April 12, 2024

A psychologist explains the four ways people think about being single

Being single can evoke all kinds of emotions. It can be encouraging, disturbing, lonely, joyful and frustrating – sometimes all at the same time. However, different people react to it in different ways.

A 2024 study examined why some people remain single and found that an individual’s attachment style – referring to the way they perceive others in close relationships, interact with others and are emotionally connected – plays a key role in the diversity of experiences as a single person, and shapes how they feel. behave and make contact with others.

Here are four ways your attachment style can impact your single experience, according to the 2024 study.

1. Safe loner

“For some individuals, long-term singleness could be a satisfying personal and autonomous choice (as opposed to a defensive denial of intimacy needs) – that is, singles characterized by secure attachment,” the researchers say.

For those who are securely attached, singleness can be a conscious choice, characterized by contentment and autonomy, yet anchored in the ability to seek and maintain meaningful connections with family and friends.

Securely attached individuals also tend to do well in terms of psychosocial well-being, experiencing higher life satisfaction – which in turn is associated with satisfaction with being single – and greater psychological need fulfillment compared to those with an insecure attachment style .

Such individuals report lower fear of being single, greater self-esteem and empathy, lower likelihood of pain, emotional instability and dysregulation, with their singleness being less relevant to their identity. Although they report not needing a romantic relationship, they are still open to the idea and desire it more in the future than their avoidant counterparts.

Securely attached singles also have greater access to social support and are less likely to experience depression, anxiety, loneliness and problematic pornography use compared to anxious or anxiously attached singles.

2. Anxious loner

Individuals characterized by heightened attachment anxiety often struggle with maladaptive interpersonal behavior that stems from insecurity or fear of abandonment, making them more likely to experience unstable relationships and remain single.

Highly anxious individuals exhibit traits such as excessive jealousy, suspiciousness, and emotional volatility, which undermine their efforts to cultivate satisfying relationships. They may also exaggerate their pain to get reassurance from their partners. Because of their intense desire for intimacy, they tend to experience dissatisfaction with being alone, long for romantic partnerships, and struggle with the fear of rejection and loneliness.

Such individuals exhibit lower self-esteem, greater neuroticism, loneliness and increased emotional distress, with their ‘single’ status often central to their identity and at the forefront of their thoughts.

Anxiously attached singles also experience a strong fear of being single – which can lead to longing for ex-partners and settling for unfulfilling partnerships – and lower levels of well-being, likely because their psychological needs for connection and intimacy are not being met.

Despite their desire for closeness, they paradoxically report less close relationships and reduced well-being in both romantic and non-romantic relationships.

“The anxious profile was also highest in hypersensitive narcissism, characterized by a fragile self-image, hypersensitivity, entitlement and self-focused attention. Anxious individuals tend to be less responsive and empathetic to the needs of others and exhibit an increased focus on their own distress,” the researchers explain.

3. Avoidant loner

Individuals with an avoidant attachment style often remain single because of their tendency to avoid emotional vulnerability and intimacy, anticipate relationship failure, and prefer to maintain emotional distance from others to avoid being hurt.

This avoidance of intimacy not only impacts their romantic relationships, but also impacts their psychosocial well-being, as they report lower satisfaction with interpersonal relationships and exhibit poorer mental health outcomes compared to securely attached individuals.

Such individuals tend to demonstrate lower levels of commitment and empathy and seek alternative partners in their relationships. They report that their singleness is not very relevant to their sense of self and show little to no interest in current or future relationships.

With their often excessive self-reliance and autonomy, avoidant singles can also struggle to find fulfillment in non-romantic relationships.

Although they may fare better than anxious and anxiously attached individuals in terms of their self-esteem, emotional instability, and fear of being single, their overall satisfaction with life and interpersonal relationships remains lower than that of securely attached individuals, suggesting that Although avoidance can provide temporary protection. of emotional pain, it also hinders the depth of meaningful connections.

4. Anxious singleness

Anxiously attached singles are characterized by high levels of both attachment anxiety and avoidance, fluctuating between desire for intimacy and fear of rejection. Their journey through singlehood is marked by inner turmoil and ambivalence.

“The combination of attachment anxiety and attachment avoidance can result in contradictory and chaotic behavior in relationships and is likely to undermine the formation and maintenance of romantic relationships,” the researchers explain.

Compared to other attachment profiles, they report greater fear of being single, increased neuroticism and lower self-esteem. Their singlehood experiences are characterized by a sense of identity centrality, similar to that of anxious individuals, but they report the lowest levels of psychological well-being and availability of support.

Anxious singles also show increased emotion dysregulation, tendency toward pain, and the fear of being single, along with increased social anxiety, decreased empathy, and increased levels of depression, anxiety, loneliness, suicidality, and problematic pornography use.

Despite similarities with anxious individuals in fears related to being single, anxious singles are more likely to feel unable to find a partner and experience less satisfying romantic and non-romantic relationships, resulting in disjointed and chaotic use of attachment strategies that significantly influence their relationships.

Whether we embrace singleness as a choice or approach it with anxiety, our attachment styles exert a significant influence on our romantic pursuits and our overall well-being. However, it is crucial to know that these styles are not static; they can evolve with deliberate effort. Through therapy, self-reflection, actively seeking healthy relationships, and nurturing meaningful, non-romantic connections, individuals can navigate singlehood with greater resilience and fulfillment.

Are you curious about how you experience being single? Take this test: Fear of being one shell

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