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What no one ever told you about people who are single | Bella DePaulo | TEDxUHasselt

What no one ever told you about people who are single | Bella DePaulo | TEDxUHasselt

Translator: Queenie Lee
Reviewer: Panagiota Prokopi I’m 63, and I have been single my whole life. (Applause) Thank you! (Applause) I love you already. (Laughter) When I was in my 20s and 30s,
I knew I was supposed to get married, and I knew I was supposed
to want to be married. Even now, I keep getting reminded. So in the United States, a month ago, these wedding planners made national news; they spent months fussing over the flowers
and the music and the invitations and every imaginable detail. On the day of the wedding,
they were so excited. Who were these wedding planners? They were a class of five-year-olds, and the bride and groom were ducks. By putting on a wedding, the five-year-olds
became our storytellers, and they were telling the same stories
we all grew up hearing: get married, and you will live
happily ever after, and you will never be lonely again. As children, we hear
those stories in fairy tales. As grown-ups, we keep hearing them
in all the novels and movies and TV shows that build up to a wedding. The Supreme Court of the United States is telling those same stories – in the landmark ruling
that legalised same-sex marriage, Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote, “Marriage responds to the universal fear that a lonely person
might call out and find no one there.” But here’s the thing. That was never my story.
I never wanted to get married. Everything about my life
added up to a different story, that living single
was my happily ever after. But for the longest time,
I never did add it up, I never heard of such a thing
as living single and loving it. And it turns out, the same thing
is still true of many people even today. They don’t realise that
embracing single life is a thing, and so they tell themselves, “Sure, I’m looking for the one.
That’s what I want.” But then, when you look
at their actual behaviour, you see that doing what it
would take to find that person seems to rank somewhere between
deleting ancient emails from their inbox and cleaning out their sock drawer. Now other people do realise that this marriage issue
is a question for them. They’re talking to therapists.
They’re writing to advice columnists. Joan DelFattore told the story of a conversation
she had with her therapist. Her therapist said, “Joan, if you do decide to get married,
what kind of man would you look for?” And Joan said, “Someone with a challenging job,
has lots of outside interests, does volunteer work,
play sports, like that.” And her therapist said, “Oh, so you want someone well-rounded
and intellectually stimulating.” And Joan said, “No, I’d want
someone who’s never home.” (Laughter) Another example is a letter
that Kaye wrote to an advice columnist. Kaye said she was in a long-term relationship
with a “wonderful amazing man”. “When he kisses me,
I still get goosebumps. When he walks into the door,
I’m mesmerised. So why is it that sometimes
I just feel like I should be alone?” She offers the beginnings of an answer
to her own question by saying, “I’ve always been kind of a free spirit,
an independent kind of person.” And she signs her letter,
“Is love enough?” Positive affirming stories
about single life would have resonated with Joan and Kaye just like they would’ve resonated
with me all those years ago. But those stories have never been part
of our lives the way fairy tales have. I’ve made it my life’s work
to find the true stories of single life, stories no one is ever telling us. At first, though, I wasn’t so sure
I was going to like what I found. I had two main worries. The first one was that as much as I loved my single life, I didn’t love everything about it. It hurt when my friends got married
and went out to dinner with other couples, and I got demoted to lunch. At work, I thought it was unfair when I got asked to take the
teaching times that nobody else wanted, because I was single. Later, I realised
that’s just the small stuff, and that the special status
of married people is far more sweeping. In the United States, for example,
there are more than a thousand laws that benefit and protect
only people who are legally married. My second worry
was that science was against me. Before I ever read any
of the scientific journals for myself to see what they really did say, before I did any of my own studies, I believed what I was hearing
in the media. I thought science had already shown
what the fairytales promised: get married, and you
will live happily ever after. Not like those single people. That’s what college students think too. Asked to predict how happy they would be
if they stayed single year after year, this is what they said. They think they’d be miserable. Now look what they said when asked how happy
they would be if they got married. They think they would be about
as happy as they could possibly be. What you see there is the fairy tale version
of marriage and single life. Now let me show you
how happy people really are when they are single
and then when they get married. Here are the average happiness ratings
of thousands of single people, starting years before any of them
ever get married. They’re very happy. Now, here they are getting married,
and they do get a little happier. Not that enormous increase
that the college students predicted, but a small increase. Then look what happens. Year after year, their happiness slips till they end up as happy
as they were when they were single. So getting married
didn’t make people happy; they just got a little thrill
around the time of the wedding. But wait, there’s something
I didn’t tell you; I’m holding back here. That increase in happiness that people get
when they first get married, only the people who get married
and stay married experience that. What about the people
who get married and then get divorced? When they get married, they get less happy. And then, there they are,
going down, down, down until they end up less happy
than they were when they were single. So if you want to say that getting married increases people’s happiness
even for just a little while, you have to look only at the people
who are currently married. There’s something really
important about that. Whenever you hear the claim that married people
are doing better than single people – and you will hear that
over and over again – beware! They are telling you, “Look over there, at those married people, and don’t look over there,
