Not only is solo living an increasingly popular way of life but it is also an accepted way of life many actively choose and even treasure. In an article on the rise of solo living, author Colm Toibin writes that “No one ever told me that I would be most happy in my life when I modelled myself on a nun who runs her own cloister and is alone in it.” He and many others have found great happiness in bucking tradition and living alone.
There are many reasons why more people are living alone. But, for some, living solo is not a product of choice, but rather, one borne from circumstance. Some of us would prefer to live with a partner but find looking for love is harder as we grow older. But why?
Accepting ourselves and gaining life experience
As we get older, we inevitably gain life experience. Part of this is learning to accept ourselves as we are. Many speak of finding a level of self-confidence and self-love we wish we had in our youth. In terms of finding a partner, this is extremely positive: we cannot begin to share love successfully with another person unless we have love for ourselves. But it also means it can take longer for us to find a partner. When learning to love and value ourselves, we also realise we deserve a partner who values and loves us just as much. When learning our own worth, we expect a partner to live up to it.
A potential partner has more boxes to tick – we’re getting fussier
While this shouldn’t make it hard to find someone, it may lengthen the process because we have a few more ‘boxes to tick’. It could be said that once older, we’ve perhaps lost the romantic naïveté of our youth. It’s no longer enough to be physically attracted to someone or to appreciate their personality; there are a lot more practical considerations at play once you’ve had a bit more life experience.
We are possibly too quick to dismiss potential partners
As such, we can become guilty of “treating dating like a job interview”. If a date does not tick all of your boxes and pass the first meeting or preliminary interview, the potential partner is not deemed eligible for a second date.
Some would argue there is no time to waste on people who you know from the outset are not right for you. But, the problem with this is, the older we get, the more boxes we add to our list. This is understandable because we come to know ourselves better, and thus come to understand with more clarity what we’d like in a partner too.
However, it is easy to fall into the trap of adding too many boxes that don’t actually matter as much. It’s as if we forget two people can be romantically compatible without sharing identical ideals and interests. It can be easy to write someone off after one meeting if they do not fulfil all of our requirements, but getting to know someone takes time. Perhaps readjusting priorities and keeping an open mind, mean at least make a good friend can be made.
Our lives are fuller and busier with little time for finding a partner
In a similar way, as we grow older, our lives may become fuller. Busy with work, an active social life, a hobby you enjoy, travelling, spending time with children from a previous relationship or seeing other family members. With so much going on, it can be hard to find time to meet new people or get back into dating. Again, readjusting priorities might help here – or restructuring how you spend your time in order to be more open to meeting someone new.
We enjoy our own space
A simple explanation for the rising trend of living alone is that more of us want and are happily enjoying our own space. Again, to enjoy your own company is a great thing, but it may make us hesitant about entering into a relationship. We may worry about sharing our space with someone. Although he has a partner, TV Presenter Alex Zane has lived alone for six years, because it is his preference. He is able to maintain a balance between his solitude and his relationship that is like “a well-oiled machine”.
This is not uncommon – there are many people out there who value their solitude as much as Zane does, but he is living proof that it need not hinder your dating options. In one of our articles, Elena talks of how living apart together works for her and her partner. They are in a committed relationship but have chosen not to live together.
We look for more meaningful and rewarding relationships
Finally, the older we get, the more meaningful a relationship we seek. As we mature we become a lot more self-reliant, self-assured, and self-loving and less likely to need a relationship in our lives to feel stable or validated.
We want more than just companionship in our relationship; we look for it to be rewarding and meaningful. Therefore, although it might seem as though it takes longer to find a partner than it did when we were young, in reality, this may be because we are more understanding of what makes for a meaningful and lasting relationship.
The changing status of women
This is perhaps even more relevant for women seeking relationships. An important social change contributing to the rise of more women living alone is the women’s rights movement. Women gaining equal opportunities to men has meant marriage is no longer a financial necessity; we are able to provide for ourselves, and indeed live alone if we choose. This may account for why some women may feel it has become harder to find a partner: now that having a partner is no longer a pre-requisite for a comfortable life, we prioritise looking for a relationship that is more meaningful and emotionally rewarding.
We are more comfortable with ourselves and living alone
We’re recognising living solo can be comfortable and fulfilling without a partner. Whatever the reasons, it is important to remember that the most important relationship we have in life is the relationship we have with ourselves. Being able to focus on valuable ‘me time’ and developing our individual interests and hobbies is an advantage of living solo and something which makes finding a partner more nuanced. We can be challenged by the advantages living alone can bring, while at the same time weighing up the desire and practicalities of introducing a new person into our lives.
For many of us, living alone is a long-term prospect and an enjoyable way of life too. Some research even indicates that living alone can lead to greater happiness, as it encourages us to socialise more outside our homes and immediate family. We’re able to spend time nurturing relationships and on our own terms. While others may have found themselves trapped in unhappy relationships by the rigid confines of societal norms, we are lucky to enjoy happiness in our own company and live more easily and readily without the presence of a partner.
It’s not unfair to say, living arrangements and the way we conduct our relationships are becoming more diverse – challenging previously conventional and accepted norms. As we come to enjoy the benefits of living alone, becoming more accepting of who we are and what we want, it means looking for a partner can inevitably take more time.