The Pitt News

Single and ready to … stay that way

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(Illustration by Abigail Katz | Staff Illustrator)

(Illustration by Abigail Katz | Staff Illustrator)

(Illustration by Abigail Katz | Staff Illustrator)

By Vaibhavi Patria | Columnist

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It took me until my sophomore year to finally give up my need to be in a relationship.

In the past, I constantly felt an urgency to date or be in committed relationships rather than casual ones. When I was dating people, I never truly felt happy and secure. But during the times I wasn’t dating, I felt I was missing out on the trust and reliability of having a significant other.

But when sophomore year finally hit me, I realized how limited my free time was. I became a member of the executive board in my sorority, got an internship and became involved in research at Pitt — and no longer had the time I once did to spend on a committed relationship.

I also realized the time I did spend in relationships didn’t actually make me feel happy — I could have easily spent it with friends and family who would have made me feel better. I always felt like I was missing out on precious memories with loved ones when I had a significant other filling that space.

When I was caught in the dating game, I felt extremely dissatisfied — I pegged it down to a gloomy attitude or seasonal depression. But this feeling of discontent while being in a relationship is actually way more common that it seems.

In a study by the Bureau of Labor statistics, 50.2 percent of the American adult population was unmarried in 2014 — a significant increase from the 37.4 percent of unmarried adults in 1976.

Valentine’s Day may be a lonely and miserable day for many single people, but it doesn’t need to be that way. A relationship is not a prerequisite for enjoying a love-centered holiday like Valentine’s Day — if you’re single, you still have all the reason to celebrate. Send some love to your family and friends, buy chocolate for your roommate or even for yourself and maybe even have sex if you’re in the mood for it.

Studies show that single women are actually much happier and more satisfied with themselves than married women or those in committed relationships — especially for women in college, who are not at a point where they have the required time and energy for a relationship.

Not only are women in college often preoccupied with their social lives, classes and other extracurricular activities to bother with relationships, but doing so could actually hamper their mental health.

In a 2016 press release, the American Psychological Association said single people may have more active social lives than those in relationships where both parties are completely invested and absorbed in each other. In this way, singleness may actually lead to greater psychological growth.

Rather than giving a significant chunk of your social time to one person, single people can take time to be with multiple friends and family. Instead of having one primary influence from a emotionally invested relationship, you have multiple diverse influences.

Of course, this isn’t to say that relationships are always a bad idea. People move through stages of life at different paces, and what’s right for one person isn’t always right for another. But know that if you’re not in that relationship stage, you can still have the benefits of one without the commitment.

And perhaps one of the biggest relationship benefits — boosting both health and happiness — is sex. Engaging in sex releases a variety of chemicals, making us feel confident and satisfied. It’s beneficial for your mental health by decreasing salivary cortisol levels, a common measure to reduce psychological stress. It also serves as a good workout, which is always good for your heart and other muscles.

The best part is, a serious relationship isn’t necessary to receive these sex benefits. There’s evidence that suggests single women are having more sex than committed women.

Researchers from San Diego State University, Florida Atlantic University and Widener University compiled data over 25 years among about 26,000 people, and found while partnered people are having less sex than they were a decade ago, singles’ sex has remained the same.

More than that, researchers Eva C. Luciano and Ulrich Orth of the University of Bern showed relationships don’t even lead to higher self-esteem or a greater sense of happiness — in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

Many young students throughout the nation believe serious relationships detract from their other endeavors, which may make them happier than a relationship.  

Lifestyle writer Leigh Tavernoff described the benefits of singleness in your 20s in an article for Today’s Lifestyle.

These years are extremely important: you’re meant to be finding out who you are and building a foundation for the rest of your life,” Tavernoff said. “You don’t want to get too caught up in someone else’s problems…and forget to be experiencing your own.”

So while dating can be enjoyable and healthy relationships can offer valuable experience, a relationship isn’t a prerequisite for happiness or a fulfilling sex life. It’s all about what makes you feel happy and confident about yourself.

Vaibhavi primarily writes about social justice for The Pitt News. Write to Vaibhavi at vap37@pitt.edu.

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Single and ready to … stay that way