nothing to see there.” But you should look over there because that’s where you’ll see all the people who got married, hated it,
and refused to stay married. That’s a lot of people. Now today, lots of people have
serious romantic relationships without ever getting married. So maybe, what matters
isn’t whether you’re married or not, but how much of that
good stuff are you getting the romantic relationship has to offer? How much caring are you getting?
How much commitment? Researchers studying loneliness
and depression and stress took that approach. They proposed a hierarchy. So they said, “Married people,
they get the most caring and commitment, so they should do better
than everyone else.” In second place,
people who are cohabiting. They get a lot of caring but – you know – maybe not the same amount
of commitment that married people get. In third place, people
who are single and dating. And at the very bottom, those single people that don’t even
have a romantic partner – not even a date. The researchers were sure that they were going to have
the very worst psychological health. But when they looked
at the results for the women, what they found was … nothing! The women higher on the hierarchy
were not any less lonely, they were not any less depressed, and they weren’t any less stressed
than the other women. And the findings for the men
weren’t that much better. How is this even possible? Single people aren’t getting any caring
and commitment from a spouse. Their lives aren’t celebrated
the way married people’s lives are. They aren’t getting any of those
legal benefits and protections. And single people
in social science studies aren’t just people like me
who love living single. They also include the single people
who hate being single. So everything is stacked
against the single people. Yet there they are,
with their high levels of happiness and their low levels of loneliness
and depression and stress. How can we understand that? I think the stories we are getting told
over and over again by everyone, from five-year-olds
to Supreme Court Justices, are distracting us from other
more revealing stories: the stories no one has ever told us
about people who are single. I’ll tell you three of them. The first story
we are told repeatedly is this: married people have someone. They have the one.
Single people have no one. But when psychologists actually started
studying the real lives of single people, they found something entirely different. It’s the single people
who have more friends; it’s the single people who are doing
more than married people to stay in touch with their siblings. It’s the single people who are
more often tending to their parents, exchanging help with their neighbours, contributing to the life
of their towns and cities. In contrast, when couples move in together
or when they get married, they tend to be more insular. And they tend to do that
even if they don’t have kids. So they can’t blame it on the kids. So the story we’re told
is that married people have the one; the untold, more revealing story
is that single people have the ones. The second story we are told is “Get married and you
will never be lonely again.” The researchers who proposed the hierarchy were sure that married people
were going to be the least lonely; they weren’t. But you know who really
was protected from loneliness? The people who had friends
and family members they could open up to
and rely on if they had a problem. That’s what mattered, not whether they had a spouse
or romantic partner. In the stories we are told, people who live alone
are isolated and lonely. But in fact, as long as the people living alone have about the same income
as people living with others, they are actually
on the average less lonely. In the stories we are told, people who are home alone
are crying in their beer, distraught that they’re not
with that special someone. But in fact, some people
who live alone are like Joan, the woman who told her therapist that her ideal husband
would be someone who’s never home. Many single people savour solitude; they don’t dread it. Remember that Supreme Court Justice who said marriage responds
to the universal fear that a lonely person might call out
and find no one there. Well, my fear is that I’ll wake up
in the middle of the night and find that someone else is there, hogging the blankets, snoring and farting! (Laughter) All of that adds up to a story very different from “Get married,
and you will never be lonely again.” The third story we are told is “All you need is love;
love is all you need.” When Kaye asked the advice columnist, “Is love enough?”
she already had romantic love. She was mesmerised by her partner. Other single people
value other kinds of love, like the love of close friends
or family or spiritual figures, just as people so often have done
over the course of history. But a happy life, a good life is not just about love,
not even the most expansive kinds. We humans also crave autonomy
and mastery and purpose and meaning. Single people have that autonomy.
They are in charge of their own lives. Single people develop mastery; you know, that thing married people do
where they split up all the tasks: you deal with the car and the money;
I’ll handle the meals and the relatives. Well, single people figure
out how to do all of it. Single people also
have purpose and meaning. They can pursue what matters most
to them, and often they do. For example, people who stay single value meaningful work
more than married people do. Lifelong single people
also experience more personal growth. They are more likely
than married people to say that their lives have been
a continuous process of learning, change, and growth. So that third story we are told
is all you need is love. The untold more revealing story is that we also yearn for autonomy,
mastery, purpose, and meaning. And single people
have those things in spades. The untold stories of single life have never been more relevant
than they are now. More people than ever before in many nations
around the world are single. Living single is the norm
even for people who get married. Americans, for example, spend more years of their adult life
not married than married. So that means single life really
is the better part of our lives. For way too long,
we single people have been told that the only way we can
be truly happy is to get married. Now we know that’s just not so, and everyone can benefit from that. So married people, now that you know
the secrets of a successful single life, feel free to steal them,
and add new shades of bliss to your lives. And single people, you know what to do: go out and live your single lives
fully, joyfully, and unapologetically. Thank you. (Applause)

Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

  1. i really needed this video. as an aromantic asexual, i sometimes get scared that i'm gonna end up being miserable because i can't feel romantic love. good to know my fears are generally unfounded.

  2. Marriage is no longer the place of safety and happiness it is meant to be or may have been …. it is the opposite today in very many cases .. the risk is too high to take a chance

  3. When you go to Africa, and you see people who live on less than $2 a day, and are genuinely happy, you will probably understand why single people are often happy too. Being happy living on peanuts does not mean you cannot be much happier living in luxury. We must understand that humans have a huge capacity to adapt to almost any usual/unusual situation.
    Singleness is NOT normal. I cannot state that clear enough. Singleness shrinks a person, not expand them. Unless there are contravening circumstances, no one should be single.
    Don't buy the globalist hype. Humans are not meant to be single.

  4. This risks for young men getting married are well known, and young women complain about how difficult it is to get men to commit. The MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way) movement has grown in leaps and bounds proving that men are embracing single life and not buying into the fairy-tale.

  5. I totally enjoy being single.

    I would never get married again.
    I was for a decade. That was great the first half. Okay for 3 more years. The not good at all for the last couple.

    Plus the bs at the end dragged on for over a decade bc a kid was involved. My daughter is awesome! Her kids are too. If payment (for lack of a better word) for have her in my life is the years me and her mother were unhappy with each other… More than worth the price.

    I assume my ex would say the same but perhaps not as consistently as I do.

    I've dated, even got engaged since we split. The sec the ring went on we both knew it was a mistake. 3 months later we broke it off.

    So… I wish my marriage had worked out. Staying at the second stage, okay, would have been nice. But I'll never be that person again. And since I've raised my 'dating standards' I expect I'll rarely if ever date again.

    And I am perfectly happy with that.

