This I Believe

Laura - State College, Pennsylvania
Entered on May 12, 2006

I make up one half of a very non-traditional family unit: a girl and her dog. I begin and end each day in the company of Max, who’s both smart and funny, with soulful brown eyes. While we do have a few minor differences in opinion on the finer things in life – mostly that I don’t share his appreciation for chasing cats or licking one’s self– we do have a lot in common. We go hiking and kayaking, watch old movies, and read lots of books. (Okay. I read. He naps.) It is so perfect a relationship that I sometimes wonder why I’d ever want to complicate it by introducing a husband (or even a boyfriend).

I believe that my life – and the lives of the 86 million other unmarried Americans — has meaning and value, even without a spouse.

Wake up and smell the demography! Married couples make up only 51 percent of households today, down from 80 percent in the 1950s, says the U.S. Census Bureau. As the fastest growing population, unattached Americans are on the brink of being the new majority.

Which means I’m not a spinster, or a walking tragedy – I’m normal.

Americans are living longer, marrying later, divorcing more frequently, and choosing to live together as an alternative to marriage. Some simply never marry at all. As a consequence, most of us will spend more of our lives single than married. No longer a transitional state, singlehood has become its own satisfying destination. Even though many of us do want to be married – someday – that hasn’t prevented us from living full lives we can enjoy right now, instead of just killing time until our “real” lives start after the wedding.

I have everything I need for a complete life: a job I love, plenty of outside interests to pursue, and enough money in the bank to pay for it all.

My lack of a significant other doesn’t bother me, because I have, instead, significant others. A close network of friends and family, a variety of relationships much more fulfilling than any attempts to have all my emotional needs met by one “soulmate.”

Still, the myth that we singles are lonely and miserable is dying hard. Countless ads, movies and media insist I don’t know real happiness until I’m part of a couple, even though social research is finding that happiness isn’t determined by marital status. It’s about having quality relationships and a life that feels meaningful – neither of which requires a ring.

Unattached, I’m free to take risks, explore different opportunities, and pursue what seems best to me, without seeking someone else’s approval. And if the right guy ever does come along, our relationship will reap the benefits of this.

And if he doesn’t show up? I’ll be just fine. Because, you know, getting married is easy. Millions of people do it every year. If I’m going to pressure myself into doing something, I’m going to pick something that’s at least a little more challenging. Like getting Max to keep to his own side of the bed.