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In praise of singlehood: Millennials are finding a way to be happy without getting married

The pressure to get married has long been a source of frustration, confusion and consternation for single people. For millennials, the topic seems especially pressing; A Pew report predicts that one-quarter of American young adults will never marry.

Non-Western countries place an extremely high value on coupling. As crazy as it might sound, Indian policemen were sent to 9,000 unmarried young men in order to find a “solution” for their “singleness.” The logic is that unmarried young men are more likely to participate in violent incidents and be involved in crime and drug dealing, so it is the police’s responsibility to pair them off.

In neighboring Pakistan, 27-year-old actor and TV host Mathira has recently opened up about her divorce, but she was besieged by fierce denunciation for even talking about it. This is while Tonga’s Prime Minister urged unmarried civil servants to marry, as if domestic life is a political issue and marrying the unmarried is on this year’s agenda.

Try as we might to distance ourselves from those examples, these incidents are not so different from what is going on in the West. One thousand American undergraduates were asked to list the characteristics that they associated with married and single individuals. Married people were often referred to as mature, happy, kind, honest and loving; singles were typically described as immature, insecure, self-centered, unhappy, lonely and even ugly.

Our cultural and psychological biases die hard: We seem to believe that everyone must have a partner to fit in with society, as if the smallest piece of the social puzzle must consist of at least two people. Society believes that if you are not part of such a unit, you are probably incomplete, anti-social and perhaps even dangerous. In turn, singles are made to feel less worthy.

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