  6. Boy, she was treading on American values…………..did you see the faces of that audience? Everything that she said was true; however, that audience, on the whole, was not having it! Isn't it interesting how we hold tightly to our values even in the face of contradictory evidence? It's fascinating!

  7. Watch this often. Pause. Ask myself “what do you want in a partner?”…. the answer always describes someone who is unavailable and insular and occasionally wants to get together for a dinner, movie, or … recreations.

  8. Seems to me she's trying to promote being single because she is.

    Being with someone, the right person is also a very wonderful thing.
    Sharing your life and experiences together, being there through tough times for one another and so many happy moments.

  9. @13:21 : She states: "The people who have friends and family members are the less lonely". If her parents and her friends' parents haven't been married to have kids, she would not have already had those grown up people to be able to talk to, when she felt alone.
    And at this very time while I am writing this comment our neighbors (married with one kid) are arguing with a loud voice, at the door of their apartment. It's heartbreaking to witness such a married life.
    Life is difficult, married or single, everyone has his/her fate. we have to be smart and LUCKY, and take it like it comes, live it, trying to be preventive, and avoiding complicated situations.

  10. Im just leaving a relationship and in ready to just focus on me im 27 and have nothing to my name but my car… Just got a second job which will bring me out of debt in months and then my New adventure begins

  11. My favourite thing about being in love is who I can be around the one I love.
    The characteristics they bring out in me. If they hold me back I can let them go and keep on dancing down my path. That is freedom

  12. 10:43 look at those "happy people" who are definately single and came to this show to convince themselves that they really are happy….but wait… why am I watching this?

  13. I'm not ever getting married again! . After my divorce and a few really, really BAD relationships, WHY would I NOT want to STAY SINGLE!?! I have children and I'm in my 60's! Again, WHY would I prefer to be anything BUT single? I love my freedom, 😊I love being single👍🙀🔊👌✌

  14. Turns out I prefer to be with cats rather than humans…🙀🔊 Kats have better personalities and moral standards😾🔊 Yeah for us cats. 👍✌

  15. Got married39 years ago divorced38 years ago. Only stayed together 3 months but our state required 1 year separation before no fault divorce.

  16. Everybody is different, what makes one person happy, would make another unhappy. Some people are ment to have family, some are happier to be single…

  17. What a dull, boring audience! Bella De Paulo is a well known social psychologist and I admire her. This was a phenomenal ted talk in front of an unappreciative, disappointing audience. I guess they couldn’t handle the truth or chose not to, blinded by their unfounded faith in the fairy tale happily ever after ending. Lol. I’m single and in my 30s and I deeply cherish and value my solitude. It helps me learn, grow, progress and work towards my goals. I thoroughly enjoy being single, independent, free, unbound to do as I please, travel where I want, eat out where I want, save, splurge on myself and my family. I’ve been in long term relationships but not since the last one ended about three years ago. I chose to stay single from then on and have loved every second of it.

  18. You will find someone! In this life or another. It's what we do. Happiness comes from within. Not another. Marriage is till death. There are many points and ideas in this talk. Very few that have to do with or withought being single or not. Peace and love!!!

  19. Guys know something that only you can cure yourself from this depression work for better future walk alone you came alone in this world nd you will die also alone that's it simple don't ignite false hopes in your heart that wil be your worst enemies of inner peace

  20. I am not married but I have two sisters who are married and have children. I do love them, send them all my positive thoughts but would not want to be anywhere near them.
    I am sure they appreciate their privacy and I certainly appreciate my freedom and my lack of awareness of their daily routine and chores.
    I believe when you are free and enjoy good health you can try new things, discover yourself and your talents and live the life you deserve. But routine isn't for me. It would kill me slowly every day. I love to be free !

