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DePaulo - Single in a society preoccupied with couples


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Comments are due June 06, 2022 21:00


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Single in a Society Preoccupied with Couples

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Bella DePaulo

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Department of Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, USA

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To me, solitude is so very sweet that I have to remind myself that not everyone experiences­ it that way. I’m nearing 60 and have always been single. I always will be – by choice. I have created a name for people like me – we are single at heart. Single is who we really are. Living single is how we live our most meaningful and authentic lives.

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Jun 7
Daniella B (Jun 07 2022 6:18AM) : Meaningful? more

I am sure that some can agree with this statement, however it is a very hard one for me to swallow. I believe that the most meaningful and authentic life is when you can take your goodness and share it with someone else, and be able to give to someone else. “Single at heart” sounds like a selfish point of view, one that does not take others and relationships, into account.

Solitude can be embraced or feared; it can be fulfilling or lonely. Single life is like that, too. I spent much of the first decade or so of my studies of single life pushing back against the presumptions that single people are all miserable and lonely and want nothing more than to become unsingle (DePaulo, 2006, 2011a, 2011b; DePaulo & Morris, 2005). Now it is time to step back and draw the reversible image that is single life (and solitude, too) – look at it one way, through the eyes of someone apprehensive, and it is horrifying; look at it another, from the perspective of one who would embrace it, and it is thrilling. At the heart of the matters of solitude­ and single life is choice. If you are choosing to spend time alone and if you are choosing to be single (the two are not the same), you are far more likely to be satisfied with your time and your life than if those experiences have been thrust upon you without your consent (Dykstra, 1995).

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Jun 5
Andie Y (Jun 05 2022 1:00PM) : I agree with DePaulo's argument for being single as a choice, but I personally do not think that ALL people that are single are doing so as a choice today. We are attuned to look for the "next best thing" (ex. Apple and creative destruction, dating apps). more

As a result, I think that some people are single because they desire a partner that does not realistically exist. This is not to blame the individual, but society and the way that we discuss love in today’s modern age should be scrutinized.

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Jun 6
Daniella B (Jun 06 2022 9:11PM) : Does the real YOU exist? more

It is an interesting thought to think that individuals have high expectations for those they want to date, so remain single. I also believe that certain people are not looking for someone who does not realistically exist, rather I think they are still single because they have not became that “wonderful” person they are looking for. You will attract individuals like yourself, and knowing that the best version of YOU exist, will make it easier to believe that the special someone exists as well.

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Jun 16
Jack M (Jun 16 2022 7:52AM) : Andi, great point. more

Andi, great point. I think the point they made about the difference between choosing to be single and not is a good one. I think that many people that are single. are not single by choice. They could be struggling for a number of reasons like having poor social skills or negative schema from previous relationships. Social media and Hollywood also has an impact on how we view relationships. And I think the most factor is the prior experiences we’ve had that influences how we view relationships in general.

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Jun 3
Avi G (Jun 03 2022 8:54AM) : Although DePaulo cites a study, I am not sure this is a fair statement. Especially since paragraph 22 states "The link between living single and loving solitude is an empirical one that has not yet been fully explored."
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Jun 5
Andie Y (Jun 05 2022 1:04PM) : I agree with you Avi. I do not know if I can read this sentence as being an empirical statement, since people's motives/intents are subjective. [Edited]
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Jun 6
Emily R (Jun 06 2022 10:26AM) : I agree Avi. more

I think that the choice to be single or not is completely subjective and it is not fair to say that being single guarantees happiness. However, I think what DePaulo might be trying to say is that if a person chooses to be single and spend more time alone without any influence from another party, then they are satisfied. I believe that if anyone is forced into a relationship without the ability to give their opinion or consent, that relationship lacks a steady foundation.

The context of our choices is important, too. In the early twenty-first century, the United States continues to be a society preoccupied with marriage, weddings, and couplings; I call the over-the-top celebratory attitude associated with these activities “matrimania” (DePaulo, 2006). Those who would choose single life in the United States, then, are at risk for being put on the defensive in a way that ­people who choose marriage are not. Similarly, our long national tradition of ­fretting about the decline of community (discussed, e.g., in Klinenberg, 2012) and of caricaturing people who spend a great deal of time alone (Rufus, 2003) casts a shadow on those who would choose solitude. And yet, the demographic face of the nation is changing rapidly and in highly significant ways (DePaulo, 2006). The

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Jun 3
Elizabeth C (Jun 03 2022 11:11AM) : I definitely agree with this - there is a massive amount of attention put on marriage and weddings. Crazy bachelor and bachelorette parties, huge destination weddings, lengthy honeymoons and more are just a regular, accepted part of our culture now.
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Jun 3
Mairav L (Jun 03 2022 2:41PM) : I think Elizabeth brings up a very important point here- which speaks to our conversation this Thursday about self-concept and self-esteem and its interaction with social media. Social media definitely exacerbates this issue by flaunting wedding details.
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Blaire F (Jun 05 2022 10:51AM) : I agree with both Lizzy and Mairav. more

I think it’s also interesting to see how society’s preoccupation with weddings has become somewhat exacerbated as a result of COVID. A lot of weddings were pushed back and cancelled and now I feel like everyone is getting married. The effect of this is also much more intense as a result of social media which makes it very easy for people to post photos of their extravagant weddings and bachelor/bachelorette parties.

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Jun 6
Lexi T (Jun 06 2022 9:54AM) : I also think it is interesting to note that many people (at least the ones I see on my social media) or getting engaged and married at younger ages than before. I think this speaks volumes about social medias effect as well.
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Jun 6
Lauren S (Jun 06 2022 5:37PM) : There are a lot of great points in this thread! more

Social reward dictates much of how we behave. Social media is a prime example of this. It encourages performative-ness and preoccupation with meeting the standards that others have set – despite whether or not they are realistic. It would make sense that one would feel the need to emulate the relationship/life choices of those they follow who appear idealized to perfection.

