As the holiday season starts, singles may face questions from friends and family: “When are you getting serious about dating?”
In many families, seasonal festivities draw lines between who’s coupled and who’s not. Romantic partners are invited to holiday meals, included in family photographs, and seen as potential life mates – while “mere” friends are not. These practices draw a line between relationships seen as significant – and those which aren’t.
As I’ve argued in my research on the ethics and politics of the family, these practices reflect widespread assumptions. One is that everyone is seeking a romantic relationship. The second is more value-laden: living in a long-term romantic, sexual partnership is better than living without one. This fuels beliefs that those living solo are less happy, or lonelier, than couples.
These assumptions are so prevalent that they guide many social interactions. But research shows they’re false
Why more Americans are living single
The truth is that more Americans are living unmarried and without a romantic partner. In 2005, the census for the first time recorded a majority of women living outside of marriage Although, of course, some unmarried women have romantic partners.
By 2010, married couples became a minority in the United States. The percentage of unmarried adults is at an all-time high, with more young adults choosing to live unmarried and without a romantic partner.
Personal finances likely plays a role in such choices. Millennials are worse off than earlier generations. There is a proven connection between economic resources and marriage rates – what legal scholar Linda McClain calls “the other marriage equality problem.” Lower incomes correlate with lower rates of marriage.
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