I was single for a long long time after my divorce, and I loved it. Words cannot describe how much I loved singledom.

I work with people all day. My job requires me to be upbeat, social, focused and to listen intensely. So to be able to go home to my cats, tea, chocolate, a book, and silence (except for the sound of the tv or radio sometimes) was something I soaked up like a sponge. I could do what I wanted, when I wanted. I could recharge. I could go out and meet friends if I felt like company. It says a lot about the man I married that I gave up a life I loved to become a couple again.

More than half the households in Sweden are single households. So you would imagine that society would be more geared towards singles. But in many cases, it isn’t.

Eating lunch alone is no problem in Stockholm. But if you eat dinner alone, you do stick out a bit, and single tables are usually not comfortable or well-situated.

Things in supermarkets are almost never portioned for singles. You have to buy a larger pack of something and then cook or freeze part of it for use later. If you do find something portioned for singles, the price is usually horrendous.

Life itself is more expensive because there is no one to share the household costs. The cost of living as a single is way more than twice what it costs as a couple.

You pay a singles supplement on cruises, package holidays, and many hotel stays. So if you travel as a single, you pay more per person than if you travel with someone else. Cinemas seem to want to sell tickets in pairs or groups, if my local app is anything to go by. Hotel stays booked online default to the ‘2 people sharing’ option. Recent research shows that ‘single tax’ costs about $2000 per year. There has been a new term coined for that – singlism. As an adult, society sure seems to want you to live in pairs.

And it seems to be harder for people to accept women like being single than men. The word bachelor is so much more positively viewed than spinster, as though men are single by choice whereas women are single because no one wants them. The strange thing is though, the American Sociological Association found that nearly 70% of divorces are initiated by women. And the percentage of college-educated American women who initiated divorce is even higher.

People also have a weird attitude towards you when you are a single woman. You are often not invited to dinners if you don’t have a plus one – both for the sake of symmetry, and also because women often assume you are so desperate for a man you would try to steal their (often awful) husbands. People seem to feel sorry for you in a way because in life you are supposed to be part of a couple.

If you are single and lonely, people think you are lonely because you are single, but I have been at my loneliest with someone sitting inches away from me. I vowed to never feel that way again. People seem to confuse the words loneliness and solitude.

Society seems to want to push you to be in a couple, or feel you would be happy that way. Happiness researcher (yes that’s a thing) refutes that, citing evidence from ATUS that women are happier without children or a spouse. I am not sure about that, because I am happily married now and I was very happy single as well.

Plus, if you write singledom, the autocorrect does not like it. But coupledom is not seen as a spelling error.

Having said all the above though, I do know many single people living alone had a really tough time in countries that had lockdowns. I myself wondered how I would have coped mentally with working from home and living alone if Sweden had had lockdowns.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

One thought

  1. I am single in the sense I am not married or live with a partner. I have never been married (and don’t want to) nor lived with someone as I love my freedom too much. For me it represents the ultimate luxury. I have been in a steady relationship for more than 25 years now and fortunately both my boyfriend and me share the same opinion on the subject.
    We have careers that are very demanding (international lawyer and teacher-interpret-translator) and we spend more time in planes and abroad than at home. That’s why when we finally get home we need quiet time for ourself.
    I think mentalities change regarding single people. At least in cities. Here in Paris it is common to see people having lunch or dinner, going to shows or on holiday on their own. Single people are treated the same as couple and are not considered as suspicious or a threat. It was not the same two decades ago when I sometimes got the feeling I was an alien in some places. I no longer feel the “Bridget Jones” syndrome or the questioning of people wondering why we don’t move in together and officialise our relationship after such a long time. Simply because we can afford to remain single and independent!

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