happily single part 2: the statistics
With Guest Bella DePaulo, Ph.D.
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The stereotypical image of an old spinster dying alone, except for her numerous cats that walk over her dead body for weeks before someone discovers her, can haunt unattached women. But fear not. Dr. Bella DePaulo breaks down 10 myths about being single to Dr. Veronica in this week’s episode of Wellness for the Real World.
Unmarried women across the globe can be found shaking their hips to Beyoncé’s hit song “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).” With more households headed by single people than married people in the United States, chances are a single person is reading this. Maybe you’ve been labeled a slut or had your sexuality questioned. Perhaps you’ve been discriminated against in the office and asked to work late because your boss assumes you have no life while the married woman is free to clock out on time. Or you’ve been typecast as an unhappy, pathetic, lonely soul because you don’t have a partner. And, if you’re a single parent, you’ve likely been led to believe that your children are doomed and destined to become druggies. If so, you’re a victim of “singlism,” the stereotyping and discrimination against single people, a term coined by Dr. DePaulo, author of Singled Out: How Singles are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After and a permanent Visiting Professor of Psychology at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
A singleton all of her life, Dr. DePaulo has passionately researched and written about people who are single and their place in society. “I was just amazed to find that most of the beliefs about single people are myths,” she tells Dr. Veronica. “They are either greatly exaggerated or just plain false.”
These types of falsehoods can put undue stress on people and cause sickness. Therefore, for the sake of wellness, it’s important to dispel such illusions. Dr. DePaulo shares her 10 Myths about Being Single with Dr. Veronica:
- The wonder of couples. Married people know what’s best for everyone else, therefore they are allowed to pick the time and place of get-together.
- Single-minded. If you’re single, your only interest is coupling with someone. No one can imagine that someone enjoys life as a singleton and doesn’t want to become a couple. This is a hard myth to destroy because of the hoopla about weddings and marriage, or what Dr. DePaulo calls “matromania.”
- The dark aura of singlehood. You are miserable and lonely and your life is tragic. Dr. DePaulo says there is no truth to studies that show married people are healthier and happier than singles. Instead, the method is flawed and doesn’t take into account the divorced. Other studies that have followed people for 20 years from the age of 16 show that the respondents become slightly happier around the time of the wedding and then return to being as happy or unhappy as they were when they were single. “So they get a little honeymoon effect. It doesn’t last,” she says. “The averages are not consistent with our myths about happily ever after.” After evaluating many of these surveys for over a decade, she finds that “the single people are always on the happy end of the scale.”
- It is all about you. You are self-centered and immature and your time isn’t worth anything because you have nothing to do but play.
- Attention single women. Your work won’t love you back. Your eggs will dry up. You’re either promiscuous or not having any sex. In other words, no matter what you do, people will find a way to undermine you.
- Attention single men. You are horny, slovenly, and irresponsible and the scary criminal or you are sexy, fastidious, frivolous and gay.
- Single parents. Your kids are doomed. Dr. DePaulo points to a nationwide sampling that showed a 4.5 percent rate of substance abuse among 12- to 17-year-olds in a mom-and-dad household compared to 5.7 percent for mom-only household. The lowest was 3.4 percent for households with extended family members. “Some of these kids are already having a hard time before divorce happens so you can’t say ‘Oh, the divorce made them fall apart,’ ” she says.
- Too bad you’re incomplete. You have no one and don’t have a life. This is often used to characterize high achievers such as Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan.
- Poor soul. Directed toward older single people who will grow old alone, die in a room by yourself where no one will find you for weeks.
- Family values. Give all of the perks and benefits to couples. Allow spouses on health plans at a reduced rate but not siblings of singles.
If all of the above are myths, just why it that people believe that being single is so miserable?
“It’s because we have this idea that the way you live a good, decent, moral, happy life is to follow the conventional path – get married, have kids, stay married, have grandkids,” Dr. DePaulo tells Dr. Anderson. “If that really were the answer to all of our problems…who wouldn’t want to believe that’s true? What happy, single people are doing is challenging that. They’re showing you don’t have to do the usual path. You can lead a full, complete, happy, fulfilled life as a single person and a lot of people don’t want to hear that.”
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