Many Australian women are choosing to remain single and are just as happy as those with a partner, studies show. One in four Australian women between 35–65 years old are single and challenging the stereotypes of what being single means.
57-year-old Australian woman Jane Matthews has been single for eight years and has constantly been misunderstood for it.
“Everyone sees it as a temporary thing like I’m in some sort of a holding pattern on my way to the sunny heights of coupledom,” she said. “I’m getting happier and happier living alone. And the longer I do it, the more self-sufficient I become.”
Women like Matthews are choosing to be single, and while the numbers of women like her are growing, the ideology that they are looking for a partner to complete them seems to remain unchanged. According to US social scientist Dr. Bella DePaulo, this idea is reinforced by popular media that makes unmarried women seem like “spinsters” or “desperate for love.”
“People think if you’re a single person, you’re miserable, you’re a little bit lonely…and you have nothing to do but play,” Dr. DePaulo said. “Then there’s the other belief that if you’re single, what you want more than anything else in the world is to become coupled.”
However, these stereotypes are proving to be quite false with Australian women and, according to DePaulo, are either “grossly exaggerated or just plain wrong.”
Australian business owner Hayley Morris, who is 58-years-old, single, and very happy being so, also believes the stereotypes to be false.
“For me personally, (that trend is) about not settling for something you are not happy with,” she explained. “While it’s nice to have someone, women now are more independent, we don’t need to have a man to fulfill us. We have good jobs, good friends, we can travel and pursue our own dreams without needing a man to provide those things.”
A 2017 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health found that older women who go through a divorce or separation are actually more likely to experience positive change in their health.
Women who were post-menopause and entered into marriage or marriage-like relationships saw an increase of BMI (body mass index), as well as alcohol intake. Women in the same age range that chose to exit similar relationships saw a decrease in BMI and waist circumference, and saw improvements in physical activity and diet quality.
Overall, the study found that divorce or separation actually saw more positive health benefits than entering a new marriage or marriage-like relationship.
“We have this whole mythology about marriage…and what it says is that if only you find ‘the one’ and get married then all of your life falls into place,” Dr. DePaulo said. “You’ll be happier, healthier, live longer, and be morally superior… But the most recent studies are showing that when people get married they don’t get any healthier at all…and they are just as happy or as unhappy as they were when they were single.”
Single people are also more likely to go out into their communities and actively play a larger role in activism in those areas. They tend to volunteer more and attend more social activities.
Studies like these challenge myths ingrained in our society, like the idea that a relationship or “coupledom” is the end-goal and with it comes a type of fulfilled happiness. There are plenty of benefits to being single and just as many benefits to being in a relationship, but the balance of those depends solely on the individual. There are many passions, types of love, and laughter that lead to happiness and while a relationship can absolutely bring those things, for some it’s just unnecessary.
“I think the perception of a single person is someone who is missing out, they are one of society’s outliers…they won’t leave as big a mark on the world,” Matthews said. “The reality is that I intend to leave a very big mark on the world.”
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