Over 40? Here Are 40 Things No One Tells You About Being Single
Freedom never felt so good.
If you're single, you're hardly alone. Single people over 18—of all races and genders—make up 45 percent of the entire American population, according to recent U.S. Census Bureau data. But despite the fact that there are a whopping 110.6 million single folks living in the U.S. today, there are still many misconceptions that surround the idea of flying solo, especially as you reach your 40s. To clear things up—and to give the single 40-somethings and beyond reading this a boost—we've consulted the experts to get the low-down on what it's really like to be single over 40. (Spoiler alert: There are a lot of benefits.) Get ready to settle in and to stop worrying about settling down!
You're hardly alone.
It might seem like you're alone when you're single, but looking at the numbers, you're actually in very good company. According to data from the Pew Research Center, the percentage of adults between the ages of 55 and 64 who are single has risen from 29 percent to 32 percent between 2007 and 2017.
It's better for your BMI.
When researchers analyzed married and non-married individuals for a study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine in 2015, they found that paired-up people had higher BMIs than their single counterparts, with a difference equivalent to about 4.5 pounds. Though this might seem like an insignificant figure, high BMI has been linked to health issues like type 2 diabetes and heart disease, so it's a big deal in the long run.
It makes you more motivated to stay in shape.
"When you're single, you have more free time to put into your hobbies and self-care activities," explains Nicole Carl, a licensed professional counselor at Clarity Clinic in Chicago. "Eating healthier, working out, and taking fitness classes could be done because your schedule isn't so cramped."
In fact, research published in the Journal of Marriage and Family in 2008 found that over the course of two weeks, single men spent an average of just over eight hours at the gym, whereas married men only hit the gym for an average of just under five hours.
You have more flexibility to fall in love.
When you're younger, things like finances and family tend to dictate both where you settle down and whom you settle down with, notes Isabel James, a dating and relationship coach and founder of Elite Dating Managers. However, these things aren't as much of an issue in your 40s and beyond. Not only have "you have already established your career," as James explains, but "what area you will live in and how you will raise your children are not nearly as important as finding somebody you can enjoy your time with."
You can enjoy the company of several people.
In your 40s, you're free of the pressure to settle down just to settle down, which means you don't have to limit your dating pool. "Being single means you can have the person you have long, meaningful conversations with, [and also the] 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.
You get to form new connections.
Meeting new people becomes a bit of a challenge as you age—unless you're single, that is. When you go out on dates, you are inadvertently expanding your social network. So, even if you don't meet the person of your dreams, you could end up finding your new best friend or business partner!
You have time to foster other relationships.
Fruitful relationships come in many forms. Romance isn't everything and if you're single in your 40s, you've learned exactly that. According to one 2015 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, single individuals are more sociable than married ones, and they are more likely to keep in touch with and offer help to friends and family.
Your happiness doesn't depend on someone else.
"When you are single, you have the greatest flexibility to create your happiness," says Scott Carroll, MD, author of Don't Settle: How to Marry the Man You Were Meant For. "You have to construct your life to promote your happiness, and the trick is helping people understand that your relationship status doesn't really make you happy (but a bad marriage or relationship can sure make you miserable)."
You have fewer financial burdens.
Being married is expensive. Once you couple up, you have not only yourself to look after, but your spouse (and possibly even kids) to take care of as well—and those extra mouths to feed and provide for can start to add up.
One 2001 analysis from Debt.org found that while 27 percent of married couples with kids and 36 percent of childless married couples had credit debt, only 21 percent of single individuals owed money to their credit card companies.
But you might end up paying more taxes.
Unfortunately, being single does have a few small downsides. According to The Nest, married couples who file jointly receive the lowest tax rates, as well as "more robust IRA contribution deductions" and "higher capital loss deduction limits."
You get to work less.
One 2014 study conducted by the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies found that men between the ages of 44 and 46 worked 403 fewer hours per year when they weren't in relationships. Though the precise reason why is unclear, the theory is that married men need to work more hours to provide for their families.