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Jun 6
Mordy B (Jun 06 2022 8:02PM) : I think this is such a bias outlook at society. Marriage is an important aspect in our society but I don’t think it is correct to call it “preoccupied”. I don’t think society looks down at people who choose to stay single. more

I think this is such a bias outlook at society. Marriage is an important aspect in our society but I don’t think it is correct to call it “preoccupied”. I don’t think society looks down at people who choose to stay single. I am sure there are communities that look down at people who chose to stay single.

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The Handbook of Solitude: Psychological Perspectives on Social Isolation, Social Withdrawal, and Being Alone, First Edition. Edited by Robert J. Coplan and Julie C. Bowker.

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© 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Published 2014 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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Coplan, R. J., & Bowker, J. C. (Eds.) . (2014). The handbook of solitude : Psychological perspectives on social isolation, social withdrawal, and being alone. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com

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Single in a Society Preoccupied with Couples 303

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number­ of people who are single is increasing steadily and so is the number of people living alone.

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The link between living single and loving solitude is an empirical one that has not yet been fully explored. There are indications that people who stay single may be more introverted than those who marry (Marks, 1996), so perhaps they do especially­ savor their time alone (see also Zelenski, Sobocko, & Whelan, Chapter 11, this vol-ume). Yet, there is also evidence from a number of national surveys that people who are single are in some ways more connected to siblings, parents, neighbors, and friends than are people who are married (Gerstel & Sarkisian, 2006; Klinenberg, 2012) and that people who marry become less attentive­ to friends and parents than they were when they were single (Musick & Bumpass, 2012). Therefore, it is also possible that people who are single (uncoupled) prefer to spend more time alone and more time with friends and family than people who are married; what they are doing less of is spending time with a partner. So far, we just don’t know.

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Jun 6
Caryn N (Jun 06 2022 4:10PM) : Social support network more

This is interesting in light of the Finkel (2015) article, which offered the suggestion that partners can maintain a diverse social support network with whom to share emotional experiences to shoulder less responsibility in fulfilling higher-altitude needs. How attentive should we be to our social circle apart from our spouse?

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Jun 1
Myndee D (Jun 01 2022 10:02PM) : I was always very intrigued by this phenomenon - Why is it that once people get married they tend to become less attentive to friends and parents. I always wonder what prompts this sort of behavior.
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Joseph B (Jun 03 2022 8:15AM) : Great question Myndee! [Edited] more
I always wondered about this phenomonom myself until I got married. I believe the answer is that marriage brings more responsibilities which lead to much less free time than you may have been acusstomed to when you were single. With the small amount of free time that one may have, they would usually prefer to hang out with their spouse rather than friends. Weekends and during the week phonecalls and texts are crucial in order to stay in touch with friends prevent them feeling like you cut them out of their life.

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Jun 3
Avi G (Jun 03 2022 8:58AM) : I agree with Joseph. I believe that although friends are irreplaceable, marriage has an aspect of commitment and responsibility that friendship lacks. This may also answer Myndee's question
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Jun 16
Jack M (Jun 16 2022 8:59AM) : Great point. more

I agree with the point being made by Avi and Joseph. Maybe looking at a spouse as best friend could give more insight to this concept. If someone has a best friend, they are more likely to be committed to them more than others. This may even come at the expense of not spending time with other friends. And marriage is an intimate relationship, which is a little more than having a best friend.

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Jun 3
Olivia K (Jun 03 2022 9:32AM) : A shift in family structure. more

I also think that part of it may be that when someone marries a partner, they are starting a new family. They are in one way separating from the nuclear family they have always been a part of (parents and siblings) and starting a new one with their partner and maybe future children. I think this means that naturally, a lot of their attention shifts to their new family structure, and they may not be as preoccupied with delegating a lot of their attention to the family they were born into.

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Caryn N (Jun 06 2022 4:12PM) : Responding to Olivia more

Hi Olivia—I agree with your comment and feel that this shift towards spending more time with one’s partner and children is natural.

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Yoni W (Jun 03 2022 3:33PM) : From the perspective of someone with a married best friend. more

The changing dynamic between close friends after one of them gets married is something that I’ve been thinking about a lot since my best friend got married in July 2019. While we’ve still remained very close, I can certainly feel changes in the relationship and in my status as best friend. I’ve had to come to terms with the fact that I cannot and should not always be prioritized. I was considering accepting my offer to Adler university in Chicago, the program that my best friend is currently attending. While the opportunity to tackle graduate school with this friend was compelling, I recognized that while he was started a family, it might be best for my social life to remain in New York with my other close friends.

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Jun 6
Lexi T (Jun 06 2022 9:58AM) : I totally agree. more
My best friend is getting married in August and I can already see this shift taking place. She tends to go out less with her friends and if she does, she always brings her fiance along. When talking to her once, she referred to her and her fiancde as a “unit.” I think this confirms what Avi is saying that marriage has much more commitment and responsibility to it than a friendship does.

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Many other important questions about being single remain. For instance, there is ambiguity about the relative number of married versus single people living in the United States today, as I will explain in the next section. And while it is known that the number of nuclear family households in the United States has dropped markedly over the past half century, it is not clear how we are instead living today. Are we more often choosing to live alone or to live with people other than a spouse or partner? When people do choose to live alone, are they also choosing to spend more time alone?

