I am about to turn 40 and I am single.
For the most part, I genuinely enjoy my relationship status. But occasionally being single at 40 can feel like a social disease.
At those times you may wonder whether being single at 40 is normal, or if it means there’s something wrong with you.
Is being single at 40 “normal”? If you’ve ever pondered this question, I think you need to hear this…
Is it OK to be 40 and single?
I think you can guess what I’m about to say.
I’m unlikely to tell you that no, it’s totally weird and we’re clearly freaks of nature.
- We’re not alone and plenty of other people are also 40+ and single
- We still have options (whether that’s to find love, get married one day, or be happily single)
So let’s address the elephant in the room (or the fearful voice in our head)…
Being single doesn’t mean that you’re broken or defective as a person. It doesn’t mean you are unwanted or unloveable.
I think part of the problem is that we have such a performance-related culture. Being single at 40 can feel like some sort of failure.
It’s a bit like not getting picked for a sports team at high school. You worry you’re on the bench because all the best people get picked first. And so not being paired up by now must be some sort of reflection on you.
But of course, love is way more complicated than that.
Above all else, I hope that if you take away nothing else from this article you take away this reminder…
The mind can play tricks on you to make you feel like an outsider or downright freak for being single at 40. But the statistics say otherwise.
What percentage of 40-year-olds are single?
Before we go any further, don’t take my word for it, let’s start with some stats to highlight just how normal being single at 40 (or any age) is.
The picture is obviously going to change depending on the country and culture. But according to 2020 figures from the Pew Research Center, 31% of Americans are single, compared to 69% who are “partnered” (which includes married, cohabiting, or in a committed romantic relationship).
Perhaps unsurprisingly most singles are aged between 18 and 29 (41%). But 23% of 30 to 49 years olds are also single. That’s almost one in four people who aren’t in a couple.
And the number of single people gets even higher after that, with 28% of 50-64-year-olds and 36% of 65+ single.
There are also a record number of men and women who have never been married.
Another stat to come from the Pew Research Center is that 21% of never-married singles age 40 and older also say they have never been in a relationship either.
Even if you find yourself perpetually single at 40 and have never been in a committed relationship, it’s also more common than you may imagine.
So I think it’s safe to say that if around a quarter of the adult population is single, it should be considered normal.
Single at 40: How I really feel about it
Being 40 and single myself, here’s what I really don’t want to do in this article, and that’s to put a sickly spin on things and reel off ‘why being single in your 40s is great.’
Not because I’m unhappy being single, because I genuinely am. But because I think that’s an oversimplification. Like most things in life, it’s neither good nor bad, it’s what you make it.
For me at least, being single at 40 is the same as being single at any age of my life. It brings with it pluses and minuses at times.
I do think that the older I get the more I understand about myself and life — maybe that’s what they call maturity.
I certainly feel more well-rounded and happy as an individual. In that sense, being single at 40 puts me in a great position.
What I really like about being single at 40
- I love my independence
Call me selfish but I really enjoy shaping my days around what suits me the most.
I put my well-being, health, and desires first in life and that brings me countless benefits. I enjoy not answering to anyone and deciding what I do and when to do it.
- I’m less stressed
I’m not suggesting that romantic relationships are stressful, but let’s face it, they can be. I’ve had several long-term committed relationships throughout my life and at some point, they have all brought upset, challenges, and heartbreak (to some extent at least).
That’s not to say they didn’t also bring many wonderful things too. But there is no doubt that my single life feels less complicated and more peaceful on a very practical level.
- I’m healthier.
Maybe it’s vanity, maybe it’s not having kids and a husband to look after, but I suspect one of the reasons I’m in better shape is because of my single status.
One survey seems to back my assumption up, as it found single people exercise more than married folk. Research has also found single gals like me have lower BMIs and other health risks associated with smoking and alcohol.
- I have time for friendships.
Being single has meant I’ve developed strong and supportive friendships. I think this in turn has created a fuller and funner life in general.
- I enjoy the variety of singledom (and not knowing what is to come)
I’m not going to lie, dating and meeting new people can be a pain in the ass (I think most of us singletons have felt fed up with online dating).
But personally, I do get kind of excited by the idea that I don’t know what is still to come romantically.
I’m open to meeting someone special and I know it will happen at some point again. And that is kind of exciting.
I actually believe there are plenty of married and partnered-up people who miss the thrill of single life.
What I don’t like about being single at 40
- Not sharing with a partner
There is an undeniable intimacy in being in a couple. Sharing your life with someone and building a life together is a unique feeling.
Yes, it brings challenges, but it does bring connection too.
- The pressure
Perhaps rather ironically, I think the worst thing about being single is actually an illusion — and that’s the pressure you can end up feeling about being single.
It’s the pressure you put on yourself to find someone (if that’s what you ultimately want). And also the external pressure from family, friends, or society that makes you wonder if you’re doing something wrong.
Hack Spirit’s senior editor, Justin Brown, brings up these same points about what he doesn’t like about being single at 40 in the video below.
Why being single at 40 sometimes doesn’t feel “normal”
We’ve established that being single at 40 is common and so must be normal. So why does it not feel this way sometimes?
For me, it’s that pressure I just mentioned. Even though it’s a bit of an illusion, it can feel very real at times.
3 common pressures we can feel about being single in our 40’s are:
“If it hasn’t happened by now, then maybe it never will.”
I can’t help but suspect this is a thought that has gone through every single person’s head at some point or another.
We can create a timetable in our minds for when things should happen in life. The problem is that life has a habit of not sticking to our pencilled out plans.
Many of us feel pressured to follow some unspoken roadmap silently laid out by society. Go to school, get a job, settle down, get married, and have kids.
