Single and Loving It

Avoidance social goals may mean satisfied single life

Commitment-phobic and loving it? You may not be alone.

A new study from the University of Auckland in New Zealand found that being single — and feeling just fine about it — may be normal for many. People who are satisfied with their single lives may have what are known as "avoidance social goals."

Avoidance social goals represent a need to avoid the conflicts and trials tied to relationships. Singles with these goals tended to be just as happy and may even experience "better quality relationships with family and friends," according to these researchers.

"It's a well-documented finding that single people tend to be less happy compared to those in a relationship, but that may not be true for everyone. Single people also can have satisfying lives," said lead study author Yuthika Girme, a psychology doctoral candidate at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, in a press release.

As for those who are single and hating it, they may have what are known as "approach social goals," which are defined by a strong need to maintain and grow relationships.

"This unique pattern suggests that the potential costs of being single are offset for people high in avoidance goals, perhaps because being single removes some of the anxiety and difficulties that arise when trying to prevent bad things happening to important relationships," Girme and colleagues wrote.

Girme and team surveyed more than 4,000 New Zealanders ranging in age from 18 to 94. One fifth of those surveyed were single.

Participants were asked to rate statements, such as "I try to avoid disagreements and conflicts with people close to me" and "I try to make sure that nothing bad happens to my close relationships."

Based on these ratings, Girme and team determined the participants' relationship goals and attitudes.

Those with high avoidance goals were just as happy being single as other participants were in relationships.

On the other hand, those with high approach goals were less happy when they were single.

In a world of casual relationships, divorce and bigger life goals, Girme and team said they hope this study will shine a light on how single people can also be happy and satisfied with their lives.

"Recognizing both the benefits and costs of being involved in a romantic relationship and being single is important given that being single is increasingly common across life stages," Girme and colleagues wrote.

This study was published Aug. 21 in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science.

No funding sources or conflicts of interest were disclosed.