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Jun 3
Joseph B (Jun 03 2022 8:25AM) : I am curious why people think the trend of having a nuclear family in America is decreasing?
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Olivia K (Jun 03 2022 9:36AM) : Family structure is seen in many shapes and forms today. more

I think this is because there is so much variability in the types of families we see today. I think the term nuclear family is assuming that the family is made up of two parents and their children. There are many more single-parent households and joint family households today than there were in the past. I think the term nuclear family is also assuming that the partners are married, which doesn’t always happen nowadays either.

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Jun 3
Elizabeth C (Jun 03 2022 11:14AM) : I definitely agree with Olivia on this point. In today's world it is too strict of a binary to say people are either married or single. There are single-parent homes, couples who are cohabitating, multi-generational homes and so many other combinations.
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Emily R (Jun 06 2022 10:40AM) : I agree with Liv and Lizzy. more

The term “family” in American today can take on many forms that do not fit the stereotypical nuclear family. I like how Liv brought up the assumption of marriage because I think it is something our society is slowly pulling away from given its somewhat ancient connotations. A family is not defined by a marriage, and I feel like recently a lot of couples choose not to wed to avoid expectations that married couple has.

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Nevertheless, our understandings of what it means to be single and what it means to spend time alone are growing more sophisticated. Many Americans – as well as people in many other parts of the world – still believe that single people are not as happy or healthy or selfless or sociable as people who are coupled and perhaps­ also that if only they would marry, their emotional and social lives would be so much better (DePaulo, 2011b; Greitemeyer, 2009; Morris, DePaulo, Hertel, & Ritter, 2008). But those prejudi-cial perceptions are not nearly as damning as they were in the 1950s (Klinenberg, 2012). And there are ways in which single people today are viewed more positively than mar-ried people – for example, as less dependent (DePaulo & Morris, 2006).

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Jun 1
Zehava G (Jun 01 2022 2:57PM) : I wonder how technology and social media would play into this discussion. Today, people could be physically alone but very interconnected with others through social media, video calls, etc. In that way, maybe single people are even more sociable.
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Miriam S (Jun 01 2022 5:59PM) : That is a good point Zehava. I can see both sides to this. Although during Covid-19 people still felt lonely with all the social media access and phone calls possible. I think people crave the human intimacy that comes with in-person contact.
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Jun 1
Myndee D (Jun 01 2022 9:55PM) : I think that is a really good point Zehava. While social media allows individuals to be more social in a sense and may fill certain voids it also masks the human need of in-person contact.
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Ryan S (Jun 02 2022 10:33AM) : I think that social media could exacerbate loneliness... I was thinking back to when Valentine's day rolls around and how some of my single friends tend to stay off of instagram because they don't want to see the pictures of happy couples [Edited]
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Rose A (Jun 06 2022 9:31AM) : I was interested in your comment so I did a quick search and overall the connection between social media use and loneliness is contradicting and inconclusive until one investigates how the individual utilizes and engages with content. [Edited] more

From (doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2021.e05999) The results showed that rumination and upward social comparison [as we discussed in last class] on Facebook were significantly associated with loneliness. Facebook users who ruminate and compare themselves to their perceived superiors on Facebook are more likely to experience loneliness. — This research helps me understand how some people are more negatively impacted by social media than others. Nonetheless, I agree with the previous comments that social media could lead to greater feelings of loneliness and that there is no substitute for physical human connection.

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Lauren S (Jun 06 2022 4:36PM) : Great point Zehava. It begs the question - how do social media behaviors manifest outside of the digital world? [Edited] more

One may take comfort in the pseudo-relationships that such platforms allow and, yet, feel unable to achieve similar camaraderie in the real world. With this understanding, it could be fair to assert that social media maintains feelings of isolation and loneliness, as it provides “just enough” social reinforcement to encourage use, while hindering deeper exploration of real-world relationships.

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For decades, our cultural conversations and our academic writings have been dominated by concerns about loneliness and isolation (Wesselmann, Williams, Ren, & Hales, Chapter 13, this volume). Have we become a “lonely crowd”? asked sociologist David Riesman in 1963. Are we “bowling alone”? wondered Robert Putnam at the turn of the twenty-first century (Putnam, 2000). More recently, though, our scholarly perspectives have been shifting. Searches of psychology ­databases increasingly return articles on solitude and not just loneliness. A book on loneliness by a preeminent social scientist received considerable attention (Cacioppo & Patrick, 2008). A few years later, a book more relevant to the sweetness of solitude,

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Jun 3
Olivia K (Jun 03 2022 6:45PM) : Solitude does not equal loneliness more

I really agree that society tends to think that those who spend time alone must be lonely. But the two aren’t synonymous. I’ve thought about this differentiation a lot since I moved here and started living alone. Sure there have been many times I feel lonely, but the fact that I spend time alone at home does not automatically warrant feelings of loneliness. I think learning to love spending time on your own is a skill that everyone should try out. It was hard for me at first, but there is a lot to be said about being comfortable and able to do things in solitude.

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Elizabeth C (Jun 03 2022 8:17PM) : I really like this! I think it's really important that people learn to be alone (thanks Dr. Knafo) and experience doing things by themselves for themselves.
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Yoni W (Jun 04 2022 12:39AM) : Alone time can be nice! more

I also really like this point. personally, I feel like a good balance between socializing and alone time is crucial for my mental health. knowing that you can enjoy yourself even when you can’t necessarily get together with your friends is comforting.