  21. Darwin would be turning in his grave. We forget that this is mostly genetics, biology, not social conditioning.

  22. Hi I do not know how true that is being single I worked with Elderly people and I did not find that to be true. a lot of them the Elderly cred tear real hard tears that made me cry to but half the time I had to holed back my tears from them I heart broke because they could not turn time back they had know one to live the things they had work so hard for some of them had no family that was the hardest ones the others were so lonely they said that they made a mistake and cred a lot so you people out there should really think real hard on how you want to live the rest of your lives because there is no turning back from that ok. I worked in a lot of places with the Elderly and it broke my heart so all you out there really think if single is for you??????????????????????????????

  23. I'm single and still figuring out how to really be happy without someone beside me. I am planning to embrace singleness, happily.

  24. SOLITUDE IS NECESSARY TO GET TO KNOW YOURSELF AND THINK CLEARLY. Loneliness is a depressing need for companionship $ attention which you can get as needed.

  25. Her laughter sounds forced and fake. It feels like she's trying to convince everyone of something she doesn't believe. I've been single a very long time. I have very few friends. My friends count was recently cut by two when (1 of 13 years and the other of 25 years) they conspired behind my back, betrayed me and screwed me out of not just a job but a career. I have not had a social life for many years. Sweeping generalizations only scratch the surface of the human experience. In every possible scenario there exists people who occupy every rung on the ladder from deliriously happy to unimaginably miserable and all points in between. Sadly, no one wants to be around people who aren't happy or positive and it's incredibly difficult to be positive or happy when no one wants your company. What then?

  26. I am not married and never want to be but I want to be a single mom, either naturally or through adoption but unfortunately single moms are even more socially out casted than solo singles 🙁

  27. Voluntary singleness is being comfortable and content with oneself, which is why the audience isn't very receptive. Reason being is that she directly challenges every married couple and relationship in the room and people don't like being told they're wrong.

  28. Don't get married just because you think that it's the next phase of your life. Marry because you really want to commit to the person you love and understand that marriage is a constant effort. If you think you can't do that then don't marry. Also, marry someone who complements your being or enhances your life and not someone who you think is a solution to your problem or status.

  29. Love it! Married life had its perks, but single life is amazing! No stress or worry lines ever cross my brow… And what a freedom, never having to explain yourself or compromise on what you really want, EVER!

  30. Why do I feel sorry for people? I felt sort for every woman I was involved with! I guess the human condition in itself is pathetic and I always pitied the flawed, lonely souls out there attempting to find love and wholeness from another flawed and dysfunctional human being it all seemed so awkward that I just became single and I don’t sit around feeling sorry for myself I’m on a mission from God!!!

  31. Auto mechanic scotty killmer gets 1/4 of a million hits in a day. pardon me doctor but you got almost a million hits in 2 years. Umm were more interested in our cars than worrying about being married or single. Sad to say but i think we humans in the americas are more interested in our cars than interpersonal married relationships…yeash i said that.

  32. I'm 35 yrs old and single. Everybody is telling me that I should marry and have some kids. I feel pressured sometimes. But I realized that I'm not yer ready for that stuff. I love being the freedom of being single. I'm happy eventhough there's no man in my life right now.

  33. Loneliness is how you perceive it. I've been single for a long time and have always wanted that long term relationship experience. Well I've tried to hook a girlfriend in and very rarely I find one that sees my worth. Now if it wasn't for this realization through meditation and feeling how i want doing what i want I've progressed my personal health way more than i would've if i ended up in a relationship. There's someone out there for everyone when it's your time. Some of us dread giving up those freedoms. Either way know who you are in your heart and follow that .

  34. Why is it a man getting down on one knee? What, for enslavement for life? Uh huh, no thanks lol. Women are batshit crazy for the most part.

  35. I'm a single man in my 30s, I don't want to be single because I have so much to offer a woman, but women all they want are assholes.

  36. I'm happily single and wouldn't change that for the world. But I also think that it's a good thing many people fall into the trap of marriage because otherwise there would be no stability for bringing children into the world.

