Dubbed the “single positivity” movement, the value proposition and cultural understanding of single lifestyles is expanding.
Single living is on the rise: data from the US Census Bureau shows there were 35.7 million single-person households, 28 percent of all households in 2018, while in 1960, that group represented only 13 percent. And more people are staying single longer than ever before. The highest median ages for first marriages were reported in 2018 as well. With the rise of singledom comes an expansion of the language used to describe single status, as well as a positive and more nuanced understanding of creating a life as an individual.
In an interview with British Vogue for its December 2019 issue, actor Emma Watson described her own lifestyle as ‘self-partnered’ – a term that set off a media firestorm. Receiving both support and critique, the message was the same: traditional vocabulary about single lifestyles no longer applies. In one response to Watson’s newly minted terminology, author Max Benwell of The Guardian listed five other “new ways to be single.” They include unconsciously unpartnered, apposexual, dopiosexual and unethical monogamy (with yourself). While written with a light-hearted tone, what’s clear is that today’s society recognizes a much broader understanding of single living than in the past.
In an article from January 2019, author Shani Silver declared this year to be the end of “insensitive” language towards single people. That is, 2019 should mark the end of asking single people about their relationship status or giving advice on finding a partner. In Silver’s essay, she acknowledges the conversation toward and about single people has often implied they have a “lack of self-confidence.” Rather than assuming life is better when coupled, numerous studies are backing the cultural understanding that a fulfilled life comes in many forms.
Recent studies have confirmed that singles tend to live happier lives than their coupled counterparts. In a book released in February 2019, Happy Singlehood: The Rising Acceptance and Celebration of Solo Living, Elyakim Kislev investigates singles as the fastest growing demographic globally and how the group is better positioned to realize happiness throughout their lives. Kislev identified two common misconceptions: that unmarried people are miserable or otherwise deviant if they are not looking to couple-up. But studies show that single people often have more space in their lives to maintain their social networks. “Happily single people can teach several lessons. One is that you shouldn’t abandon your friends, relatives, and social networks. You should say connected all the time,” said Kislev. Single people also find happiness from being responsible for their destinies. “Many married people at some point think they lost something in their ability to choose their path in life. They blame their partner. Try to be independent as much as you can.”
The data, according to Kislev, doesn’t necessarily prove one path is better than another. But it is clear from the discourse, particularly spawned by Watson’s comments, that society is primed for a more positive and expansive vocabulary about single living. And, brands should take note when speaking to this audience. The fiery commentary proves how quickly old language will alienate this engaged and growing consumer cohort.
Main image courtesy of Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images