Despite the increasing number of dating apps, matchmakers, and love advice designed to facilitate romantic connections, many women are opting out of relationships. Instead of moping over singledom or aggressively trying to find partners with arbitrary deadlines in mind, they are declaring to be happily unmarried and proudly find solace in living solo.
Danielle Clare, 31, a physical therapist in Washington, ended a two-year relationship with her live-in boyfriend last year. "It was honestly one of the best decisions that I've made," Clare said. "Finding what makes you happy is the most important thing."
More than seven months after her split, Clare has settled into her new life, where she now enjoys yoga classes, seeing friends, or staying in on a Friday night watching the series "Outlander," rather than going out on dates. She also cherishes her sleep.
"When you're feeling someone out and starting to spend the night together, you don't sleep well," she said. "A few years ago, I would have been like, 'of course, sleep over. No big deal.'" Now, she chooses to work out in the morning, make breakfast or sleep in if she so desires.
"A lot of times in relationships, you need to make sacrifices," said Genesis Games, a therapist in Miami. "You don't have any sacrifices to make when you're on your own. You make all the decisions. If you feel like you want to change your friends, you want to move, you want to start from zero — whatever you think is a radical change that's needed in your life — you have the full liberty to do that and not worry about anyone else."
In November, the actress Emma Watson, 29, spoke to British Vogue about being single. "I'm very happy. I call it being self-partnered." In the same interview, Watson described the stress she felt before adopting this notion. "There is suddenly this bloody influx of subliminal messaging around. If you have not built a home, if you do not have a husband, if you do not have a baby, and you are turning 30, and you're not in some incredibly secure, stable place in your career, or you're still figuring things out … There's just this incredible amount of anxiety."
Even outside monogamy, casually dating, courtship and chasing potential love interests take energy and time. "When you're not seeking partnership, you are in a very relaxed calm inner space and generally more comfortable with who you are," said Carla Manly, a clinical psychologist who specialises in relationships and self-awareness, who is based in Santa Rosa, California. "You're not trying to impress anyone and you're not trying to please anyone, except that inner being."
Manly says that for centuries, men and particularly women were raised to believe they are more valuable when married. This concept remains prevalent, despite people having a more relaxed attitude about marriage. (In the 2012 General Social Survey, more than half of adult Americans reported that getting married is not an experience they consider important to becoming an adult.)
"If you look at social media, movies or any messages out there, many of them are oriented toward the happy family and the happy couple," Manly said. "You're colouring your hair so you can get the perfect partner. You're taking the medication so you can walk on the beach with your partner. There are these overt and subliminal messages that being partnered is the ideal."
On Instagram, more than 12.9 million posts utilize the hashtag #engaged. Many of these photos feature up-close pictures of diamond-clad left ring fingers.
On the other hand, #single is used more than 17.9 million times, #singlewoman has more than 96,100 mentions and #singlegirl is featured in more than 915,000 posts.
In 2016, 110.6 million US residents 18 years and older were unmarried. Women accounted for 53.2 per cent of these individuals, according to the US Census Bureau.
In support of the unattached population, the Instagram account @notengaged (which has 164,000 followers) depicts what life is like without an engagement ring. The account's creator, Mary McCarthy, 31, of Astoria, Queens, has uploaded more than 800 pictures of her bare left ring finger while on vacation, at home with wine, at the movie theater, and in other locations since September 2016.
"There are times that I'm posting pictures of my far-flung adventures, but there are also times that I'm posting cleaning my tub on a Saturday night, because that's real life — no matter if you're coupled up or not," said McCarthy, who is unmarried and also #notengaged.
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when ur #notengaged and it’s nye and ur staying in to rest up for ur grand entrance into the new decade as a shining glamazonian empress. 2020 is all about perfect vision and all i can see for all of us is clear skin, big hair, can’t lose attitude. ur gonna friggin crush it with those unbejeweled hands. think of all the chips u can eat without a rock weighin u down. u will win every eating contest. #blessed 🍾 ps hi! every once and a while I break character to say-thank you chickpeas! What started as an inside joke has turned into the loveliest community. Your messages of joy and celebration have been the highlights of my year. Thank you all for your positivity, kindness, and humor. I wish you so many good things in 2020, and I can’t wait to continue these shenanigans with you next year. Have a lovely evening whether you’re out on the town or on the couch with tacos (no surprise where I am 😉) xoxo -Mary
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On New Years Eve 2018, an Instagram post featuring McCarthy's jewel-free left hand in front of a Christmas tree garnered more than 8,800 likes and about 500 direct messages. "People were like, 'I'm celebrating New Year's on the couch, too. I'm by myself, and I'm totally fine,'" she said.
Beyond couple-centric holidays, McCarthy says she's received "overwhelmingly positive" feedback from her audience which is 96% female.
In addition to the Instagram page, McCarthy created a fake wedding website via The Knot, where she details her relationship with herself (and tacos) and requests actress Anne Hathaway attend an imaginary December 31, 2022 wedding as her flower girl. (For context: banana bread is the bridesmaid and TV is the matron of honor.) To date, more than 250 people electronically submitted RSVPs to the nonexistent party.
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This was the year we said hello to Island Mary. We did a four hour solo hike through the ancient hills and survived. We said goodbye to people and things we loved. We checked off goals that had five year old Mary screaming with excitement. We traveled a ton. Wrote a ton. Learned a ton. 2020 Mary is going to soak up all that groundwork and make it happen. Thanks 2019 Mary. #MaryCon2020
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"I have nothing against marriage or people getting engaged, or even posting their engagements on the internet," said McCarthy. "Especially online, on social media, you're seeing these highlight reels from so many other people. You immediately start feeling behind in life. But, chances are, you're probably doing great no matter what you're doing."
Written by: Hilary Sheinbaum
© 2020 THE NEW YORK TIMES