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Jun 6
Lexi T (Jun 06 2022 7:01PM) : 100% agree! It is so important that we take the time to check in with ourselves and make sure we as individuals are doing ok on our own first. Being able to be alone and comfortable with yourself can also reduce the risk of codependency in relationships.
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Jun 6
Sorrel J (Jun 06 2022 7:53PM) : I wonder how much of this is dependent on culture. Collectivist cultures might have a higher threshold for what those in an individualist culture would label as codependency. In other words, where is the line between interdependence and codependency?
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Jun 16
Jack M (Jun 16 2022 6:00PM) : I think it really depends on each specific person's needs. Some need more alone time and others more social time. I don't think any extreme is good for mental health.
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Jun 5
Blaire F (Jun 05 2022 7:53PM) : I definitely agree with this point! I think it's important that someone is able to be comfortable with themselves before entering into a relationship and relying too heavily on someone else for their happiness or sense of comfort.
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Jun 7
Lauren S (Jun 07 2022 2:10AM) : This is a great point Olivia! more

I agree that the distinction between being alone and feeling lonely is vital. It is certainly possible to feel content while being alone. I find alone time incredibly centering, as it can pave the way for deep reflection and introspection. In this respect, being alone can positively contribute to our self-reliance and overall self-concept. I believe it would be fair to assert that when we become comfortable and/or content with being alone, we are less likely to feel the brunt of loneliness itself.

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Quiet: The power of introverts in a world that can’t stop talking (Cain, 2012), made an even bigger­ splash as it quickly ascended to the New York Times bestseller list.

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Joseph B (Jun 03 2022 11:27AM) : Terrific book!
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In the following pages, I will explore the many shades of single life in a culture preoccupied with couples. I’ll examine recent demographic trends in marital status

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Coplan, R. J., & Bowker, J. C. (Eds.) . (2014). The handbook of solitude : Psychological perspectives on social isolation, social withdrawal, and being alone. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com

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Created from molloy on 2020-05-27 05:34:36.

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304 Bella DePaulo

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and living arrangements in the United States and assess whether people are judged harshly when they appear alone in public. I will also review the evidence on how the experiences of loneliness and solitude differ for people of different marital statuses­ and different attitudes toward single life.

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Are We a Society of Married Couples or a Society of Singles? The Demographics

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Of the many questions I have been asked by reporters, my all-time favorite is, “What do you think it is like for married people to live in a society dominated by singles?” She was not referring to cultural dominance, but to the greater number of single than married people in contemporary American society.

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The claim that singles rule, numerically, has been made in high-profile places, such as a 2007 New York Times article titled “51% of women are now living without spouse” (Roberts, 2007). The Times made some decisions about counting that I would not have made. For example, they recorded marital status for people 15 and older; I think a more appropriate age is 18. By the latter standard, unmarried Americans are not the majority.

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Jun 3
Elizabeth C (Jun 03 2022 11:18AM) : Kind of crazy that the New York Times choose 15 as a good age marker for "married" versus "single".
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Andie Y (Jun 05 2022 1:07PM) : Good reminder that highlights the importance for us to look at methodology and not take a study for face value just because of the name/author!
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Rose A (Jun 06 2022 9:41AM) : I agree it's crazy. What's crazier though is the fact that child marriage is still legal in the US with parental consent and a judge's approval. Minnesota, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware are the only states where 18 is the legal age to get married more

So in theory including marital status as young as 15 is a possibility, though, of course this may be a more complex issue.

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Emily R (Jun 06 2022 10:51AM) : .. more

This may be a hot take, but I think that the word “married” should not be used for a 15-year-old. The word loses meaning and purpose when it represents a child committing to something for the rest of their life. It’s not my intention to disrespect the values in some cultures, but when the NYT includes married 15 year old’s in their population, the word “marriage” is different for me.

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Still, the broader point the Times article made, that the number (and percentage) of unmarried Americans is large and has been growing for decades, is indeed accurate­. As of 2011, there were 102 million Americans, 18 and older, who were divorced or widowed or had always been single. That’s 44.1% of the adult popula-tion. (The number decreases to 88.4 million if people in cohabiting couples, both same sex and opposite sex, are subtracted.) In 1970, only about 38 million Americans 18 and older were not married or 28% of the population.

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There is another way in which married couples truly are in the minority. As of 2011, only about 49% of all households included a married couple (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). In 1970, the same figure was approximately 70% (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006). Pick an American home at random and walk through the front door – chances are you will not find a married couple to greet you.

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Now that singles have marched into the mainstream of American society, at least numerically, does that mean that they are fully integrated into everyday social life? There are many different ways to approach that question, but only a few are represented in the published literature. I’ll review those next.

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Is American Social Life Organized around Couples? Inclusion and Exclusion of People Who Are Single

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There is a story I hear from other single people with some regularity. Versions of it have cropped up in my email inboxes, in the comments sections of my blog posts, and in informal conversations. The gist is that the single person in question

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Coplan, R. J., & Bowker, J. C. (Eds.) . (2014). The handbook of solitude : Psychological perspectives on social isolation, social withdrawal, and being alone. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com

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Created from molloy on 2020-05-27 05:34:36.

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Single in a Society Preoccupied with Couples 305

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has been good friends with another person for some time, but the single person starts to become marginalized once the friend becomes seriously coupled. Often, ties are maintained through the wedding, when the single person springs for gifts and sometimes travel expenses, too. Then, nothing. The friend has now entered the Married Couples Club and socializes primarily with other couples.

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I blog about the topic occasionally, and inevitably married people chime in and object, saying that it is the single person who has excluded their now-coupled friend. It would be possible to conduct a longitudinal study in which groups of friends record their contacts with one another, including reports of who initiated the outings, to see what is really happening when one friend becomes involved in a committed romantic relationship and perhaps marries, while another stays ­single. That study has not yet been done.

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Elizabeth C (Jun 03 2022 8:21PM) : Great dissertation topic???

