Single at Heart: Bella DePaulo Helps You Cope at the Holidays

To be single at heart, I think, means that you see yourself as single. Your life may or may not include the occasional romantic relationship, and you may or may not live alone or want to live alone, but you don’t aspire to live as part of a couple (married or otherwise) for the long term.

You can be single at heart regardless of your actual status as single or coupled. Similarly, you can be a coupled at heart regardless of whether you really are coupled at the moment. Bella DePaulo, PhD, Psychology Today

Bella DePaulo, PhD, is the author of several books about being single, including Singlism and Single with Attitude as well as related blogs on Psychology Today (“Living Single”) and on her website (“All Things Single (and More)”).

Her own admission (Psychology Today): “I love living single (except for the singlism) and never did have those reveries about some lavish wedding with the bridesmaids and the big white dress.” “Singlism” is her own word to describe stereotyping, stigmatizing, marginalizing, and/or discrimination against singles.

(For a previous post covering some of her myths about being single see “Valentine’s Day and Singlehood.”)

Who else are single at heart? DePaulo’s survey…has revealed some possible answers, and she’s shared them on Psych Central. The traits listed below come from her analysis of the first 1200 responses to her survey:


  • They love their solitude.
  • When they are tempted to allow themselves their favorite indulgence (such as junk food or trashy TV), they prefer to do exactly as they wish rather than having a partner to join them or dissuade them.
  • They see themselves as self-sufficient; that is, they like handling problems and challenges mostly on their own.
  • When they are thinking of making a big change in their lives, they don’t want to make that decision with a romantic partner; instead, they prefer to make the decision that feels right to them, without worrying about whether a partner would approve or whether the decision would interfere with a partner’s goals.
  • They do not want to have a partner as a plus-one for just about every occasion; they would prefer more options, such as attending events on their own or with friends or just staying home.
  • When they set out to pursue noble goals such as reading inspiring books or eating right or getting lots of exercise, they prefer to pursue those plans alone or with friends rather than with a romantic partner.
  • They have a sense of personal mastery – a can-do attitude and a sense that they can do just about anything they set their mind to.
  • They are not all that interested in searching for a long-term romantic partner.
  • If they have a minor mishap such as a fender-bender, they are relieved not to have to explain to a romantic partner why they messed up.
  • If they had to choose between meaningful work with lousy pay and uninspiring work with great pay, they would choose the meaningful work.
  • If they were in a romantic relationship and it ended, their predominant emotional reaction was more often relief rather than sadness or pain.

DePaulo’s advice for the holidays? From a Psychology Today piece:

If there is not someone you really want to be with over the holidays, then go to all those parties on your own. (Of course, I think party invitations should include friends, but that’s a different topic.) Even if you do wish you were coupled and it is hard to walk in uncoupled, do it and feel proud. Embrace and enjoy your inner smug singlehood.

Don’t do it just for yourself. Every time you show up as your own complete person, rather than appearing in your couple costume, you make it easier for everyone else who is also single for the holidays or for good (and I do mean good). And though they probably won’t admit it, you are probably also helping the people who just can’t wait for the holiday season to end, so they can return their rental partner. Maybe next year they’ll show up on their own.

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