Ah, Valentine’s Day. Red-and-pink heart decorations have been up since January 2nd, florists and jewelers everywhere are looking forward to their own Black Friday, and no matter where you turn, love is in the air.
This time of year, the whole world seems to insinuate that everyone is in a romantic or sexual relationship. Meanwhile, singlehood is often misunderstood as “sad” or representing something “missing” in a person’s life. That is, of course, completely untrue. The idea that you need a relationship to be happy or fulfilled is unhealthy and hurtful. More than 40 percent of the respondents to a recent Student Health 101 survey said they are not currently in a relationship, whether short or long term—which is more than fine because being single has a lot of pros.
Lots of people choose singlehood for a multitude of reasons. Some aren’t currently interested in an intimate relationship; others may be sexually active but aren’t looking for a commitment; and still others may be asexual, aromantic, or both. Some singles are recovering from a past connection or breakup, while others are waiting for the right person. Eleven percent of students say they don’t feel emotionally ready to enter a relationship, and over 40 percent say they’re perfectly happy focusing on themselves right now.
It can be a lot easier to concentrate on school, career, and personal goals without the distraction of dating—as more than 30 percent of students agree. Research backs it up: One study conducted at Loyola University New Orleans in Louisiana found that romantically involved students experienced higher stress levels when facing school deadlines than did their non-involved counterparts. “Being single as a student means that you don’t have to worry about consistently communicating with a significant other or planning your schedule around when you can spend time with [them],” says Emily E., a fourth-year undergraduate at the University of Delaware in Newark. “It also helps [you] focus on schoolwork when you don’t have any relationship conflicts.”
But the best thing about being single? According to survey respondents, more time to focus on your true one-and-only: you.
When not tied down in a committed relationship, you may have more time to devote to exploring your likes, desires, strengths, pet peeves, and challenges. Focusing on your own needs can help you identify your core values and how you’d like to apply them. “It gives you time to be independent and find how to be happy on your own,” says Kika D., a fourth-year undergraduate at Metropolitan State University in Denver, Colorado. Perhaps you’ll take this knowledge and apply it to school, career plans, or something else that ignites your passion. Self-awareness is also important if you decide that you would like to be in a relationship at some point.
So, if you’re single, create plans to learn new things and spend time figuring out what makes you happy. Embrace this opportunity to concentrate on doing what you want to do with your life.
You may not be in a romantic relationship, but you still need connection. There are a lot of psychological benefits to having social connections and relationships: One 2016 study found that college students who were in a relationship and spent more time talking to friends had higher life satisfaction than those who spent more time alone or on their phones.
If you’re single, prioritize spending time with friends and building other relationships. “Closeness and intimacy are never instant—for anyone—and take time to build,” says Dr. Irene Levine, professor of psychiatry at the New York University School of Medicine in New York City. “As you begin to know [someone], slowly peel back and share parts of yourself, [like your] history, aspirations, etc. This may make you feel like you are taking a leap of trust—and you are, in a sense—but it’s the only way to get close.” Humans are social creatures who rely on friends, family, and loved ones—even if not in love.
Friendships can sometimes even be deeper for the un-coupled. “I have noticed that when you enter a relationship, oftentimes something is lost, and usually that is your friendships,” says Rachel A., a recent graduate of George Fox University in Newberg, Oregon. “I think one advantage [of singlehood] is time to develop some awesome friendships.”
Singlehood is not only normal but also healthy. Sometimes it’s transient, and sometimes it lasts, but in all cases, it can be a great experience. So while some people may be focused on their partners this Valentine’s Day, there are many others who will celebrate the holiday with family, friends, or even on their own.
There are plenty of ways to enjoy V-Day, whether you’re single or in a romantic relationship. Here are some affordable, simple ideas:
- Cook with friends and family. Check out our easy UCookbook recipes for some inspiration.
- Organize a game night with friends. Catchphrase and Quiplash are both great games for big groups.
- Offering your time and energy to other people can really bring on warm feelings.
- Have a movie night with your favorite Valentine’s-themed treats—who says you need an S.O. to enjoy some chocolate?
- Leave homemade valentines and little gifts (e.g., a flower, temporary tattoos, a $5 Starbucks gift card) for friends or family members.
- Get dressed up for dinner, even if you’ll be at home or the local diner.
- Spoil yourself for the day. Treat yourself to something nice that you’ve wanted to buy or do.
Don’t feel like celebrating? Use this day to just do you: Devote some time to creative pursuits, nerd out on your favorite podcast, or check out what events are happening on campus.
Dr. Bella DePaulo, visiting professor, the University of California, Santa Barbara, California, and author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After and the “Living Single” column in Psychology Today.
Dr. Irene S. Levine, professor of psychiatry, New York University School of Medicine, New York, New York.
Asexual Visibility and Education Network. (n.d.). About asexuality. Retrieved from http://www.asexuality.org/home/overview.html
Coccia, C., & Darling, C. A. (2016, February). Having the time of their life: College student stress, dating and satisfaction with life. Stress and Health, 32(1), 28–35. doi: 10.1002/smi.2575
Kopfler, M. E. (2003). Effects of romantic relationships on academic performance. National Undergraduate Research Clearinghouse, Missouri Western State University. Retrieved from http://clearinghouse.missouriwestern.edu/manuscripts/398.php
Student Health 101 survey, December 2012.
Student Health 101 survey, October 2019.