What the empirical literature does offer are (i) studies of how couples’ interac-tions with their friends change as their romantic relationship becomes more serious,­ but with no record of the relationship status of the friends (Johnson & Leslie, 1982; Milardo, Johnson, & Huston, 1983; Surra, 1985); (ii) cross-sectional research on the number of friends or confidants that people of different life stages or relationship statuses report (Dunbar study, described in Amos, 2010; Kalmijn, 2003); and (iii) a longitudinal study of the time people spend with friends before and after partnering, but again with no data on the relationship status of the friends (Musick & Bumpass, 2012).

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In a phenomenon dubbed dyadic withdrawal, research indicates that couples spend more time only with each other as their relationship becomes more serious­ (Milardo et al., 1983; Surra, 1985). Gradually, casual friends and acquaintances are marginalized. Initially, close friends are not completely excluded, but their opinions are valued less than they once were (Johnson & Leslie, 1982). We can-not know from this research whether the friends who were marginalized were mostly single.

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Sorrel J (Jun 04 2022 6:00PM) : The suffocation model reminds us that to meet the higher level needs of one's partner requires a lot of of bandwidth. more

Maintaining other relationships ties up bandwidth, so pruning friendships or becoming less involved with them can increase the time and psychological resources available for nurturing the romantic relationship. That’s not to say I think people shouldn’t prioritize other relationships while partnered—I think being close with people other than a romantic partner can be meaningful and fulfilling too. Trade-offs abound.

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Studies of divorced and widowed people suggest that married couples become less important to their social lives than they were when they were married (Milardo, 1987; Morgan, Carter, & Neal, 1997). This research however leaves unanswered the question of whether the previously married people were excluded by couples who prefer to socialize with other couples or whether the newly single people step back from their previous engagements with couples or both.

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Zehava G (Jun 01 2022 3:02PM) : I wonder if socializing with couples may serve as a painful reminder of what once was. Perhaps that is at the core of why divorced or widowed people may withdraw?
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Miriam S (Jun 01 2022 6:01PM) : Sadly.. and as a single person gets older their friends start getting married, so may be they stop hanging out with those friends so they dont feel the pain of being single...unless they are truly happy being single..
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Ryan S (Jun 02 2022 10:39AM) : I also think about how when single people socialize with couples they are "third wheeling" and how there is a negative attitude about this kind of plans
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Yoni W (Jun 03 2022 3:41PM) : Third wheeling can definitely suck. more

Without careful communication about what feels right and wrong, these outings can certainly be difficult.

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Ryan S (Jun 07 2022 7:20AM) : While I agree with this, I am wondering why it is taboo to hang out with a couple? Why is it expected that the couple should only hang out alone or with other couples?
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In 2010, the BBC described the results of research presented at a conference by anthropologist Robin Dunbar in an article titled Falling in love costs you friends (Amos, 2010). Adults completed an online survey in which they listed the people they could approach for help at times of crisis. Participants who were in a romantic relationship named four people, plus their partner – singles named 5.8. Dunbar suggested that people who become romantically attached give up two friends (the one their partner replaces plus one other). Because the research was cross-­sectional, though, we cannot know for sure whether people who become coupled really do drop an average of two friends.

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Olivia K (Jun 03 2022 6:54PM) : I can see both sides to this idea. more

I have felt firsthand that being with a partner long-term in some ways takes off the pressure to maintain relationships with other friends or makes you less likely to put yourself out there to meet new people, because you already have your safety net in a way. But constrastingly, it is a really beautiful thing to grow with your partner and to make friends with other couples. In my experience, as I have grown with my partner, I have more of a desire for this. So I think this idea of wanting to be friends and socialize with other couples is interesting compared tot he finding of dyadic withdrawal.

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Blaire F (Jun 05 2022 7:57PM) : This is a very interesting finding. more

While it is expected that people in a relationship don’t necessarily need to confide in their friends as much as people who are single, I think it’s still important to have a range of people you can count on. I don’t necessarily think that being in a relationship should mean you lose these diverse connections.

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Lexi T (Jun 06 2022 7:04PM) : Agree! It is important to have someone outside of your relationship to vent to or get advice from. But, I have noticed that people in relationships tend to confide in their friends less about things and I assume this is because they are now confiding in S
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Coplan, R. J., & Bowker, J. C. (Eds.) . (2014). The handbook of solitude : Psychological perspectives on social isolation, social withdrawal, and being alone. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com

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Created from molloy on 2020-05-27 05:34:36.

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WileyJohn .2014

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306 Bella DePaulo

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More compelling than Dunbar’s research is a Dutch study based on a repre-sentative national sample of nearly 3000 adults. Participants named up to five of their best friends, not counting their spouse or romantic partner (if they had one) or children (Kalmijn, 2003). Results were compared for people at different life stages and relationship statuses, such as single and not dating, dating, living together without children, living together with children, and empty nesters. Kalmijn found that the number of friends, as well as the number of contacts with friends, tended to decrease across the different categories. Singles, for example, reported an average of four close friends, whereas empty nesters reported three. Again, though, the study was cross-sectional.

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A study that comes closest to answering the question of whether getting ­partnered results in spending less time with friends is a 6-year longitudinal study of more than 2700 American adults (Musick & Bumpass, 2012). At the outset, all were under 50, single, and not cohabiting. Those who became partnered over the course of the first 3 years of the study spent less time with their friends (and had less ­contact with their parents) than those who stayed single.

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It is possible that couples are especially attuned to each other at the beginning of their relationship and reconnect with the other people in their lives later on. But the results of the study suggest that this is not what typically occurs. Instead, those who had been partnered for at least 4 years, and up to 6 years, also were less connected­ to their friends and their parents than those who stayed single. There was no difference in attending to friends and parents between those who were newly partnered and those who had been partnered for at least 4 years. We do not know whether the friends who were marginalized were disproportionately single.

