The way we see it, your 40s are your best decade—period. You know who you are and you know what you want. On top of that, you’re more established in your career, your rough edges have been smoothed over, and you don’t let the small things in life distract you or get you down. And if you find yourself facing singledom—whether or not you want to be—we’d argue that there’s a lot to be excited about, even if it doesn’t feel that way at first. That’s why we’ve compiled all of the best reasons to fly solo in your fifth decade, starting with one simple fact: you can begin your days focusing on one and only one thing: you. And for more great advice, don’t miss the 40 Ways to Master Your 40s.
Stay out late, sleep in, eat any food you like, behave badly on a night out. “As a single person, you are free to do what you want when you want without being accountable to another person,” says Rosalind Sedacca, a dating and relationship coach. No one can tell you what to do, when to do it, or that they don’t like what you’re doing—because it’s none of their business. There’s something pretty liberating about that. “Singles too often take freedom for granted,” she adds. “When you take advantage of this reality, the single life becomes much more desirable—and harder to let go of.”
“You may want to go on a vacation for the weekend, go get Botox, or go to an expensive play,” says Stef Safran, owner of the dating service Stef and the City. “If you are single, you don’t have to run it past anyone other than yourself.” You don’t have to ask your partner, for example, if there’s room in the budget for that new necklace or watch—hey, you could even buy a private island (which is cheaper than you think)!
Want to go for a career that requires logging long hours, tons of travel, or moving to another country? Yes, you can absolutely do these things if you are attached, but it’s a lot easier if you’re flying solo. “Many people turn down or put opportunities on hold for relationships and then regret it later when they don’t have a new opportunity or their life just doesn’t allow for it anymore,” says Toni Coleman, a psychotherapist, relationship coach, and divorce mediator. So go ahead and do something exciting with your career—there’s no reason not to.
“Often a couple will have huge differences in their destination preferences,” explains Monte Drenner, a licensed counselor and life coach. “For example, one may love the mountains while the other loves the beach or one may want to stay local while the other prefers international travel. These different desires can cause huge conflicts in a relationship,” he says. Plus, when you take a trip by yourself, you get to choose the sightseeing spots you prefer without having to worry about what your partner wants to do. Before you head out, make sure you read up on the 35 genius travel hacks only experienced globetrotters know.
Dating might seem like a chore, but it can help you expand your social network and could even end up being fun. “Meeting people through dating is a whole new world,” says Karen Bigman, a life transition coach with a focus on divorce. “With the right mindset, it can be a blast!”
“You make all the rules,” says Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, relationship therapist and founder of online relationship community Relationup. “You determine the temperature, the type of covers, the level of darkness, what side you want to sleep on, and the time you are going to wake up in the morning. There is no snoring, shuffling, sneezing, coughing or early morning to bathroom runs to disturb your sleep.” Sounds pretty great, right? If you still need some help falling asleep, though, try these 11 Doctor-Approved Secrets for Falling Asleep Faster—Tonight.
“You don’t have to worry about arguing about what you want to watch, how you want to spend your weekends, or whose house you are going to for the holidays,” Safran notes. “Sometimes just getting to be alone, enjoying activities that matter to you, can be a lot better than being in a relationship.”
“Falling in love can literally change your brain,” explains Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and dating coach. “When you love someone, the critical decision making centers of your brain become less active. Combined with the increase in dopamine and other ‘feel good’ chemicals, people who are madly in love can act blindly when it comes to their partners and make irrational decisions. By being single, you can think more clearly and rationally in order to make important life decisions.” In other words, when you’re single, you know that you’re likely making the decisions that are best for you, which can lead to a happier life overall.
Slimming down or toning up can be extra challenging when you have a romantic partner. Plus, sometimes just being in a relationship can cause people to pack on the pounds. “For many people, being in a relationship consumes all of their discretionary time and they tend to neglect other important aspects of life, like physical health,” Drenner says. When you’re not part of a couple, it’s easier to skip unhealthy meals that don’t help you meet your goals and prioritize healthier behaviors.
