Down with prescriptive relationship labels.
Some things that are trending in 2022: “Dirty Shirleys,” pencil-thin eyebrows, relationship advice from 12-year-old TikTok stars, and apparently…being single.
Now, we’re well aware that announcing “singles are on the rise” makes singlehood sound like a contagious rash or a fleeting fashion trend nobody asked for (low-rise jeans)—but the data is far more enticing: According to research from Mr. & Mrs. Smith and The Future Laboratory, more than 25% of the adult world is single by choice right now, and per a 2021 report from Pew Research Center, 60% of U.S. adults under the age of 35 currently live without a spouse or a partner. Furthermore, the Pew data suggests that, by the time today’s millennials reach the age of 50, 1 out of 4 U.S. adults will have never been married. So no, it’s not that singlehood is running rampant—a threat to couples everywhere. Rather, it’s that right now, folks are contentedly sidestepping commitment, prioritizing themselves, and reimagining the standard marital model.
Naturally, some other data is relevant here: For one, what’s described as a growth in singles is actually a steady decline in the popularity of traditional marriage. Folks are no longer sprinting ahead to take marital vows—even when they’re in happy, committed partnerships. And for two, non-monogamy is more popular than ever (for what it’s worth, partaking in an unmarried but thriving throuple is simply…not the same as being single).
It gets better: A 2020 report from the U.N. titled “Progress of the World’s Women” found that on a global scale, the median age for marriage among women has increased significantly in the last decade—which, according to their data, has done a huge part in enabling women to complete their education, partake more fully in their careers, and support themselves financially. And on that note, we do indeed live in an era when, for many women, career success is a major life tentpole—often a bigger one than marriage…which makes marriage a choice rather than an essential proposition.
Equally intriguing, then, is the data we have on what’s taking romantic precedence over traditional marital vows right now. According to Mr & Mrs. Smith, “situationships” are growing in number (where Teflon commitments are not required), and young adults are devoting more time, energy, and money to self-love and exploration (rather than relationships). Friendships are becoming a more high priority, and terms like “buddymoon” and “brocation” are trending online as folks are newly committing to actively bonding with platonic companions—treating those relationships as essential in much the way that’s customary for spouses. And on top of all that, a unique desire for sexual exploration is a continued vested interest of the masses…which means more and more people are opening up to nonmonogamy or choosing to stay partnerless in the hopes of better exploring sexual possibilities.
Needless to say, it’s about time we found a better word than “single” to describe the state of being unmarried. In 2022, the “singles” among us are anything but lonely, isolated, or discontent—rather, just the opposite.