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Olivia K (Jun 03 2022 6:56PM) : I think of this as the honeymoon phase of a relationship. In the beginning, all you care about is your partner and may exclude other friends.
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Because single people, at least by some measures, have more friends and ­confidants than partnered people do, they are not dependent on their friends who got coupled for companionship. They can go out to dinner, movies, sporting events, and all the rest with their other friends. But suppose they do decide to, say, dine alone. Will they be seen as social rejects who cannot find one other person to hang out with, as some of them seem to fear?

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Single or Coupled in Public: Who Cares?

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One of the first studies I conducted when I set out to learn about single people and their place in society was an elegant and elaborate experiment on perceptions of the solo diner. Suppose you see someone dining alone – what do you think of that person?

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Ryan S (Jun 02 2022 10:41AM) : This is really interesting to me because we automatically assume that they have no one to hang out with, but maybe they had a different time off from their friends or partner, and doesn't mean they are lonely.
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Olivia K (Jun 03 2022 9:58AM) : I agree.
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Elizabeth C (Jun 03 2022 11:30AM) : Yeah, I work in a restaurant and the default is to kind of judge and make fun of the people who come in alone. more

However, we had a single woman come in the other day because she was saying goodbye to her childhood home after dropping her elderly father off at a home due to his severe Alzheimer’s. It’s important to remember that we don’t know everyone’s story or what they are going through and maybe they just need a meal out alone to cope with their lives.

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Rose A (Jun 06 2022 10:09AM) : Yes, it can be a form of coping! For me, going to a coffee shop, or trying out something new at a restaurant alone, or going on a walk by myself can be fun and a form of self-care. When I find myself busy and overwhelmed being by myself grounds me.
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Mairav L (Jun 03 2022 2:48PM) : This was a running dare I had with friends- to be "brave" enough to eat a restaurant alone. I finally did it, and felt myself turning to my phone many times, trying to avoid the feeling of being "seen alone." I wonder why we stigmatize this so much?

I don’t know of any statistics on the frequency with which people dine alone. Look around at any full-service restaurant, though, and you will see that the lone diners are the exceptions. I thought that at least one of the reasons for this apparent reticence about going out to dinner on your own was a concern about how other people would see you. Those contemplating dining solo would worry, I ­presumed,

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Emily R (Jun 06 2022 8:05PM) : . more

I think it is hard for people to dine alone because even before entering there is an expectation that more than one person is coming in and it could be uncomfortable to say, “just one.” Also, the tables in a restaurant are customarily set up with two or more chairs. There are never tables with just one chair and place setting so when a person is dining alone, the server has to awkwardly take it away.

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Jack M (Jun 16 2022 6:02PM) : Same sometimes I'll want to go out to a cafe to do some work and get a bite but hesitate because how I would be viewed if friends walked in when I was there.
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Coplan, R. J., & Bowker, J. C. (Eds.) . (2014). The handbook of solitude : Psychological perspectives on social isolation, social withdrawal, and being alone. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com

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Created from molloy on 2020-05-27 05:34:36.

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WileyJohn .2014

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Single in a Society Preoccupied with Couples 307

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that other people would see them as losers who don’t have anyone. Therefore, the first step of my research was to see how people really do view the solo diner. Wendy Morris and Cathy Popp, my colleagues in this enterprise, found an attractive­ restaurant willing to let us send in our various diners and take pictures.

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Methodologically, of course, it is not enough simply to collect judgments of solo diners. We also needed to see how the same people would be perceived when they were dining with someone else. We also asked whether perceptions would be different if the same people dined with someone of the other or same sex. What if they were one person in a group of four – two men and two women? Would it matter if the diners were younger (20-something) or somewhat older (40-something)?

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We began by taking pictures of four 20-somethings (two men and two women) and four 40-somethings (again, two men and two women) sitting in a booth. Then, in addition to using those photos of the foursomes just as they were, we photoshopped the pictures so that each person appeared to be dining alone or with a person of the other sex or with a person of the same sex. It was important to use the same photo each time, so that the facial expression and posture of the person was exactly the same regardless of whether they were pictured as dining alone or with one or more other people. We then brought our photos to a shopping­ mall and asked hundreds of adults to look at a designated person in a picture and tell us why that person went out to dinner that evening. If the picture was of a person dining solo, we asked them why they thought the person went out to dinner alone.

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We coded the responses and analyzed them. We never published our findings. Journals do not like null effects and that’s all we found. What the shoppers thought of the solo diners was no different than what they thought of the same diners when they appeared to be out with one other person or several other people. It didn’t matter if the diner was male or female or younger or older, and it didn’t matter­ whether the person the diner was with (when shown with one other person)­ was the same sex or the other sex. That’s not to say that the solo diners were never scoffed at. They were. But in equal measure, so were the people who were shown dining with someone else.

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Jun 3
Elizabeth C (Jun 03 2022 8:31PM) : This is definitely true of the restaurant where I work!
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Emily R (Jun 06 2022 8:05PM) : . [Edited]

About the solo diners, some people made remarks such as “He is lonely,” “Doesn’t have many friends,” and “She looks depressed.” But when evaluating ­pictures of a man and a woman dining together, people were equally judgmental. For example, they made comments such as:

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• They went to dinner “to have a talk because their relationship needs some mending.”

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“She is upset.”

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“He thought he liked her.”

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They wanted to “get away from the children.”

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She went out to dinner with him “out of obligation – she’s married to him.”

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Coplan, R. J., & Bowker, J. C. (Eds.) . (2014). The handbook of solitude : Psychological perspectives on social isolation, social withdrawal, and being alone. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com

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Created from molloy on 2020-05-27 05:34:36.

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308 Bella DePaulo

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Others offered kind words about the pairs of men and women having dinner together. For example, they said that the man was out to “dinner with his wife for fun” or that the two are having a “fine, quiet conversation.” Others said that “they are very close” or that “they enjoy spending time together.”

