Being single tends to be seen as a bad thing, but millennials and Gen-Zers are flipping the script. Research shows that the number of people ages 20 to 34 who live with a partner is steadily dropping. But that doesn't necessarily mean there's less pressure to "settle down."
"Millennials are just now emerging into adulthood, so societal norms still lie with the preceding generation – the parents of millennials – who commonly married in their mid-20s to early-30s," said Gabriella I. Farkas, MD, PhD, founder of Pearl Behavioral Health in greater New York City.
"The current generation is also, on average, not as religious as its predecessors, and religions place a strong influence on the institution, or 'calling,' of marriage." While it may be challenging for Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers to understand, being single can come with major benefits. So ignore those "time is running out" type remarks and read on for a list of the awesome advantages that come with being single.
Freedom to Find Yourself
Early adulthood is a prime time to get to know yourself as a grownup human. Whether you decide to pursue a college degree, backpack across Europe or try on a few different jobs or careers for size, your 20s and early 30s provide more freedom to do so. "Relationships require a great deal of emotional and psychological energy that could be devoted to other people and activities, such as friends, travel, and self-care," says Farkas.
More Time and Energy to Better the World
While everyone can make a difference, being single might allow you to focus more time and energy on doing good for the world. This is especially relevant for millennials. While often perceived as selfish or entitled, most millennials donate to charities and many volunteer for causes, particularly when they feel their personal experience or skills can make an impact.
"As their potential increases, millennials seek greater self-achievement and altruism, which leads to the sentiment that they can change the world," said Farkas. "When you're changing the world, marriage can wait."
When you're in a relationship, you have two lives and career paths to consider when planting yourself in a particular location. Erika Martinez, PsyD, a psychologist in Miami, listed career path mobility as the biggest upside of staying single longer. "[Millennials] don't stay in roles more than a year or two and want the ease of packing up to take a job that will help advance their careers," she said. "Staying single also affords the most freedom to digital nomads." Research conducted by LinkedIn economists in 2016 showed that millennials switch jobs four times in their first decade post-college, which is double the amount that Gen-Xers change jobs.
If you've ever found that sharing a bed with someone leads to more nocturnal wake-ups, later nights or earlier mornings, you're not alone. A survey conducted by Amerisleep showed that single adults tend to sleep more than couples. This is especially true compared to unhappy couples, who struggle the most sleep-wise. Staying single longer could allow you to get more Z's as you study, shift careers, volunteer or travel the world, all while boosting your overall wellness. Getting enough sleep can help stave off illness, reduce stress, boost your moods and prevent injuries and accidents.
An Easier Time Staying Fit
While strong partnerships can boost wellness too, some research shows that single adults tend to exercise more often than their married counterparts. In a study published in Social Science and Behavior in 2015, married men exercised less than single guys. Staying unromantically-attached allows you to more easily fit workouts into your schedule or on-the-fly. Exercise is also easier to stick to as a single person than if you had a less motivated or fitness-inclined partner. Add the potential time and energy demands of a family, especially if you opt to parent, and things could get trickier.
Stronger Social Connections
Maintaining a strong social network can play an important role in wellbeing by boosting your sense of purpose and belonging, minimizing stress, improving self-confidence and allowing you to better cope with trauma. And single-hood makes such a network and its derivative perks more likely. A 2015 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships showed that single folks are more likely to stay in frequent touch with, and give and receive support from, friends, neighbors and relatives compared to married people.
More Money in the Bank
There are ways to date and marry frugally, but both scenarios can bring added expenses – from funds for meals out to gifts for your partner on holidays. An Elite Daily survey from 2016 showed that couples are more likely to dine out than singles. What's more, concerns about paying for dates is the top financial concern in regards to dating for guys, many of whom still feel responsible for paying. Even if you split the bill, it can get costly. Elite Single's data analysis determined $101 as the average date cost in the U.S. If you invested $200 a month with a 5.25 percent return rate instead, you'd have $70,576 in 10 years.
Stronger Partnerships Later
The more you work on yourself, the more healthy and strong any intimate relationships you develop will likely be. "I feel encouraged that millennials are eschewing codependency and replacing it with independence leading to interdependence, which is the healthiest model for an intimate partnership," said Nancy Irwin, PsyD, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles.
And there's proof. Marital age is closely linked with divorce risk, according to the Office of National Statistics in England, with people marrying in their teens and early twenties holding the greatest risk. In other words, delaying any plans for marriage may also help stave off divorce down the road.
Staying Safer and More Self-Assured
Falling in love and committing intimately to another person requires vulnerability, which is a beautiful thing if the relationship is healthy. But research published in the journal Violence and Victims in 2013 showed that emotional abuse is the most prevalent in young adult relationships. Domestic violence most commonly affects women age 16 to 24.
"Sometimes people, when they're young, lose their sense of self (at the least) and experience codependency (at worst) in relationships," said Martinez. "Staying single longer affords you to have have a firmer sense of yourself, your identity as an individual, and how you want to relate to others. You're less likely to become enmeshed in abusive and unhealthy relationships as a result."
That doesn't mean it's your fault if you do end up in such a relationship, of course. Plus, Martinez added, "sometimes the factors that compel people into unhealthy relationships are emotional blindspots, for which there's no accounting."
Freedom to Make Your Own Choices
Healthy relationships aren't controlling, but they also require some amount of compromise. Being single means more freedom, because you are 100 percent in charge of every decision. Research conducted in the U.K. in 2011 linked having the freedom to make choices at work with a lower likelihood of feeling powerless.
This is important, seeing as powerlessness raises the risk for anxiety and depression. In other words, having the freedom and agency to make your own decisions feels good and may bolster your emotional wellbeing.Too many choices can make you feel overwhelmed, so try not to get bogged down in comparing them all. Instead, keep an open mind and go with your gut while guiding with your mind.
Figuring It Out
Relationship choices are hugely personal, so if you're not sure whether you want to stay single, date or seek a committed relationship, give yourself time to figure it out. Remember, you can always change your mind.