25 Things About Being Chronically Single

1. Culturally, it’s okay to be single. Actually, it’s empowering and awesome and a feminist issue!

2. Unless you’ve been single for too long. Then it becomes a curious issue.

3. How do I know this? Because when I tell people, “I’ve spent most of my life single,” they look at me (“examine me” might be a better way to put it) and then they ask, “Why?”

"and this examination makes me spill my matcha"

4. When they ask, “Why?” their tone is very-intrigued-while-trying-to-appear-not-that-intrigued.

5. I’m not sure that people who’ve spent most of their lives in relationships receive this same type of “Why?”

6. To me, the “Why?” seems laced with judgment, but am I conflating judgment with surprise?

7. It’s true that being single for most of one’s life is a rare thing, which is why it elicits examination.

8. Once, I told a woman about my chronic singlehood and she said, “But you seem so normal!”

"But you seem so normal"

9. She examined me like I was a cult member who’d just rolled out of a white van.

10. Or like a rock who’d fallen off the moon.

a person-shaped rock that fell off the moon

11. Or like a person with wounds.

12. Once, at a dinner, everyone at the table was talking about their relationships and I felt so uncomfortable that I said, “I-have-to-go-now-bye,” and sprinted away.

a person running away from a dinner table conversation

13. When I considered writing this, I realized that I’m not that interested in exploring why culture thinks it’s not okay to be single for a long time.

14. I’m interested in anyone who is doing anything that’s out of the ordinary. Non-ordinary things are done from a non-conformist place. They’re done when one is listening to the little voice inside of them.

15. It’s hard to not belong.

someone lying on the ground with a pea on their back

16. Humans prize belonging above all else. If you stop and really feel the weight of the “all else” in that sentence, it’s heavy.

17. I spent years feeling ashamed about my chronic singlehood. I mean, I really felt like shit about it.

18. When I considered writing this, I realized that the complaint and the punchline are the same.

19. Complaint: People assume this is about my wounds.

20. Punchline: Of course that’s what it’s about.

21. So, then, I’ve been feeling ashamed about things over which I have no control.

22. Does that make sense?

23. No.

24. What I’m most interested in is the chronically single person who’s reading this.

25. If that’s you, then I love you, and it’s really all okay.

standing hug pose

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swan huntley

Swan Huntley’s novels include I Want You More, Getting Clean with Stevie Green, The Goddesses, and We Could Be Beautiful. She’s also the writer/illustrator of the darkly humorous The Bad Mood Book and You’re Grounded: An Anti-Self-Help Book to Calm You the F*ck Down. Swan earned an MFA at Columbia University and has received fellowships from MacDowell and Yaddo. She lives in Los Angeles.

swan has written 3 articles for us.


  1. This is lovely. Thank you for writing it. Half the time when I find myself thinking “I should start dating” or do start dating I realize it’s only because I feel embarrassed or awkward about always being single, because I think my friends must be silently wondering wtf is up with me never talking about relationships. It’s a very rare thing where I’m wanting to date for me. And then when I do, half of what stops me is the uncomfortable thought of being asked by a date about past relationships and responding with *crickets*

  2. Thank you so much for writing this. I am also someone that has been chronically single and people are always doing the surprised/seemingly intrigued and yet not thing. Sometimes, I do want a relationship but then I see people who are and i’m just like “for what?” Sometimes, I’ll scroll through memes of happy couples on insta and I go back and forth. It’s a cycle of I love being single but it would be nice to have someone to grow with. I just haven’t found anyone whom I think is more fun than me? In other words, I haven’t felt compelled or have met anyone that i feel is worth giving up my singledom for.

    Or maybe i’m just not meeting the right people? I don’t know. In any case, loved this article!

    • Oof I could have written this exact comment. I’ve been in relationships before but they were all stressful. I live in a state now of loving my singleness while also constantly being ashamed of it. But also why would I date anyone unless I feel better around them than I do on my own?

  3. Thanks for writing this! People don’t often ask me why. I guess they just assume it’s because I’m disabled and mostly housebound. I’ve never been in a relationship though, even before I was sick.

    I don’t think I’ve ever heard the descriptor chronically single. Another one to add to the list. Chronically ill, chronically online, chronically single – that’s me.

