By 2013, it was 23%.
Not getting married is even more widespread. Over 50% of American adults are now single, compared with 37% in 1976.
But as as Kate Bolick, the author of “Spinster: Making A Life of One’s Own,” tells Business Insider, America remains obsessed with coupledom — meaning there’s little in the way of advice out there for people who want to be contentedly single.
“All of us grow up with the expectation that we’ll get married,” says Bolick, who’s a contributing editor for the Atlantic. “Society is organised around marriage, and the expectation is more pronounced for women.”
In “Spinster,” out in hardcover this week, Bolick weaves together her own adventures in solitude with a history of single women in American culture, notably profiling New Yorker writer Maeve Brennan and the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Edith Wharton.
Bolick shared with us some of her best advice about being single.
“Living alone requires really getting to know yourself, figuring out what you need in order to feel strong and healthy and happy,” Bolick says. “There’s no set prescription for what each of us needs; we have to figure it out. For me, there was a process of learning to be more conscientious with my time, so that I was creating a more purposeful solitude that felt nourishing.”
Accept that there will be loneliness.
“If you’re living alone, loneliness is a real thing,” Bolick says. “There’s nothing shameful about it — some loneliness can and should be withstood, and it exists within couples as well. It’s an emotional state like happiness or fear. It’s temporary unless it’s not addressed. Don’t be afraid of loneliness, but also be mindful of what kind of balance you need between solitude and socialising.”
As a Buddhist might say, loneliness is something that will almost certainly surface in your mind when you’re living on your own — and will almost certainly depart. The key is to observe it rather than be upset by it.
Be in a space that you love.
“For me, it’s been so important to find a physical space that I love,” Bolick says. “My apartment, I find it to be beautiful, though somebody else might not. It’s very old, it doesn’t have luxury conveniences, and I would not mind a washer-dryer or a dishwasher — but there is something about the space that is very beautiful and calming to me. It is a haven that I come home to.”
In other words, find your own feng shui.
Take care of your friendships.
“The idea of the ‘friend tribe’ was first written about in the early ’90s,” Bolick says. “It was shown to us on ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Sex and the City’ — it’s the celebration and romanticization of adult friendship.”
Social science has found friendship to be crucial for coupled up and single people alike. Everything from our self-reported levels of happiness to the size of our waistlines is associated with the friends we have. Taking care of those friendships requires making people feel like they matter — like by asking them for favours, for instance.
“Since the age of marriage has been rising, friendship has taken on a more essential role,” Bolick says. “Our friends have become a much more integral part of our well-being.”
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