was single for most of my adult life (I married late), proclaiming the singles "couldn't be happier" is a crock and we all know it. They certainly could be happier, and I bet that each and every one of those allegedly deliriously happy single people would rather NOT be single. But due to a number of societal trends, there are fewer people interested in marrying, which is a shame for these individual people, and it's unfortunate for the society at large (and for the children they adopt).
What are the trends? The advent of birth control and the sexual revolution is one, which disassociated sex from marriage and procreation (just like the Vatican said it would back then). There simply isn't the value placed on marriage that existed 40 years ago, there's less pressure to get married. Many men are reluctant to commit to marriage, and they can be sexually active without it. Many women are fearful of losing their "independence" in a marriage. Young women are still told to postpone getting married and having kids until they're established in their career. (Pretty bad advice for women who do want kids, start young while you're fertile and energetic). Our culture is vastly more self-absorbed and selfish nowadays. People are more interested in their own individual "self-actualization" than in learning to share their lives with another person. A single woman who wants babies is more concerned with her personal fulfilment than with the child's fulfillment, or the child's right to have a father.
Many of the couples in the article said things like "I'm not willing to settle..." and "It's going to take one hell of girl." The other person has to meet high standards, the other person has to be exceptional. We're talking soul-mate material only! But no one said anything like, "I'm willing to share and compromise, I know there's give-and-take in any relationship. My relationship with another person might come ahead of my personal desires sometimes, there will be some self-sacrifice." Blasphemy in these irreligious times! Nothing is more important than the individual, it's all about me!
It's well documented that married people are happier, they do live longer, their finances are better, they're more altruistic, and their kids are happier, more secure, and also financially better off. Society is better off having stable families taking care of children. There's a good reason your parents and friends are still trying to set you up, they love you and want you to be loved and cared for. Most human beings are happier with someone to share the joys and burdens of life with, including such mundane things as grocery shopping, snuggling on the couch, shovelling the driveway, paying bills, and walking the dog. For me (and my husband), the coupled life beats the single life by a million miles.
I don't buy it that these folks who are dying their hair blue or buying fancy appliances are all that happy about their situation. I'm not saying single people are miserable, I was able to entertain myself quite well in my singleton years. But it's malarkey to say they're happier. A society with more and more single people living alone in their individual houses doesn't sound like it's going in the right direction. Not much of a future there. Who will take care of them in their old age? What will they pass on and to whom?
Advice: Singles should stop pretending they're happy and OK with being single, admit that your life would be richer with a mate. Tell yourself that you want a wife or husband, and make that a priority. Drop the New Age "soul mate" obsession (it's wishful thinking and as baseless as the crushes you had in junior high school.) Develop your personality and strengths so that you are an exceptional person and companion. Relearn how to share and give and compromise. Don't sleep around, you're wasting your energies and spirit. Remember where you came from: a married mother and father (for most of us anyway). That institution is the underpinning of our very society, and dispensing with it isn't likely to be an improvement.
Cross-posted at the Modesty Zone blog, where one commenter said she found it the most offensive post she's ever read there!