Valentines, schmalentines: why long-term singles are the new normal


long-term single

New research suggests the average UK single has been solo for over a decade. So are they proactively choose this lifestyle, or has something gone wrong in the business of love? Rachael Lloyd investigates long-term singles

Even two decades ago, being single was seen as a temporary life stage. Younger women in particular were continuously under pressure to find a new partner for fear they might be ‘left on the shelf’ and destined to a solitary existence with a cat.

The moral majority were parents, friends, work colleagues – anyone who had been unconsciously indoctrinated with the perception that to live a complete life, everyone must couple up.

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Single men didn’t get off the hook either. They were commonly seen as playboys or dubious bachelors.

Today those prejudices are being challenged. People are shaking off the shackles off ‘tragic single’ stereotypes. Indeed, the UK’s single population is now largely composed of ‘long-term singles’, whose last relationship was a decade ago. Driving this is the fact that nearly seven out of 10 (68%) single people in the UK are now aged over 35.

What’s more, almost a quarter of single Brits say they have no issue with being single and many are in no hurry to find ‘the one’. In many ways, this is great news, suggesting booming confidence and self esteem.

Giving up on love
But what of the many people who actively yearn to find someone and can’t? What’s holding them back? 

New research suggests the most common obstacles to finding love are a history of bad relationships (24%), or not feeling attractive (24%). (See table below).

Meanwhile, one in five (19%) blame a lack of confidence, with men more likely to feel this way than women (24%/15%). Men are also more likely to say they are not financially well-off enough to find a partner (21%/9%).

These obstacles have led nearly four million UK adults to say they have given up on finding love, with singles aged 35-54 (29%) most likely to think they will never find a partner. Due in part to these concerns, the majority of singles don’t go on dates at all (52%).

The paradox of too much choice 
In many ways, this is shock news in a culture abundant with online dating. There’s arguably never been more choice.

However, the seemingly endless supply of options can also create a ‘paradox of choice’ whereby some singles simply refuse to settle, always believing there’s someone better out there. And the casualties of these fickle folk are often those who’ve given up on finding love.

But I’d warrant that finding someone special was never meant to be easy, not if you’re reasonably discerning. The kind of person you can build a meaningful future with doesn’t simply arrive at your door like a pizza.

You need more than chemistry, for starters. Numerous studies suggest shared values and personality traits are essential for lasting romantic happiness.

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That’s why at eharmony we carefully match singles based on mutual compatibility. And that’s why people come to us confident that we offer them something far more than a casual relationship.

However, even if online dating isn’t your thing, you can choose to have a more strategic approach. Start by making a list of all the qualities and traits you would admire most in a partner and keep them in mind when you go on dates.

Make a point of getting out and about to the right places and increasing your chances of  meeting someone on the same page. Join activity groups, accept invitations to parties, drinks and dinners; avoid the temptation to isolate all weekend.

The reality is there are several someones out there for everyone. And if you genuinely want to find love, it’s there for the taking. Plus, if all fails, the experts at eharmony are here to help you.

Table 1. Top 10 reasons stopping singles from finding love


Rank Reason Total % Male % Female %
1 I don’t feel very attractive 24 24 24
2 Previous bad relationships have put me off 24 17 29
3 I don’t feel there’s anyone out there for me 23 17 28
4 I lack confidence 19 24 15
5 My age has a negative impact 18 17 19
6 I’m not well off enough to find a good partner 15 21 9
7 I’ve met too many of the wrong people while dating 14 9 19
8 I have a health issue that affects my love life 14 16 12
9 I haven’t got time to find love 13 9 16
10 I don’t know where to begin looking 10 6 13

If this article gave you the confidence to find your match, try eharmony today!

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