At the beginning of last year, single empowerment was at its peak – thanks to self-partnered celebrities such as Emma Watson, more and more people were shunning the stigma of singledom and embracing a life on their own terms. However, new research from dating expert Match has found that 52 per cent have experienced single-shaming since the start of the pandemic.
Almost two fifths (38 per cent) say they’ve been pitied for not having a partner, and living alone (30 per cent), despite 59 per cent feeling content with their relationship status. In fact, 42 per cent say they’ve enjoyed being unattached during the pandemic and have used this time to learn new skills (33 per cent), re-evaluate their lives (28 per cent) as well as enjoying getting to know new people on virtual dates (10 per cent).
Whilst many are happy being single, the situation differs for others. Over a quarter (27 per cent) say they are actively dating in the hope of finding a potential partner, whilst 61 per cent would like to find someone but don’t want to rush into a relationship with the wrong person. A further 31 per cent have enjoyed how the pandemic has slowed down dating, by giving them the opportunity to get to know someone in much more depth than would have been the case IRL.
However, 37 per cent of singles say the pandemic has also boosted questions from concerned friends and family about how their love life is going. Whilst these questions are asked with good intentions, they are often misjudged as one in five (20 per cent) say it makes them feel as though they need a partner to be successful.
Unfortunately, almost half of singles (49 per cent) believe there is still a stigma attached to being single. But single-shaming is only one of the pressures that these people face – even before the pandemic, daters were having to adapt to new opinions, terminology and technology, as well as combatting outdated stereotypes.
The social scene
In 2018, research from Match showed that three quarters of singles believe that social media, TV and films are giving people unrealistic expectations of romantic relationships. In fact, both couples (36 per cent) and singles (33 per cent) alike felt disillusioned by images of ‘perfect’ relationships online. Heavy users of social media (those who check social media ten times or more each day) are also less likely to be satisfied with being single compared to intermittent users (54 per cent vs 61 per cent).
The language of love
During the first lockdown, Match unearthed new dating practices that have arisen as a result of extended social distancing measures, such as ‘flu-merang’ – being contacted by a bored ex or past acquaintance during the crisis and ‘date-piling’ – lining up a number of real-life dates for when the restrictions lift. 44 per cent say they can’t keep up with the abundance of new phases that emerge relating to dating and 46 per cent think dating ten years ago was a much simpler time.
Informal dating and breaking bad habits
Almost three fifths (58 per cent) believe dating has become less formal in the past few years, with the same percentage believing this has led to bad habits, such as the ability to cancel at a moment’s notice. A staggering 44 per cent of singles have experienced ‘breadcrumbing’ and ‘ghosting’ (45 per cent) in the past.
Match’s dating expert, Hayley Quinn says: “Being single isn’t a waiting room for something better to happen in your life. Whilst a lot of singles will be actively looking to meet that special someone, many will also be really content with their life as it is. That’s why single-shaming is so annoying; it assumes that we all want the same kind of relationship, at the same time. Most people wouldn’t dream of asking someone, ‘so you still haven’t bought a house yet?’, however when it comes to our love lives, it can feel like suddenly everyone has an opinion!
“Finding a meaningful relationship is an amazing thing but being single can also be one of the best of times of your life. You’ll never have so much time for personal development, self-care and to go after your goals. If those goals involve finding commitment, then having a fantastic relationship with yourself first will mean you go on to make better choices as to who you share your life with. So, it’s high time that we became aware that there’s not just one way someone can be happy and dropped the single-shaming.”
The top 10 most common single-shaming phrases heard by singles:
- 1. You’ll find someone soon – 38 per cent
- 2. You must be so lonely – 29 per cent
- 3. I can’t believe you haven’t met anyone yet – 26 per cent
- 4. Have you met anyone nice recently? – 24 per cent
- 5. Are you seeing anyone special? – 24 per cent
- 6. How long has it been since your last relationship? – 24 per cent
- 7. Let me set you up with someone! – 20 per cent
- 8. I feel sorry for anyone who’s been single during this pandemic – 18 per cent
- 9. Don’t you want some company? – 18 per cent
- 10. Why do you think you’re still single? – 18 per cent
Hayley Quinn’s tips on how to handle single-shaming:
- 1. Remember being single is always a choice, so hold your head up high!
- 2. When most people single-shame, they’re just trying to show that they care. So even if how they express that is annoying, this often isn’t their intention
- 3. When you respond, avoid apologising or making self-deprecating statements like ‘I’m not very good at keeping them interested I guess..’. Instead speak positively about your life.
- 4. You don’t need to justify your love life to someone else, so it’s okay to give a vague response
- 5. Don’t be afraid to change the topic to something else that you’re passionate about, there’s more to life than just relationships