Why some people choose to stay single

When Amy Hart let slip on Love Island that, at 26 years old, she’d never had a ‘proper boyfriend’ before, the other islanders’ jaws dropped.

Of course she’d like to find love, that’s why she’s on our screens every night, and she seems happy, confident and positive about her chances. So why did the fact that she’s a serial singleton get the reaction it did? When did ‘single’ become a dirty word?

Why do I want to be in love anyway?

In our everyday lives we’re surrounded by fairytale love stories, so you’d be forgiven for thinking that being someone’s bae is the ultimate goal in life – that if you’re not coupled up then something is ‘wrong’ with you. Happy couples are everywhere we turn and this can make you feel pretty blue when you’re not coupled up too. But why?

Psychologist M Wallace explains that it’s because we are social beings: “From birth our brains are wired to seek connections with other people.” From family to friends to partners, “each relationship brings something very different, but all are based around the desire to connect, communicate, share, trust and support.”

Experiencing intimacy with another person can also be quite addictive, as Wallace explains: “our brains release oxytocin (the chemical responsible for bonding) when we first connect with someone we really like, and this is often why we can’t get them out of our heads and want to spend all our time together. It can make the emotions really strong!” This is why being dumped hurts so much and can “feel like death”, as Samira Mighty describes. We then seek out new romantic relationships to try to get the same oxytocin high and feel good again.

Peer pressure can also play a big part in our desire to be coupled up. If our friends are in relationships and do lots of things in their pairs, it’s very hard not to feel like a third wheel. Wallace advises that “the most important thing is that the relationship feels good. If it doesn’t, it’s much much better to be single and happy, than be in it because of others.”

This is something that Dr Alex strongly backs. Dr Alex was single for four years but says he didn’t feel any pressure to be coupled up. First and foremost, he states, it’s important to find happiness “in yourself and your friends” and not to invest all your happiness in someone else. It’s your inner peace and happiness that matters.

In the wise words of RuPaul: “If you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you going to love somebody else?”

How do I find my inner peace and happiness?

Being single doesn’t have to mean feeling bad. In fact, when Samira was single for a year and a half before Love Island, she says she “felt great”. Stepping back from romantic relationships and taking the time to discover who you really are, without someone else to define you, can be a really good thing – you just have to embrace it!

Wallace agrees: “Love yourself,” she says, “This is important whether you’re in a relationship or not. You are the most important person you will ever know! Be kind to yourself, make time for yourself, do things that make you happy and look after yourself. These are all incredibly important skills, which matter now and for the rest of your life.”

“When you are happy in yourself, you bring that to a relationship. It means you aren’t looking for someone else to make you happy, you aren’t dependent on them in order to feel good – you already do! This means you can enjoy being in a relationship even more when it happens.”

Man playing guitar
Make time for yourself and do the things that make you happy.

Being single: the silver lining

  • You have the freedom to do what you want, when you want, without having to compromise. As Wallace explains, “If you prefer quiet time at home, enjoy your space and make it special. If you love being out and about, find activities that suit your tastes.” Ultimately, you’re in control!
  • You can focus on yourself. Whether that’s getting stuck into a hobby, turbocharging your career or just doing more of what you enjoy, do the “things that make you happy!”
  • You have a better social life as you tend to see more of your family and friends. You also have the opportunity to expand your social horizons and make new friends. “This can really help you to get to know yourself,” says Wallace, “and builds happiness and confidence.”

Be happy with yourself

Like seeing a glass half full or half empty, going solo can be a fantastic experience if you look at it in a positive light.

“We need to make sure we think about ourselves as individuals,” says Wallace, “not just as someone in a relationship”. So take the time to get to know yourself and be happy with who you are: “This is the most important thing you can do.”

“Remember,” she says, “it’s always better to wait until you meet the right person and have a happy, healthy relationship than be in one that isn’t right, just because you don’t want to be alone.”

After all, real life isn’t a game show and you can be winning, whether you’re in a couple or single!

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