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Yet equally as often, participants had nonjudgmental or positive things to say about the solo diners. For example:

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“Enjoying a few good peaceful moments.”

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“She just wanted to eat by herself.”

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“Traveling.”

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“He seems to be enjoying his dinner.”

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“Wanted time to ponder.”

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And my favorite: “He is secure.”

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Olivia K (Jun 03 2022 7:01PM) : I love this. more

Like I mentioned before, spending time with yourself in public and especially dining alone in a sit-down restaurant can be a scary thing. When I see people doing this I think that they are so secure in who they are. They don’t rely on others to go out and have a nice time. Maybe this isn’t always the case, but I think sometimes it is.

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Sorrel J (Jun 04 2022 5:33PM) : I completely agree. more

I also tend to admire people when I see them dining alone, particularly when it is a woman (or feminine presenting individual), for some reason.

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Jun 5
Blaire F (Jun 05 2022 8:01PM) : I thought this was a really interesting study. more

Whenever I see people dining alone I tend to feel sorry for them. I don’t view them as being “loners” but I do wonder if they’re happy… this study made me realize how dining alone doesn’t mean someone is lonely and can actually be viewed in a positive light (they’re secure, he/she is enjoying dinner or taking this time to relax and enjoy him or herself etc.)

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We never did do the study in which we asked people how they thought they would be judged, depending on whether they were dining alone or with one or more other people. However, Gilovich and Savitsky (1999) have documented an important­ phenomenon that may be relevant – “people’s tendency to overestimate the extent to which their behavior and appearance are noticed and evaluated by others” (p. 165). They call it the “spotlight effect,” after the scene from the movie The lonely guy in which Steve Martin walks into a restaurant alone and a spotlight follows him as he is led to his table. So perhaps what other people think of solo diners, when not prompted to evaluate a photo, is nothing at all – they don’t even notice them.

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Jun 5
Topaz B (Jun 05 2022 8:38PM) : The spotlight effect goes back to our conversation in our previous class about self esteem and self reliance. more

It is not uncommon that we as humans feel like everyone can see every little detail about ourselves, whether it is our appearance, how we talk or present ourselves in social situations. Bringing forth unwanted attention that is less favorable can be intimidating and probably uncomfortable. But do people who are single do it to themselves becuase they are constantly surrounded by couples or is this another aspect of one’s low self esteem? Is there a connection to low self esteem and being single or wanting to remain single?

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Living Alone or Living Together:

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What Are Twenty-First-Century Americans Choosing?

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Avi G (Jun 03 2022 5:51PM) : Seeing the changing demographics of living in modern-day America, I wonder how Erikson's stage of Intimacy vs Isolation will change.
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Rose A (Jun 06 2022 7:22PM) : In my opinion, I think this developmental stage would still apply as I believe people desire relationships and intimacy with others whether romantic or platonic. more

Though as I’m typing this, I began to wonder if this person could still accomplish a deeper intimacy within a non-romantic, platonic relationship as in a committed relationship. The love my boyfriend and I share is different than the love I share with my friends and these relationships are fulfilling in various ways. I guess it’s possible, but I’m not sold just yet lol.

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Since the mid-twentieth century, single-family detached houses have dominated the housing market (Hayden, 2002). The homes were envisioned as havens for mom, dad, and the kids. Nuclear families, though, are no longer the prevailing household form. So how are we living now?

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In his book Going solo: The extraordinary rise and surprising appeal of living alone, sociologist Eric Klinenberg (2012) documents the dramatic increase in solo living in the United States. In 1950, four million Americans lived alone, accounting for 9% of all households; as of 2011, 33 million Americans are living solo, amounting to 28% of all households (U.S. Census Bureau, 2011). As striking as those numbers are, the United States is hardly at the forefront of this major social change. Countries with even higher percentages of single-person households include Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, accounting for about 40–45% of all households.

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Jack M (Jun 16 2022 6:05PM) : I wonder what other factors contribute to someone choosing to live alone. Does inflation and higher living expenses within a certain community contribute to wanting to live alone.
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Does the increase in the number of people living alone mean that the people of the United States – and other countries evidencing the same trend – are at

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Coplan, R. J., & Bowker, J. C. (Eds.) . (2014). The handbook of solitude : Psychological perspectives on social isolation, social withdrawal, and being alone. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com

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Single in a Society Preoccupied with Couples 309

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risk for growing isolation and loneliness? Klinenberg (2012) acknowledges that there is a potential for dire outcomes, especially among those with the fewest resources of wealth or well-being. More often, though, among the urban solo dwellers who were the focus of his research, their story was about connection and social ­participation rather than withdrawal. Urban dwellers who live alone have a ­number of important options for maintaining their interpersonal and civic ties. First, they can walk out the door and find their way to cultural events, political events, restaurants, shops, and bookstores. Second, even without ever leaving home, they can stay in touch with others with Internet connections and social media.

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Jun 5
Blaire F (Jun 05 2022 8:09PM) : Social media is in some ways a double edge sword. more

As we discussed in last class, social media allows you to stay in touch with others no matter how far away they are. But, I think going on social media and seeing what other people are doing can lead to upward comparison and make you feel worse about yourself.

At the end of his book-length review of the relevant research, Klinenberg (2012) offers these conclusions as to what the growth of solo dwellers means for individu-als and society:

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…young and middle-age singletons have helped to revitalize the public life of cities, because they are more likely than those who live with others to spend time with friends and neighbors, to frequent bars, cafes, and restaurants, and to participate in informal social activities as well as civic groups…cultural acceptance of living alone has helped to liberate women from bad marriages and oppressive families…living alone has given people a way to achieve restorative solitude as well as the freedom to engage in intensely social experiences. Surprisingly, it has given people the personal time and space that we sometimes need to make deep and meaningful social connections­ – whether with another person, a community, a cause, or our selves (pp. 230–231).

