“When do you plan to settle down?” If you’re a single person in your late 20s or beyond, this question is likely to be tossed your way by parents, extended family, friends, coworkers, and the ‘nosy’ neighbor who doesn’t know whether you’re a pizza or steak kinda person but still rightfully believes that your decision to find a partner and tie the knot is their business. After warding off the perennial question with polite smiles, you’re bound to wonder why is being single looked down upon and why you are constantly judged for not being married.
While the toll that this constant scrutiny takes on the mind and mental health of singles is still marginally discussed, the spotlight is hardly ever shone on the mindset behind judging singles.
In this article, psychotherapist Dr. Aman Bhonsle (Ph.D., PGDTA), who specializes in relationship counseling and Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy, decodes the psychology behind judging singles for their choice to remain unattached.
Why Is Being Single Looked Down Upon?
Why are single men judged? Why are single women judged even more? Why can’t society be more accepting of an individual’s choice to lead their life as they deem fit? These are all valid questions. Of course, an acceptance of personal choices is an idealistic standard to aspire to. However, what’s ideal may not always be a realistic expectation.
You cannot make sense of this tendency to always target the otherness of a single person without understanding why people are judged for not being married. Society interprets marriage as a way to attest to your normalcy. It is seen as a hallmark of your capability to integrate into society.
When people ask single people, “When are you going to settle down?”, the implication is that you’re currently unsettled. You are seen as a free radical. Someone who is maladjusted, and not capable of meeting the cooperative standards of human society. And if you’re incompatible with a homogenous group, you risk being a liability.
Related Reading: 6 Reasons Why Being Single Is Better Than Being In A Relationship
These cliched opinions behind judging singles are rooted in the assumption that not being attached to another human being for a lifetime means you’re not capable of being part of a whole. This can, in turn, be tied to the collective psychological conditioning rooted in human evolution. In the olden days, going all the way back to when we were hunter-gatherers, it was essential for people to fit in because societies were insulated, self-sufficient and protective paradigms unto themselves. To be able to survive, you needed to belong. This is also where the idea of a couple as a whole came into being.
Anyone who chooses to deviate from the norm doesn’t make the postcard image of prosperity and happiness. For instance, you don’t see single people as the face of advertisement campaigns for holidays or a happy home. The image of a happy, content, fulfilling life is still represented by a family.
If you don’t conform to that norm, you’re an anomaly and that fact is rubbed in your face. So, why is being single looked down upon? Because by choosing to not follow the trajectory society has decided for you, you become a surprise that cannot be predicted. No one likes that.
Judging singles also stems from a free of freedom
Another common reason why people are judged for not being married is that singlehood is equated with freedom. Marriage, by contrast, a confine. And freedom is seen as a vice. More often than not, people struggle to understand how someone can be single yet happy. That concept in itself is alien to them, and hence, petrifying.
The human instinct is to be voyeuristic. We’re in a constant state of risk assessment, owing to our inherent fight or flight response. When faced with something we don’t relate to or understand, our instinct is to either shun it or resist it. That’s precisely what judging singles is all about.
The ideas and biases fed to us through the vulnerable and impressionable childhood years condition us into believing that finding a partner and entering into the institution of marriage is the normal order of things. Those who deviate from it inevitably find themselves at the receiving end of speculation and scrutiny.
Related Reading: Accepting Singlehood: It’s Okay To Stay Single
Being judged for not being married takes its toll
While judging singles can be rationalized psychologically, it doesn’t make it any easier on the person at the receiving end of this constant analysis of their life choices. Being judged for not being married can have far-reaching consequences on a person’s mental health.
From social anxiety to a tendency of self-indictment through vices such as drinking too much, avoiding friends and family, strained familial relationships and depression, the pressure to conform or be ostracized can manifest into myriad mental health issues. The degree to which this can impact a person depends on their resilience but over time it can become increasingly hard to stay unaffected by it.
Now that you understand why is being single looked down upon, I hope it helps you insulate your mind against these constant jibes and not take this othering of you based on your relationship status personally.