You don't have to suffer through awkward sexual encounters.
Dating as a 20-year-old and dating as a 40-year-old are nowhere near the same thing. Sure, both scenarios require going on dates and meeting new people, but while your 20s are all about exploring and getting to know your likes and dislikes, your 40s and 50s are more about finding a person who can satisfy you.
"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 in New York City. "You are less likely to stumble through unsatisfying sexual encounters without speaking up or having insight on how to make it better."
You have full control over your finances.
Want to splurge on that luggage you've been eyeing? Go for it! As a single adult, all of the money in your bank account is yours, and you have nobody to answer to or consult with when it comes to finances but yourself. Plus, by the time you're in your 40s and beyond, you've likely reached a place of financial stability, and you're more than entitled to treat yourself every now and again.
And you're only responsible for your own financial actions.
When someone says "I do," they are also accepting liability for their partner's debts, even if they aren't responsible for them directly (and sometimes even if the debt isn't one from a joint account or one that a spouse has cosigned). As a single person, though, you only have to worry about your own missteps, so no secret credit card debts are ever going to sneak up on you.
Grocery shopping is hard.
Unless you actually enjoy eating the same pasta bolognese five days in a row, you're going to find that one of the not-so-great parts of being single after 40 is grocery shopping. Meal prep is generally formulated with family portions in mind, and so anything you make for a family of one is going to end up lasting a long time.
But you can easily score a table for one!
"You can often find a great seat for one at events and restaurants," says Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, a relationship therapist and founder of online relationship community Relationup. "Because of this, you can check out trendy restaurants, find a single ticket for popular shows or concerts, and always manage to get a great seat at the movies."
You sleep more.
Getting the bed all to yourself comes with its fair share of perks. According to a 2017 survey of 2,000 Americans from Amerisleep, single individuals get an average of 7.13 hours of sleep nightly, compared to married individuals who net 6.71 hours.
Not only do single men and women sleep more, but they also sleep more soundly. That's because when you're single, "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," explains Milrad. "There is no snoring, shuffling, sneezing, coughing, or early morning bathroom runs to disturb your sleep."
You're more comfortable in your own skin.
Though being single in your 20s and 30s can require ample maintenance and grooming, that all changes when you get older. Once you've reached your 40s and beyond, "you stop trying to fit in a cookie cutter mold," says James. "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."
You aren't distracted and blinded by overwhelming emotions.
You know the saying, "Love is blind"? Well, there's truth to that. "When you love someone, the critical decision-making centers of your brain become less active," explains Jonathan Bennett, a certified counselor and dating coach. "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."
You don't have to deal with relationship stress.
Every relationship has its fair share of problems, and those problems come with psychological consequences that single people don't have to worry about. For instance, a 2008 study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family found that marital conflict directly correlated with heightened depression, particularly in older adults.
You're more philanthropic.
When sociologist Eric Klinenberg wrote his 2013 book called Going Solo about the lives of single individuals, one of the things he uncovered was that single folks are more likely than those who are married to volunteer with organizations that give back.
And you're more generous with your friends.
Oddly enough, your friends might just become all the richer simply because you're single. When social scientist Bella DePaulo, PhD, surveyed thousands of Americans for her 2007 book Singled Out, she found that men gave their friends an average of $1,875 less when they were married compared to when they were on their own.
Last-minute vacations are totally acceptable.
Want to take that trip to Paris that you've been dreaming of? Feel like taking a day off from work for a long solo spa weekend? The world is your oyster—and there's not a soul in the world who can tell you otherwise. "Because you are unencumbered, you have the freedom to do anything on a moment's notice," says Milrad.
You don't have to do anything you don't want to do.
Without a spouse dragging you to dreaded office parties or other social gatherings, you don't have to worry about ending up somewhere that you don't want to be. Sit back, relax, and do whatever you want!
And you don't have to watch anything you don't want to watch.