  37. When she laughs she sounds like she's about to cry. She sounds so upset it breaks me. As a single person, I clicked on this video hoping it would make me feel better… While I'm not unhappy, I'd love sharing little daily joys with someone that gets it and I do get a bit sad when I have no one to turn to. However this video it makes it worse.

  38. Wow, this is really, really sad. On the other hand, some people just have no other choice but to embrace it. Cause they are basically unlovable by anyone other than themselves. Believe me, I would know…

  39. Wow a lot of single people in the comments. It's almost as though they all flocked to this video looking for validation.

    There's nothing wrong with being single, people. There's nothing wrong with being in a relationship either. Some married people are miserable and some actually are happy (*GASP*). Just like some people are happy being single and some are miserable.

    There is no one size fits all.

  40. I strongly believe that people who feel like they have to be in a relationship have unaddressed issues from within.

  41. I respect her arguement . If you dont want to get married thats great but for me, I want love in my life.

  42. Marriage vs single life is irrelevant. Getting what you want is what matters.
    That said, this wise, single lady should do well to remember that, contrary to desire and belief, people are slaves to their instincts much like the animals that surround us. The instinct for reproduction is stronger than most and single doesn't work well with parent.

  43. I mean I'm a happily single guy, but I just gotta say…this woman sounds like she's about to break down crying hysterically. Lol, sorry, but I couldn't shake the mental image and anticipation of the moment.

  44. 63 and single wow! 👏👏👏👏👏👌.. Main reason i want to be single forever is to live with mother till her last breathe… I feel like she will be soo lonely when i get married during her old age all alone in an empty house no grandkids like she is used to… Also want to share love elsewhere (other interests)… Wow! Like i read your mind it's the single people who are attending to their parents… I feel like God is preparing me by the way am enjoying my peace alone… And enjoying my personal growth alone.

  45. Dammit all that work climbing to the top of dominance hierarchies so I would be chosen to mate with by the highest value female, and I could have just stayed single, childless, and I guess masterbated a lot?. Uhm! perhaps being single isn't for everyone.

  46. Guess I'm in a universe of my own. I'm so sad to see all the comments fall to love of being single. The incredible bonds and rewards gained by building a family are incalculable. The sync of biorhythms, the loyalties, dramas, and vast experiences had together – for good and bad – develop a life psychology no single existence can experience in my view. I guess that existence is fading away, now. I pity the embrace of this, but hope there are joys in it that I am simply unable to see – for my children's sake.

  47. I'm in my late teens. But I grew up watching my dad who constantly cheated on my mom and her battling with her mental illnesses. It seriously messed me up. Everyone expects me to get married. My mom did too at first. Because I have no siblings and I'm such an introvert, so I havent had friends in my life either. My mom used to say "it will be lonely. So you have to get married. "..But yesterday, I was talking to her about this and she saids"i know you probably wont get married.and that's better." Bc marriage sometimes causes more loneliness . My dream is to travel. So my mom told me "You should travel like you want to and live far away from here like you want to." She was only worried if one day after she passes away, I'd be lonely and I told her, I'd rather be happy by myself than let someone else ruin me just for the sake of doing what everyone else does

  48. Neither marriage nor being single is better or worse than the other – they're simply two different ways to live life, suited to different people. That being said, Bella DePaulo makes many good points for why single-life should not be stigmatised – I'm just weary of married or romantic relations being equally stigmatised in turn.

    I myself am definitely more in the 'single camp' right now, and have long been content there: solitude is a wonder – but the beauty of life is its vivacity for change, and I would not ‘subscribe’ to any one particular mode of living over the other because I had convinced myself that that was ‘who I am’. Who you are is as fluid and changing as water and it is this very attempt to hold onto that self-made identity, whatever it might be, which is what leads to the many self-made problems of life. Instead:

    "without any intentional, fancy way of adjusting yourself, to express yourself freely as you are is the most important thing to make yourself happy, and to make others happy." – Shunryū Suzuki.

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