  4. Being single is normal for me. My longest relationship was 11 month long, and that was 20+ years ago /with a man/.
    I live in the isolated, small community and it is hard to meet new, interesting people*lesbians.
    I don’t want to date out of pressure. I have an online account on lesbotronic, but barely checking in.. I guess I’m easily distracted by other things – tv shows, fanfiction etc.
    More fun than dating someone boring person.
    An when I was in the relationship, I was just waiting it end…it was not natural for me.
    I would like to be in a relationship with a woman, and if that’s not for me, to close that door and be done with it.

  5. I’ve been single my whole life. I’d love to meet a woman (who could stand me for long periods) and see what being in a relationship is like. I find the probability of that happening to be low, however, and if it doesn’t happen that’s fine.

  6. It’s often said to married people, but no one ever tells single people “it’s hard work!” Because for women, being single is kind of amazing.
    As a (somewhat) newly single woman I am loving the freedom and finding that most interesting people are unattached. Marriage dulls us, sorry. It did me.
    We are all wounded. That may or may not be relevant to our relationship status. The question isn’t whether you’re single or partnered, it’s whether you’re mostly happy.
    I could talk about this forever. Everyone please comment!

  7. My limited time in relationships was kind of tormenting, actually. I’ve been single most of my adult life, and it seems like if you have a close group of friends and/or some “friends,” you don’t really need the other thing.

  8. Definitely feeling seen. I’m kinda “trying to date” for the first time and not sure how I feel about that. It doesn’t feel great but I have kinda realized that writing it off for myself has been a defense mechanism and perhaps limiting, for me. I want to be open to new things, but I don’t really want to put a lot of effort into this thing I don’t even know if I’ll like.

  9. Yes yes and yes. Life is about being happy with or without somebody else. I’ve been single most of my life and it took a while for people to stop asking the surprised/sometimes judgy ‘why’. The people I’m close to finally understood that it’s possible to be perfectly happy on your own. That there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. And the others? Who cares. I’m open to being with someone, but not just for the sake of being in a relationship. Will it happen? I don’t know and either way that’s ok and I’ll be happy :)

  10. Chronically single and ready to mingle. Seriously though there are uncomfortable moments, like when someone tries to shove their relationship in your face, but I tell myself they’re just posing for the camera.

  11. Single for most of my adulthood (just worked out what 4 cumulative years out of almost 22 was and I was in relationships for 18% of the time). Aside from the pandemic lockdown years, I was Actively Trying To Date for most of this time (sometimes I come off the apps for mental health reasons, but in most years my follow-through on them is sporadic/seasonal anyway). Dating has become a hobby, basically. Reasons to keep doing it: 1. Get to try new restaurants, 2. Occasionally make a new friend, 3. Can prove to yourself that you have not ‘given up’, 4. No one else (friends/family) can accuse you of having ‘given up’ either. I no longer have any expectation of romance blooming on these dates either, though, which takes the pressure off and you can have a nice meal and conversation.

    I am demisexual, and I suspect that is the reason for my chronic singleness really. Love came out of friendship for me in the times where that has happened, and the ‘go on a date with a stranger you meet online’ model is very unsuitable for how my brain and body process attraction, in a much more gradual way than this allows for.

    I have had to learn to make peace with this unexpected life alone. I have a dog (of course) and there are lots of benefits to life as a single person in one’s own household – there’s a lot more peace than in my friends’ family lives. I think I would find it hard to adjust to living with someone again, if the situation ever arose, but I’m not too worried that it will.

    The pain point for me is children, and adjusting to a life without becoming a parent, as this is not something I would want to do solo. But I figure I only have another five or so years before this stops being a biological ticking clock, and maybe I can find my peace with that too.

  12. I am chronically single, by choice, after years of long-term relationships, because being single is the happiest and most complete I’ve ever been. I still date casually, I have crushes, I have sex. I have emotional intimacy with the people I am closest to but that doesn’t necessarily translate into a longing for “more”. When I am asked why, I respond “because I am happy”.

  13. At this point, people have given up asking me why or what’s wrong. At this point, no one even expects anything to ever happen. I hope I get to surprise everyone one day…?

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