Bella DePaulo is the author of Singled Out: How Singles Are Stereotyped, Stigmatized, and Ignored, and Still Live Happily Ever After, and How We Live Now: Redefining Home and Family in the 21st Century. She is also an Academic Affiliate in the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She has written for Medium, Psychology Today, HuffPost, New York Times, the Washington Post, NBC, CNN, Time magazine, the Atlantic, New York magazine, and the Chronicle of Higher Education. Her TedX talk, What no one ever told you about people who are single, has over a million views. Here, I ask DePaulo about her new book, Single at Heart: The Power, Freedom, and Heart-Filling Joy of Single Life. You can find out more at: You can follow them on Twitter: @belladepaulo

Cover of Single at Heart

AMW: What is being single at heart? Is that different from just being single?

For people who are single at heart, single life is their best life – their most joyful, meaningful, fulfilling, psychologically rich, and authentic life. They love being single and want to stay single. They don’t want to organize their life around a romantic partner. They are happy and flourishing because they are single, not in spite of it.

Single people who do not like being single are not single at heart. Even single people who want to stay single may not be single at heart if their reasons are only negative ones – for example, they hate dating, or they have given up on “finding someone,” or they have challenges that make it difficult to pursue or maintain a romantic relationship. People who are single at heart are powerfully drawn to single life for positive reasons; they value all that single life has to offer.

AMW: What are the advantages of being single at heart?
Here are a few of the advantages of being single at heart that I discuss in my Single at Heart book:

  1. People who are single at heart love the time they have to themselves. In solitude, they enjoy the opportunities for relaxation, creativity, productivity, spirituality, and just getting to be themselves. That’s a whole different experience than fearing solitude or finding it deeply distressing, as can happen, for example, when people are alone not because they enjoy being alone, but because they have been rejected or ostracized. People such as the single at heart who appreciate alone time have some great advantages. Contrary to stereotypes, they are very unlikely to feel lonely. Feeling comfortable in solitude helped the single at heart fare better than a lot of other people during the worst of the pandemic. Their embrace of solitude also means that they are very unlikely to become the caricature of the older single person who is isolated and sad.
  2. People who are single at heart have the freedom to follow their hearts and live according to their values. Within the limits of their resources and opportunities, the single at heart might use their freedom to continue to learn and to grow, to do meaningful work, and to chart their own life courses, rather than following the expected path through adult life. They appreciate their financial freedom, getting to be the deciders, and arranging their homes and their everyday lives just the way they want them. One of the stereotypes of single people is that they are selfish, but some people who are single at heart use their freedom to be there for the important people in their lives and to contribute to their communities or their nation.
  3. Because they are not organizing their lives around a romantic partner, the single at heart are often devoted friends. They can spend time with, and care for, as many people as they want, whenever they want, without worrying about romantic partners who may want more of that attention for themselves.
  4. Because the single at heart embrace their single lives and invest in them, they are often particularly well prepared for later life. Because they don’t marginalize their friends to focus on a spouse or romantic partner (they have “The Ones” rather than “The One”), they are likely to have a number of people who are there for them as they grow older. Because they don’t divide up the chores and tasks of everyday life with a romantic partner, they head into their later years already knowing how to do everything that needs to be done, or they have found people to hire or who will help. They are often good planners. For example, one of the single at heart women who shared her life story with me was only 33, but she was already having renovations done on her home that would make it more likely that she could live there as long as possible.  
  5. The single at heart have more expansive, open-hearted perspectives on intimacy and love. Sure, intimacy can include sexual intimacy, but it also includes emotional intimacy. And to the single at heart, love encompasses so much more than just romantic love. For example:
    1. About intimacy, a 61-year-old single at heart woman said: “When people share their deepest sorrows, fears, and joys with you, that’s intimacy. Giving people long hugs is intimacy.”
    1. About love, a 47-year-old single at heart schoolteacher said: “I love my blood family. I love my chosen family. I love my students, my pets, and pursuing my creative endeavors. My family, pets, and friends love me. My students love me.”

AMW: What are the biggest misconceptions about single life?

One of the most important misconceptions, and the one I most fervently want to dismantle in Single at Heart, is that what single people want, more than anything else, is to not be single. I review some striking evidence shattering that stereotype in the book. Challenging that misconception is important because when people believe that no one really wants to stay single, then single life gets treated as a lesser life. The stories told about single people’s lives are deficit narratives. What I find really stunning is that these deficit narratives are so powerful, and so rarely challenged, that single people who love their single lives worry that there is something wrong with them. Think about that: They have what we all crave – a life they find meaningful and fulfilling. And yet, they write to advice columnists, read self-help books, and go to therapy to figure out why they have this “problem” of liking single life!

Just about all the other stereotypes of single people turn out to be exactly wrong. For example, single people are often described as “alone” or “unattached” or as people who “don’t have anyone.” But in fact, research shows that single people are often more connected to more different people. Single people are often regarded as selfish, but in important ways, they are more generous with their time, money, and caring. And of course, the big one – that single people are unhappy; and as they grow older, they become even more dissatisfied with their single lives; and if only they would get married, they really would live happily ever after. I review evidence dispelling all of those misleading notions, and more, in Single at Heart.