When you ask most people what their biggest goal in life is, they’ll tell you it’s to be happy. Luckily, being single actually makes it easier to accomplish that goal. “When you are single, you have the greatest flexibility to create your happiness,” explains Scott Carroll, MD, author of Don’t Settle: How the Marry the Man You Were Meant For. “The trick is helping people understand that you have to construct your life to promote your happiness and that your relationship status doesn’t really make you happy (but a bad marriage or relationship can sure make you miserable).”
“Because you are unencumbered, you have the freedom to do anything on a moment’s notice,” Milrad points out. “You can go away for the weekend at the last minute, impulsively decide to change up your plans, or go hear a musician that you didn’t know was in town. Your friends know that you are flexible, and you become the go-to person for last-minute free invites to great events.” There’s nothing like taking advantage of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make you grateful for being single and unattached.
When you’re single, you only have one set of crazy to deal with.
“A significant other can have benefits, but sometimes it can be better to have time to focus on your friends who know you well,” Safran says. After all, relationships may come and go, but your longtime friends will always be there for you.
You know that thing when your partner gets sick and you immediately know you’re going to get whatever they have, too? Well, not having an S.O. lets you skip out on that. “You’re not kissing, making out, or having sex with someone who is exposing you to the germs of all the people they have come into contact with,” sats Celine Alvarez, LMFT, founder of Inner Growth Therapy.
“You can often find a great seat for one at events and restaurants,” says Milrad. “Because of this, you can check out trendy restaurants, find a single ticket for popular shows or concerts (think Hamilton!) and always manage to get a great seat at the movies.”
Part of the joy of being single is that you don’t have to look to the same person to fulfill all your needs. “Being single means you can have the person you have long, meaningful conversations with, one you dance with, one you do the foodie thing with, one you travel with—you get the idea,” notes Kim Olver, a licensed counselor and author of Secrets of Happy Couples.
By the time you hit 40, gone are the days of being uncomfortable in your own skin. “You stop trying to fit into a cookie cutter mold. You know and accept yourself in your 40s and are comfortable with your style, without mimicking what the media tells us we should look like,” explains Isabel James, a dating and relationship coach and founder of Elite Dating Managers.
“This is a pretty darn good reason that being single in your 40s is awesome,” says Dr. R.Y. Langham, a professional consultant for the Between Us Clinic. “Contrary to popular belief, research indicates that single people who try to avoid conflict are just as happy (or happier) than those in relationships. The truth is, every couple experiences relationship issues at one time or another, but if you’re single, you don’t have to deal with the drama. You are too old for that crap, right?”
“Your 20s and 30s were about validation and what society thought you should do,” explains Lisa Concepcion, a dating and relationship transformation expert and founder of LoveQuest Coaching. “From parenting to career, your true innermost passion may have been put on a shelf. When you reach 40, you realize this is the decade to leave that corporate job and open a juice bar or take up a side business decorating houses. Whatever that thing is that you would do for free if money wasn’t an issue is finally the passion you’re able to explore in your 40s without interruption.”
“In our 40s, we tend to search for higher meanings in life,” notes Naomi J. Hardy, certified change management and relationship expert. Whether it’s through religion or something else, “being single allows you to the freedom to really discover who you are and your purpose in life.”
“It takes a while to truly know yourself, to be comfortable with yourself, and to enjoy your own company,” says J. Hope Suis, an inspirational writer and relationship expert. “By the time you have made it to your 40s, these pieces should all fall into place. You are not intimidated to go out to eat alone or even take a trip to somewhere you’ve always wanted to go. You understand the value of time and know how you want to spend it.”
When you’re single, “there is no need to check in with anyone or figure out what works best someone else’s schedule,” says Trish Barillas, a life coach. “You are calling all your own shots, your way on your time exactly when you want it. That is some truly powerful personal freedom.” So whether it’s deciding when the time is right for something small, like scheduling a dinner party, or something bigger, like getting a dog, you can do what works best for you without feeling any guilt at all.
