The disadvantages of being single go far beyond the embarrassing interrogations at family events—they have real-world implications that affect everything from our financial stability to our mental health. Here are some of the most important and most overlooked downsides of singlehood.
The day-to-day cost of living is higher. Rent, food, vacations—you name it, it’s probably cheaper if you’re in a couple. The double irony is that couples also have a combined income, meaning they need the reduced rates even less. Such is the lot of the impoverished single millennial. Just find us a 2-for-1 cocktail hour, please.
It’s harder for us to get on the property ladder. It’s true that not all of us aspire to home ownership, but the fact remains: it’s harder to purchase a home on your own. Most of us aren’t exactly rolling in it (too many avocado brunches, apparently?), so scraping together a feasible deposit is a feat of herculean proportions, made infinitely harder by not having anyone to save with. But that’s only the first hurdle. To be approved for a mortgage, you’ll need to show sufficient proof of income, and that’s much easier when there are two of you. This ends up with couples enjoying the privilege of future financial security while the rest of us count our loose change.
Loneliness is taboo. Because we’re young, we’re not supposed to want to be in a relationship, or so it seems based on people’s reactions. When you (bravely) voice your feelings of loneliness, you find you’re shut down, minimized, or entirely dismissed. You judge yourself too because loneliness is seen as weakness, as a failure to be self-reliant. We don’t seem to remember that it is perfectly possible to be confident and happy in yourself while also feeling alone at certain times.
Slut-shaming is real. For the most part, we’re fortunate to live in an open and tolerant society that lets us make our own choices about our bodies and our relationships, but that doesn’t mean people aren’t judging. When you’re single, you don’t have access to intimacy in a safe and loving relationship. When you choose to sleep with someone casually, society is still prone to raise the question of your “number” even though it’s completely arbitrary—and entirely unfair.
Sexual health is a big deal. No matter how conservative or relaxed you are about hookups, one thing remains the same: your health is on the line and nothing is ever 100% safe. Even having fun has the risk of stress and some very unwanted side effects.
The burden of contraception is always on us. I count myself privileged to be able to access contraception (and without stigma). It’s also by far the lesser of two evils. However, for women the world over, the side-effects of hormonal contraceptives fall squarely on our shoulders. Plus, we can’t always trust our partners to be responsible, as the advent of stealthing proved. Although it’s unlikely you’d want to entirely forego contraception even in a relationship, unlike our coupled-up counterparts, we singles aren’t always in a position to share the responsibility and adapt our usage to our personal needs.
When it comes to dating, we’re on an emotional rollercoaster. The truth is, a dud date never hurt anyone (and in fact, they’re great story fodder for your friends). What’s problematic is when we stumble into yet another situationship—a grey area where you’ve kind of both caught feelings but nothing’s actually happening—that eventually leaves at least one of you reeling from feelings of rejection, disappointment, and sometimes betrayal. It’s been proven that emotional pain activates the same areas of your brain as physical pain, so don’t let anyone tell you to just “get over it” like you’ve merely dropped your lunch. We walk around with this pain semi-regularly while single, yet seemingly everyone else can enjoy the stability and happiness that can come from a healthy relationship.
We start to blame ourselves. This is the really fun part. This is the bit where we slip into bad habits, telling ourselves nasty little stories about why exactly it is that no one wants us and why we’re never going to be good enough. Everyone has their insecurities and a relationship is absolutely not going to change that—we have to do that work ourselves. On the other hand, none of our coupled-up friends are standing there watching everyone else get chosen instead of them. When you’re going through this bit, it’s difficult to remember that you’ve always been enough just as you are, but that’s the truth.
No one’s there to make memories with us. You’re busy kicking ass, exploring the world, and doing great things. Your friends have got your back and you know it, but they also have someone really special championing them, so how come you don’t? It’s easy to feel like there’s no-one permanent to bear witness to your successes or share the good times with you. Milestone events that you always thought would form joint memories, whether promotions, graduations, or even birthdays and holidays, stack up as things you did by yourself. Even if you have a really supportive family, it’s easy to feel like you’re regressing; the fact that they’re still your main group of cheerleaders whereas your friends all have husbands and fiancés.
You miss human contact. If you’re anything like me, you don’t remember the last time someone just held you. Yeah, OK, cue the violins. We’re not trying to be dramatic or feel sorry for ourselves, but sometimes we just need a hug that’s more substantial than the brief ‘hi’ you give your friends. Research has shown the positive impact of human touch on stress levels and blood pressure, so it’s definitely not just in your head that you miss cuddles that don’t lead to anything. We’re so reliant on ourselves all the time, which is a great thing, but it’s impossible to pretend like it wouldn’t be nice to have someone special who could be there through the ups and downs.
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