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Alongside the trend toward living alone is another, very different pattern – the growth in people living together with people other than a spouse or partner. In 2010, 30.1% of all American adults – more than 69 million people – lived in shared housing. That was 18.7% of all households. What is proliferating is a variety of ways of living, and what is shrinking is the number of people living in the way so often regarded as traditional – in a nuclear family.

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The rise of solo living is linked to economic factors, as it is typically more expen-sive for a person to own or rent their own place than to share the costs of housing. People who live alone are those who can afford to do so. (Census Bureau statistics on types of households do not include group facilities such as nursing homes or prisons.) On the flip side, the recent growth in sharing housing has arisen in part because of the economic recession that dates officially from December 2007 to June 2009 (Mykyta & Macartney, 2012). When Census Bureau demographers studied­ trends between 2007 and 2010, they found that while the adult population had grown by 2.9%, those sharing housing with people other than a spouse or partner grew by 11.1% (Mykyta & Macartney, 2012).

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Yet it does not appear to be economic factors alone that motivate many people to live with friends, siblings, parents, adult children, and other relatives. Home sharing is often part of a larger movement toward living in community, which

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Coplan, R. J., & Bowker, J. C. (Eds.) . (2014). The handbook of solitude : Psychological perspectives on social isolation, social withdrawal, and being alone. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com

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310 Bella DePaulo

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includes, for example, the creation of cohousing communities and ecovillages, and, more informally, simply committing to making existing neighborhoods more neighborly (Living in Community Network, 2012; Manzella, 2010). The Living in Community Network explains that their vision is to “create sustainable communi-ties where we can live in a mutually supportive environment with others of like mind and shared values that enrich our lives through friendship, life-long learning, and civic engagement.”

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Our choice of living situations is perhaps the most fundamental way in which we attempt to regulate the mix of time we spend alone versus with other people. The ideal ratio of time alone to time with others varies greatly from person to person. People who live alone may have more options to spend more time alone, whereas those who live with others may have more access to easy sociability. People who live alone in cities can walk out the door and see other people on the streets, but people who share a house can walk out their bedroom doors and see other people in the hallways, kitchen, and living room.

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Elizabeth C (Jun 03 2022 11:36AM) : This is a really good point. more

It’s easy living in NYC to walk outside and get that human connection, even if not directly. People who live in the suburbs might get this connection through living in shared homes or with roommates.

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Yoni W (Jun 03 2022 3:44PM) : NYC is an interesting place because I've found that even though it is constantly moving and bustling, the city can often feel strangely lonely. I wonder if seeing all of these people with their own relationships can cause others to feel alone?
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Blaire F (Jun 05 2022 11:06AM) : This is an interesting topic to discuss... more

I live alone in NYC and there are definitely times I feel lonely. I don’t leave my apartment and see people on the streets and feel less lonely. In fact, sometimes it makes it harder because I see people walking around with their significant other, best friends, or kids and it can make you feel even more isolated. However, living in the city makes it very easy for me to get on a subway or walk to meet my friends for dinner, drinks, or to walk around.

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Andie Y (Jun 05 2022 1:10PM) : It can be hard for me to see so many people with others out on the streets in NYC (romantic partners or otherwise), if I walk around alone at times. But one thing I love about the city is that people don't really superficially care what others are doing, more

since we see so many “bizarre” behaviors in general.

In cohousing, a concept brought from Denmark to the United States in the early 1990s by architect Charles Durrett (Durrett, 2009; McCamant & Durrett, 2011), a group of people come together to create a cluster of housing designed to foster community. Residences typically face an open, green space inaccessible to cars that is a safe place for kids to play and an inviting place for neighbors to chat. Each person­ or set of persons owns or rents their own living space; cohousing is not an old-style commune. Yet there are communal aspects. For example, cohousing communities include a common house in which community members share meals, typically a few times a week. Individual households have their own ­kitchens, so members can prepare their own meals when they are not dining in the common house. Cohousing members generate their own income at jobs that are not part of the cohousing community. They are not making hammocks and tofu to sell in order to generate money for the community as a whole, as do the members of the Twin Oaks commune (based roughly on B. F. Skinner’s Walden two (Skinner, 1948/1976)). Cohousing communities do, though, try to maintain a nonhierarchi-cal structure in which everyone shares in decision-making and helps to maintain the common grounds.

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Emily R (Jun 06 2022 8:15PM) : . more

Last year I lived in my sorority house with 35 other women. It was honestly the best time of my life because I had constant entertainment and stimulation. Regardless of my relationship status, I would like to live with friends in NYC for few years because I know how much joy it would bring me.

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The Census Bureau definitions of types of households do not fully capture the psychology of different living situations. The person who lives alone in a single-family detached dwelling in a sprawling suburb and the person who owns a home of their own in a cohousing community are both counted as living in one-person households. Yet the two have very different experiences of community and prob-ably of solitude, too.

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The various ways that we live comprise one of the most understudied and underappreciated components of solitude. How we achieve or avoid soli-tude and how we experience it have a lot to do with the living arrangements of our lives.

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Coplan, R. J., & Bowker, J. C. (Eds.) . (2014). The handbook of solitude : Psychological perspectives on social isolation, social withdrawal, and being alone. Retrieved from http://ebookcentral.proquest.com

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Created from molloy on 2020-05-27 05:34:36.

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.reserved rightsAll

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.Incorporated Sons,&

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WileyJohn .2014

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©Copyright

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Single in a Society Preoccupied with Couples 311

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The Experience of Loneliness: Does Marrying Make

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You Less Vulnerable?

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