“Even if someone wastes your time and leaves you a little heartbroken, you can recover well. By 40, you’ve been through some challenges and know how to pick yourself up, self-care-give, and say ‘onward,’” says Antonia Hall, relationship and dating expert.
“In your 20s and 30s you are learning through experience about what is right and acceptable for you,” notes James. “At 40, you know.” No need to waste time dating people who don’t quite fit the bill.
“By 40, your gut instinct about people is better, and your willingness to put up with BS is far lessened,” says Hall. “This can be a huge asset when out there dating. You know not to let people waste your time, so you can spend more of it with people worthy of your attention.”
“If you’re in a relationship, there is a chance you may have inherited someone else’s debt, are providing financially for them, or are spending money on things that are not of value to you,” says Kimber Shelton, PhD, a licensed psychologist, relationship expert and owner of KLS Counseling & Consulting Services in Dallas, TX. “Ideally, in your 40s, financial kinks have been worked out and job stability has been achieved.” That means you only have to worry about your own financial priorities and providing for your own future.
“When you start to put yourself first with understanding finally that doing so makes you stronger and better equipped to be there for others, you start to make a major positive shift in your life,” Concepcion says. “Taking courses, expanding your business, traveling, whatever calls you, you’re free to explore it.”
“As we get older, we have an opportunity to get familiar with our body and its responses to pleasure,” explains Shula Melamed, a relationship and wellness coach. “You are less likely to stumble through unsatisfying sexual encounters without speaking up or having insight on how to make it better.”
“Being single in your 40s allows you to grow how you want, at the pace you want, by trying different things,” says Hardy. “You can change your focus, your desires, your path many times without worrying about who it affects.”
“Often in your 20’s and 30’s, financial status is a key issue in choosing a partner,” James explains. “It dictates what area you will live in and how you will raise your children. In your 40’s, this is not nearly as important as finding somebody you can enjoy your time with is. Typically at 40, you have already established your career.”
By your 40s, you’re no longer looking to meet people in crowded bars on weekend nights. That hardly ever worked anyway, right? Now, you know that you’re much more likely likely to meet someone you’ll enjoy spending time with in line for coffee or at a fitness class.
Have you stopped playing tennis or visiting your favorite vineyards somewhere along the line? “You have more time when you are single, a half a lifetime of experiences to reflect on, and time ahead of you to use in any way you want,” Melamed points out. There’s no reason not to get back into something you once enjoyed.
Laundry and dishes for one are surprisingly manageable.
If you’re single in your 40s, you know that having a significant other is totally optional. “When you are comfortable in your own skin, you can take your time dating until you find the right person because you are happier alone than you are with the wrong person,” Olver says.
“You are free to move to another city, state, or country as you please!” Hardy points out.
“Many people who had their kids in their late 20s and 30s find themselves with kids 10 to 20 in their 40s,” Concepcion says. “You are still young enough to keep up with their kids, yet old enough to establish and stick to rules and truly be there for them.” In other words, it’s the perfect time to really get to know your kids and be a great role model for them.
Instead of dealing with the rush to get married and have kids people experience in their 20s and 30s, the pace of dating in your 40s is much more focused on enjoying time together without jumping into a commitment.
“Being in your 40s means you don’t need a 3-bedroom house and two cars,” Concepcion notes. “You can shed the extra stuff and lighten your load, allowing space for new experiences.”
“One of the most challenging aspects of a relationship is buying meaningful gifts,” says Suis. “No scouring Amazon, trying to glean hints from conversations, or asking their friends. All that extra time and money can be re-channeled into buying something you have always wanted.”
“It is easy to get settled into routines and patterns when in a relationship,” says Shelton. “When you get comfortable in the relationship, you might stop trying new things and taking risks.” But if you’re single in your 40s? That’s the perfect time to go out on a limb and reap the rewards.
But if you’re feeling ready to let go of the single life (and just don’t know why it’s so difficult to find a partner), check out the 13 Reasons Why You’re Still Single.
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