Being single is nothing to be afraid of. In 2014, single people of all ages, races, and genders made up more than 50 percent of the entire American population. But despite the fact that single people make up more of the population than married ones, many misconceptions still surround the idea of flying solo, especially as you start to approach retirement age. Therefore, 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.) So settle in—but don’t settle down. And for more ways to make the most of your best decade, check out the 40 Genius Ways to Simplify Your Life After 40.
When Swiss and German researchers analyzed married and non-married individuals, they found that, while paired-up people were more likely to eat better, they also 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 complications like type 2 diabetes and heart disease, so every percentage counts in the long run. And single or otherwise, don’t miss the 20 Healthy Living Rules You Should Live By.
Meeting new people becomes a bit of challenge once you hit your 40s. However, one of the benefits of being single is that when you go on dates with several new people every week, you are inadvertently expanding your social network. And even if you don’t meet the man or woman of your dreams, you could end up making a new best friend.
Being married is expensive. Once you couple up, you have not only yourself to look after, but your spouse (and possibly even kids) as well—and those extra mouths to feed and provide for can start to add up. One analysis from Debt.org even found that whereas 27 percent of married couples with kids and 36 percent of childless married couples have credit debt, only 21 percent of single individuals owe money to their credit card companies. And if you’re worried about your finances, then check out these 52 Ways to Be Smarter with Money in 2018.
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 after your 40s, as “you have already established your career” and “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.”
“Being single means you can have the person you have long, meaningful conversations with, [then] 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.
According to one 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. With so many fruitful friendships, who needs a romantic relationship anyway? And if you want to make even more connections, then check out the 40 Ways to Make New Friends in Your 40s.
“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).”
When sociologist Eric Klinenberg wrote a book—called Going Solo—about the lives of single individuals, one of the things he uncovered was that those who are flying solo are more likely than those who are married to volunteer with organizations that give back.
“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 found that over the course of two weeks, single males spent an average of just over 8 hours in the gym, whereas married men only hit the gym for 4 hours and 47 minutes.
Unless you actually enjoy eating the same pasta bolognese for eight days in a row, you’re going to find that one of the not-so-great parts of being single is grocery shopping. Meal prep is generally created with family portions in mind, and so anything you make for a family of one is going to end up lasting longer than you want it to.
Dating as a 20-year-old and dating as a 50-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 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. “You are less likely to stumble through unsatisfying sexual encounters without speaking up or having insight on how to make it better.”
A marriage license is a legally-binding contract, and that isn’t taken lightly in the eyes of the law. When someone says “I do” at the altar, they are also accepting liability for their partner’s potential crimes and debts, even if they aren’t responsible for them in any way. But as a single person, you only have to worry about your own missteps, so no secret credit card debts or hidden lawsuits are ever going to sneak up on you.
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.
Though the reason why is unclear, one study conducted by the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies found that men between the ages of 44 and 46 work 403 fewer hours per year when they aren’t in relationships. (One theory: married men need to work more hours to provide for their families.)
Getting the bed all to yourself comes with its fair share of perks. According to one survey of 2,000 Americans from Amerisleep, single individuals get an average of 7.13 hours of sleep nightly, compared to married individuals who only receive 6.71 hours. And if you need some help nodding off, steal these 11 Doctor-Approved Secrets for Falling Asleep Faster—Tonight.
Not only do single men and women sleep more, but they also sleep more soundly. 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 Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, a relationship therapist and founder of online relationship community Relationup. “There is no snoring, shuffling, sneezing, coughing, or early morning bathroom runs to disturb your sleep.”
“Because you are unencumbered, you have the freedom to do anything on a moment’s notice,” says Milrad. Want to take that trip to Paris that you’ve been dreaming of? Feel like taking a few days off from work for a solo spa weekend? The world is your oyster—and there’s not a soul in the world who can tell you otherwise. And if you need some last-minute vacation inspiration, then browse through these 50 Destinations So Magical You Won’t Believe They’re in the U.S.
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.”
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. And if you’re new to the dating world, then check out the 40 Best Dating Tips for Men Over 40.
“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.”
“The absolute best thing about being single is freedom,” says Brooke Sprowl, LCSW, a couples therapist and owner of My LA Therapy. “You get to do what you want, how you want, when you want. Relationships require compromise and sacrifice.” Say goodbye to being forced into watching Sunday football ever again!
When you’re in a relationship, you can’t just accept a dream job across the country or even across the world without first consulting your partner about it. Sure, your significant other might be willing to make it happen, but none of that even matters when you’re single, because you only have yourself to worry about.
“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,” explains Toni Coleman, a psychotherapist, relationship coach, and divorce mediator.
Naturally, most married couples spend most of their time within close proximity of one another. The issue there? When one person in the relationship is sick, the other person will usually become sick as well. As a happily single person, you don’t have to fret about cohabiting with someone who’s sharing germs with you.
Want to splurge on a pair of Manolos 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 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 job and financial stability, and you’re more than entitled to treat yourself every now and again.
Though you’d think that couples would be spending 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.
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.
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!
“One of the most challenging aspects of a relationship is buying meaningful gifts,” says J. Hope Suis, a relationship expert. “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.” But if you do need to buy a gift for someone like a friend or family member, then check out these 100 Wow Gifts for The Person Who Has Everything.
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, and being single over 40 allows you the opportunity to really go crazy.
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.
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.”
Unfortunately, being single does have a few small downsides. According to The Nest, married couples who file jointly receive the lowest tax rates, plus “enjoy more robust IRA contribution deductions… as well as higher capital loss deduction limits.” But even if you’re not married, you can still take advantage of these 20 Easy Ways to Stop Wasting Money.
Being single after 40 doesn’t carry the same stigma in society that it does when you’re in the midst of your peak child-rearing years. How you decide to live your life at that point is entirely up to you, and nobody is going to judge you either way.
It’s incorrect to assume that someone is lonely just because they’re single. On the contrary, single people are usually better adjusted to coping with difficult matters by themselves or with friends, whereas individuals who are used to being in a relationship don’t know how to feel fulfilled without a supportive partner.
Don’t be surprised if and when your coupled-up friends start treating you like being single is a bad thing. People who aren’t single don’t understand that it’s possible to be happy without a partner—but instead of getting mad at your friends for their assumptions, just ignore them, because you know that you’re happily going stag and that’s what matters.
“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 exert. “You can change your focus, your desires, and your path many times without worrying who it affects.” Case in point: When researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison analyzed survey data, they concluded that “the single fared better than the married” in areas like personal growth, independence, and learning.
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’s a win-win!
Without a spouse in your life dragging you to dreaded office parties or other social gatherings, you won’t ever have to worry about ending up somewhere that you don’t want to be.
According to data from the Single Adult Ministry, there were more single people living in the United States in 2014 than there were married. And more specifically, approximately 39 percent of all individuals over the age of 45 were single in 2012, up from 30 percent in 1960.
“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, and always manage to get a great seat at the movies.” And for more secrets to being single, check out the 12 Genius Ways to Happily Fly Solo As a Single Person.
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