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Single and lovin' it

April 30, 2004|by KATE COLEMAN

katec@herald-mail.com

It can be difficult to be single when movies, magazines and media shout "couple."

A lot of the pressure can come from relatives, said Dorian Solot, co-founder of the Alternatives to Marriage Project, a national nonprofit organization that advocates for equality and fairness for unmarried people.

About a quarter of American adults live alone, according to information on www.unmarried.org, the Alternatives to Marriage Project Web site. For some, that is a choice; others would prefer to be in a relationship but haven't found the right person. It's OK to be single.

People can be completely happy on their own, even while looking for that person, Solot said.

How?

Honor your solitude, said Linda Moran, a licensed clinical social worker certified in practice at the Center for Mind Body Therapies in Frederick, Md. Moran, who has presented Successful Singlehood, a program designed to help singles reach the goal of an active, rewarding and happy lifestyle - whether single by choice, the death of a spouse, divorce or the breakup of a relationship.

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Use your time alone as a time for learning.

"There are things you can't learn about yourself in a relationship," Moran said.

Take advantage of the opportunity for growth and development. Do life-enhancing things - travel, exercise, take classes, develop hobbies, she added.

"Surround yourself with positive people," Cindy Shoemaker, a licensed professional counselor in practice in Chambersburg, Pa., advises her divorce support group.

"Make a conscious effort to have a community of friends," Solot recommends. "People need the connection."

Moran has seen a shift in the last 30 years - a greater acceptance that people can be single and have a pretty fulfilling life without judgment that there's something wrong with them.

Aloneness shouldn't be a negative thing, and "single" shouldn't be seen as a pejorative term, Moran said.

And single people are not alone in their singlehood.

Fewer Americans are getting married. Since 1970, there's been a decline by more than one-third in the annual number of marriages per 1,000 unmarried adult women, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures cited in "The State of Our Unions: The Social Health of Marriage in America, 2003."

The authors of the report, David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, are co-directors of the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, N.J., online at marriage.rutgers.edu.

Although it's not clear how much effect other factors have on that decline, statistics include people delaying marriage until they're older, people "cohabiting" - living together without marrying - and fewer divorced individuals remarrying, the report states.

Despite the numbers, people still marry, people still become couples, people still are looking for love.

There are singles dances; there's "speed-dating" - events at which you can meet and date as many as 30 other single professionals in one evening - a Web site screams. Online dating service Match.com estimates that it's responsible for arranging hundreds of thousands of relationships since its 1995 launch.

"People do want to be together," Moran said. "By nature we are a very affiliating specimen."

And, she added, there's a huge push from society to affiliate. There tends to be some resistance to embracing the single life.

Solot's heard people say - with pride in their voices - "All my children are married," as if their children must be married in order for them to be successful as parents.

Shoemaker agrees that there is pressure to partner. "When are you gonna get back out there?" people ask.

Shoemaker has coordinated a divorce support group in Chambersburg for eight years, and she'll be working with a group in Hagerstown next month. In her groups, she tries to help people regain custody of themselves, to figure out who they are again, to be a whole person. A lot of people get married to become whole, Shoemaker said.

Better they should be whole single - before they marry. The divorce rate might be lower, she added.

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