Say goodbye to being forced into watching Sunday football ever again! "The absolute best thing about being single is freedom," says Brooke Sprowl, LCSW, a couples therapist and owner of My LA Therapy in Santa Monica, California. "You get to do what you want, how you want, when you want. Relationships require compromise and sacrifice."
You have more time to enjoy the things you love.
When you're in a relationship, how you spend your free time is generally dictated by your spouse's and kids' schedules (if children are in the picture). When you're single, though, your free time is entirely yours—so much so, in fact, that 2015 research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that while married individuals only spent an average of 4.87 hours per day on leisurely activities, single people were able to allocate 5.56 hours to their hobbies.
You learn things about yourself.
"Being single allows you to grow how you want and at the pace you want by trying different things," says Naomi J. Hardy, a certified change management and relationship expert. "You can change your focus, your desires, and your path many times without worrying who it affects."
Case in point: One telling 1998 study published in the Journal of Family Issues found that "the single fared better than the married" in areas like personal growth, independence, and learning.
You can say "yes" to life-changing opportunities.
When you're in a relationship, you can't just accept a dream job across the world or even across the country without first consulting your partner about it. "Many people turn down or put opportunities on hold for relationships and then regret it later," explains Toni Coleman, a Virginia-based psychotherapist, relationship coach, and divorce mediator. Sure, a significant other might be willing to make it happen—but when you're single, it all comes down to you!
You can live wherever you want.
If you've always wanted to try living in Europe for a few years, then now—while you're still single and entirely independent—would be the perfect time to do so!
You're exposed to fewer germs.
Naturally, married couples spend most of their time in close proximity to each other. The issue there? When one person in the relationship is sick, the other person usually becomes sick as well. As a happily single person, you don't have to fret about cohabiting with someone who's sharing germs with you.
You spend less time cleaning.
Though you'd think that couples would spend less time cleaning because they have twice as many hands to help around the house, a 2008 study conducted by the National Science Foundation actually found that both married men and women spend more time cleaning on average than their single counterparts.
You don't have to worry about finding the perfect gift.
"One of the most challenging aspects of a relationship is buying meaningful gifts," says J. Hope Suis, a relationship expert based in South Carolina. "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."
You have the opportunity to get out of your comfort zone.
Relationships are often defined by routine, which makes it hard for the people in them to try new things or venture out of their comfort zones. When you're sans significant other, though, there's no such thing as getting too comfortable, because you can change things up at moment's notice.
There's no pressure to settle.
By the time you've reached your 40s, there is far less external pressure to settle down just for the sake of starting a family. If you're looking for love later in life, you should take advantage of the fact that you're in no rush. So test the waters until you find your perfect match.
It's not necessarily lonely…
It's incorrect to assume that someone is lonely just because they're single. On the contrary, single people are usually better adjusted when it comes to coping with difficult matters by themselves, whereas individuals who are used to being in a relationship can get too dependent on their partners.
…but some people will treat you like it is.
People who aren't single don't understand that it's possible to be happy without a partner, so they may make judgments as a result. However, instead of getting mad at your friends or family members for their assumptions, try your best to ignore them; you know that you're happy flying solo, and that's what matters.
You get plenty of personal space.
One of the major differences between being married after 40 and being single after 40? Personal space. Single individuals spend plenty of quality time with friends and family—but at the end of the day, they get to decide when enough is enough, and at that point they can retreat to their quiet oasis of a home.
It makes you more confident.
"Solitude breeds self-reflection, and self-reflection breeds confidence," relationship expert Susan Winter explained to Time. "Absolute solitude is almost impossible when you're in a partnership. We always have our partner in our thoughts."
Most people don't care that you're single!
While your 20s and 30s might've been full of impolite people asking you when you planned to settle down, you'll probably see an end to that in your 40s. How you decide to live your life at that point is entirely up to you, and what could be better than that? And if you're new to the dating world, then check out the 40 Best Dating Tips for Men Over 40.
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