The pandemic has not made much difference to whether or not singles want to find a committed romantic relationship. In fact, research shows figures are much the same as before and after the pandemic. The two biggest reasons why singles are not looking for a romantic relationship are they enjoy being single and have more important priorities.
In 2019, before the pandemic, the Pew Research Center discovered something remarkable. In their national survey of single people in the U.S. (not married, not cohabiting, and not in a committed romantic relationship), half of the singles who took part in the study people said that they were not currently looking for a romantic relationship or even a date.
Things didn’t change for singles after the pandemic
In February 2022, the Pew researchers again contacted a national sample of single people, asking whether the coronavirus outbreak had made them any more or less interested in finding a committed relationship.
Averaging across all 2,616 single people in the survey, the participating singles said that the pandemic just didn’t matter very much. Around 6 in 10 (59%) said that it made them no more or less interested in finding a committed romantic relationship than they were before.
About the same number said they were now less interested (10%), much the same as the group that said that they were now more interested (11%). (The other 20% said the question did not apply to them).
What difference does age make?
There were some differences between different categories of single people. Age matters. Singles over 30 and older more often said that they had become less interested in finding a romantic relationship.
The biggest difference (though not all that large) was for single people between the ages of 30 and 49. 13% of them had become less interested, compared to the 9% who became more interested.
Of the younger single people between the ages of 18 and 29, 22% said that COVID had made them become more interested in finding a romantic relationship, compared to 10% who said it made them less interested.
Singles’ interest in a romantic relationship largely unaffected by Covid
Still, as was true for every age group, more than half of the youngest singles, 55%, said that COVID did not make them any more or less interested in finding a committed romantic relationship.
Overall, amongst both men and women in the study, the exact same percentage, 59%, said that COVID had not made them any more or less interested in finding a romantic relationship. (No other gender categories were included in the report.)
More men than women became more interested in a romantic relationship
There was a difference, though, between men and women who became more interested in a romantic relationship: More men (15%) than women (8%) in the study said they had become more interested.
There was little difference between age groups and those who are becoming less interested: 10% of women and 9% of men said they were now less interested in finding a romantic relationship. (The others said the question did not apply.
Singles enjoy being single!
Once again, in 2022, as in 2019, Pew researchers found that many single people were not interested in finding a committed romantic relationship or even a date. But why?
The researchers presented the participating singles with six possible reasons. In response to each, they could also say whether it was a major or minor reason for not wanting a romantic relationship or a date, a minor reason. The six reasons offered were:
- Just like being single
- Have more important priorities right now
- Too busy
- Feel like no one would be interested
- Feel like I am too old
- Concerns about being exposed to the coronavirus
The number-one reason why single people do not want to unsingle themselves is that they like being single! In fact, nearly three-quarters (72%) gave that reason (44% said it was a major reason, while 28% said it was a minor reason).
Singles have more important priorities
The second most important reason why single people weren’t interested in a romantic relationship or even a date was that they had more important priorities. More than 3 in 5 single people (63%) gave that as a reason (while 42% said it was a major reason, and 21% said it was a minor reason).
All the other reasons were far less important. For example, only 17% said that the most negative reason for feeling “like no one would be interested” was a major reason why they were not interested in trying to find a romantic partner or a date. Another 21% said it was a minor reason, for a total of 38%, compared to the 72% who said that they just liked being single.
Things haven’t changed much since the pandemic
The share of single people in 2019 who said they just liked being single, and for them, this was an important reason for not wanting to unsingle themselves, was 44%, exactly the same as in 2022.
Having more important priorities was endorsed as a major reason by 47% of the singles in 2019, compared to 42% in 2022.
As in 2022, in 2019, all the other reasons were endorsed by far fewer people. For example, 17% said that a major reason they were uninterested in pursuing a romantic relationship or a date was that they felt no one would be interested—the exact same percentage who said the same in 2022.
Of course, the Coronavirus reason was not included in 2019, but a few other reasons were included only in that year. Reasons such as having no luck in the past, not being ready after losing a spouse or ending a relationship, and health problems making it difficult—were endorsed as a major reason by fewer than 20%.
Findings question stereotypes and challenge cultural norms
It sounds so simple and so straightforward—many singles are not trying to find a romantic relationship because they like being single. And yet, that finding—replicated almost exactly in two different national surveys of single people, from before the pandemic and in early 2022 – is profoundly significant.
It shatters the stereotypes of single people that have long been documented, inaccurate beliefs that single people are miserable or lonely or that they have ‘issues’, and that’s why they are single.
Many people are invested in the belief that single people are miserable and lonely and, in so many other ways, just not as good as people who are in couples. That’s what makes that way of thinking more than just a set of beliefs. People care about it. They want it to be true. Wendy Morris and I call this the Ideology of Marriage and Family. It offers a seductive promise—find “The One,” commit to The One, and you will be set for the rest of your life. You will live happily ever after.
Morris and I found that people are so invested in believing that single people can’t possibly be truly happy that they refuse to believe them when they say they are happy.
Other scholars have found single people who want to be single are judged more harshly than those who are pining for a partner. Happy single people challenge people’s stereotypes and threaten their cherished cultural norms, and that sort of thing is rarely welcomed.
Not so long ago, Pride parades popularized the slogan, “We’re here. We’re queer. Get used to it.” Single people who enjoy single life don’t have parades, but we are here, too, and our numbers will likely keep growing.
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