In 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau revealed a record number of American adults were single. Dating can sometimes feel like an exercise in futility, and although many Americans enjoy the single life, some find themselves asking, "Why am I still single?" Of course, there are so many ways to meet people online that even the convenience of swiping left or right can become exhausting.
If you've been stag for any significant stretch of time, you've probably asked yourself that question: "Why am I still single?" To find out, we homed in on what could be standing between you and your significant other. We surveyed over 1,300 single adults and asked them why they thought they were still alone, if they chose to remain single, and whether past relationships held them back from meeting someone new. Read on to learn if dating today might actually be harder than ever.
Putting the Blame on Traits
It's been said that you can't love someone until you learn to love yourself. Research suggests there's a very strong connection between the way we feel about our body and the satisfaction we have in our relationships. Lower levels of body comfort also lead to more anxious attachment styles, essentially suggesting that if you aren't happy with how you look, you're more likely to be afraid of losing your significant other.
When asked why they were still single, both men and women's biggest physical concerns were centered on their midsections and weight. Nearly 34 percent of men said they weren't in a relationship because their abs weren't toned enough, while over 36 percent of women said it was as a result of being overweight. While other body-conscious concerns ranked as reasons why respondents hadn't found the right person (including the shape of their arms, legs, and facial features), personality played a key role too.
For roughly 44 percent of men and women, it was feeling they weren't outgoing enough that held their love life back. In addition to admitting they had low self-esteem, both men and women said being too polite, too boring, or even too intelligent kept them from being in a relationship.
Single and Not Ready to Mingle?
Being single for a certain stretch of time is one thing, but how long does it take until you feel it's been too long between partners? While you might feel pressure to find a partner after remaining single, experts say there's no standard, and every relationship (and the time between relationships) is different.
For a lot of men and women, being single wasn't due to a lack of opportunity – it was a conscious decision. Nearly 48 percent of people decided to remain single. Another 17 percent weren't even looking for a relationship, and 32 percent simply hadn't found the right person yet.
Sixty-five percent of people blamed themselves for being single compared to 26 percent who blamed other people they'd dated and nearly 13 percent who blamed their family. However, there could be benefits to remaining single, including focusing on building friendships and understanding personal happiness.
Concealing the Truth
For single people on the quest for love, telling the truth to a date can sometimes be easier said than done. The decision not to be honest about one thing or another typically starts as a form of self-protection but can quickly evolve into a destructive tendency.
The biggest thing men and women lied about was their number of sexual partners. Perhaps because they were afraid of admitting a number they thought was too high, or because they were ashamed to be seen as "inexperienced," respondents were largely afraid to be honest about their sexual history. Women also preferred to lie about their weight and living situation, while men were more concerned with being open about their income.
Ready to Move On
Breaking up isn't just hard to do –it can also be physically painful. Research suggests the parts of the brain activated by calling off a relationship are the same parts where physical pain is experienced. Being in love can feel like an addiction, so suddenly being single might be like going through withdrawal.
According to our survey, over 50 percent of people said their relationships ended on good terms at least half of the time, but the feeling wasn't universal. For about 14 percent of people, their breakups never ended on good terms, and even more (close to 15 percent) had similar luck, rarely ending their relationships on a happy note. The most common reason for being dumped was incompatibility, followed by long-distance struggles and deciding to break up over a third party. Of course, being on the receiving end versus doing the breaking up can be two very different things. More than half of people who called off a relationship had been cheated on, followed by close to 40 percent who said they just weren't right for each other.
Struggling to Let Go
Depending on how long you were together, or how things ended in your relationship, it's not entirely uncommon to stay in touch with your ex after a breakup. Checking in with each other over text or meeting up for a drink or two might not be awkward at first, but it can get tricky over time. Studies suggest frequent conversations with your ex can drag down your new relationship.
Over 49 percent of men and nearly 59 percent of women admitted to keeping in touch with their exes. Women were even 20 percent more likely than men to have weekly conversations with their exes.
So why the prolonged interaction? Thirty-five percent of people said it was mutual friends that kept them in contact post-breakup, followed by children (25 percent), family relations (20 percent), and the occasional sexual hookup (16 percent). Experts say it's important to be careful about how frequently or quickly you get back into bed with someone you might still be harboring feelings for.
Taking a Break
Expert advice is all over the place when it comes to how much time you should wait between relationships. If you're totally over the person, jumping right into a new relationship might not be so bad. On the other hand, sometimes it's healthy to make peace with being single, which can make working through any lingering relationship issues easier.
Overwhelmingly, people preferred to take a break from dating after a breakup (nearly 78 percent), compared those who opted to date someone right away (22 percent).
No Time Like the Present
If you're worried about what it will be like sleeping with someone new after getting out of a previous relationship, those concerns may be unfounded.
While a majority of men and women didn't have a particular reaction to getting intimate with someone new, 44 percent of men and 23 percent of women said they felt good after hooking up post-breakup. Men were also more casual about how long they thought they needed to wait. Women, on average, went five months before sleeping with someone after a breakup versus the three months men averaged.
But if sliding into someone's DMs or swiping left or right to show them you're interested doesn't sound appealing, don't fret. For both men and women, being set up through friends was more popular than meeting someone through a dating app.
Getting Back on the Horse
While remaining single for a time might be healthy, eventually, it can feel pretty discouraging. One of the best ways to get over the anxiety of being single could be to recognize how many people around you are going through the same thing. Not all breakups are going to be pretty, and you probably won't feel bad when you're finally ready to move on.
No matter where you are in life, feeling self-conscious about your body should never be a reason to avoid finding love. At BodyLogicMD, our physicians are experts in hormone imbalances and the various ways they can affect your everyday life. Fatigue, mood swings, low sex drives, or weight gain are usually classic symptoms of aging but may be corrected by hormone replacement therapy. Want to learn more? Visit us at BodyLogicMD.com.
We surveyed 1,320 single people using Amazon's Mechanical Turk to collect the data shown in this project. Any respondent who was not single was disqualified. All respondents were American; 50 percent were women, and 49.6 percent were men, the remaining .4 percent were non-binary gender respondents. The average age of respondents was 33 years old with a standard deviation of 10.4.
As with any survey that relies on self-reported data, there are limitations to the strength of the data. Future research into the topic could use more rigorous methods of testing to produce accurate results.
Fair Use Statement
Looking for a way to strike up a conversation with a new single? We don't mind if you share this project for noncommercial purposes, just make sure that you provide appropriate citations or attributions and link back to this study on your page.