But this traditional path either doesn’t suit us or hasn’t worked out that way for us. And so we end up feeling left behind or outcasts.
There’s also obviously (for women in particular) that biological “ticking clock”, whether you want children or not, that is held over us like some sort of expiration date.
Whilst there are undeniably practical constraints on having babies, love itself has no expiration date. And plenty of people find love at ALL ages.
I wholeheartedly believe that you have just as much chance of finding love at 40 as you did at 20. The illusion of a ticking clock that is running out, is just an illusion.
As long as you have breath in your body you always have the potential for love.
The next pressure you can face from being single at 40 is the thought that you have less options the older you get.
Maybe that’s because you tell yourself “all the good ones are taken” or that you think your worth is somehow diminishing the older you get (that whole expiration panic again).
But both of these are myths.
We may think of love as some giant game of musical chairs. The older you get the more chairs are taken away, and so everyone frantically scrambles to find a seat. But the evidence suggests otherwise.
As we’ve seen, being single at all ages is common enough for there to be literally tens of millions of people out there you could meet.
Plus, the fact that almost 50 percent of all marriages end in divorce or separation means options are constantly coming and going too.
Society puts undue pressure on us to stay youthful forever, and so the inference becomes that the older you get the less desirable you are.
But again, in the real world, real love doesn’t work like this. Attraction is so multifaceted and your age has very little to do with finding love.
As Theodore Roosevelt said: “comparison is the thief of joy”.
Nothing makes you feel “not normal”, quite like looking around at other people’s lives and picking up on the differences.
There’s no denying that when we focus on people who are also 40, but in a relationship, we can feel somehow lacking.
If you’re the “only single friend” you may feel more isolated than if many of your friends are in the same boat.
Personally, I am surrounded by single people in my friendship group, and that undoubtedly makes it feel like a very normal situation to be in.
Comparison is not only unhelpful, but it’s kind of impossible too. Usually, we are only unfairly comparing one stage of our life with another of someone else’s.
For example, who is to say that couple who has been married since their 20s isn’t heading for divorce in their 50s.
The point is you don’t know what is going to happen in your life or anyone else’s. We are all at different places in our journey through life and so you can’t compare what your life looks like to other people.
4 things to do when you’re 40 and single (and looking for love)
If you are perfectly happy being single at 40, then carry on living your best life safe in the knowledge that you are perfectly regular and totally normal.
If you’re looking for love and do hope to be in a relationship one day, then here are some things that may help.
1) Don’t panic
It’s normal to feel nervous or apprehensive about whether love is coming your way. But when this voice kicks in you need to answer it back with reassurance. Otherwise it’s going to eat away at you.
I hope that all of the stats laid out in this article will help to prove to you that being single at 40 is perfectly normal and perfectly ok.
Desperation doesn’t look good on anyone. And ironically that is far more likely to play a factor in keeping love at bay than your age ever will.
2) Take a long hard look at your “love baggage”
By the time we reach 40, most of us have some emotional baggage from painful life experiences.
Being single at 40 may just be a fluke or circumstantial. But it’s also useful to ask yourself some tough questions about why relationships may not have worked out for you up until now.
Are you not putting yourself out there? Are there some issues that keep coming back up to sabotage you? Do you suffer from insecurities or low self-esteem?
Dissecting your beliefs, ideas and feelings about love and relationships (including the relationship you have with yourself) is always insightful.
Have you ever asked yourself why love is so hard? Why can’t it be how you imagined growing up? Or at least make some sense…
It’s easy to become frustrated and even feel helpless. You may even be tempted to throw in the towel and give up on love.
I want to suggest doing something different.
It’s something I learned from the world-renowned shaman Rudá Iandê. He taught me that the way to find love and intimacy is not what we have been culturally conditioned to believe.
In fact, many of us self-sabotage and trick ourselves for years, getting in the way of meeting a partner who can truly fulfill us.
As Rudá explains in this mind blowing free video, many of us chase love in a toxic way that ends up stabbing us in the back.
We get stuck in awful relationships or empty encounters, never really finding what we’re looking for and continuing to feel horrible about things like still being single at 40.
We fall in love with an ideal version of someone instead of the real person.
We try to “fix” our partners and end up destroying relationships.
We try to find someone who “completes” us, only to fall apart with them next to us and feel twice as bad.
Rudá’s teachings offer a whole new perspective and practical solutions to love.
If you’re done with unsatisfying dating, empty hookups, frustrating relationships and having your hopes dashed over and over, then this is a message you need to hear.
I guarantee you will not be disappointed.
3) Push your comfort zone and get out of a rut
If you are looking to meet someone at any age, you have to try new things, go new places and not stay at home waiting for love to find you.
This goes for all ages, but the reality is often the older we get our lifestyles can become more fixed in a certain routine.
We may be more established and settled in life, and so change doesn’t naturally occur like it did in your younger years (where you’re moving more often, changing careers, going out partying, etc.)
Work out what you enjoy, and invest time in it — whether that’s hobbies, courses, volunteering. You have to get out there if you want to maximize your potential to meet new people.
4) Remember that the grass isn’t any greener on the other side
Don’t focus so hard on finding love, focus on enjoying your life.
It’s easy to get FOMO when you look at other people. Regret is a sneaky thing. We make choices and they have consequences — both good and bad. But that’s also life.
Happiness relies on making peace with our choices and looking for the positives in them. After all, you cannot choose everything in life. Regret becomes a choice we either burden ourselves with or don’t.
Life is full of joys and pains for all of us, regardless of our relationship status.
Don’t kid yourself that the grass is any greener on the other side. Your outlook determines how green your grass looks.
In conclusion: Is being single at 40 normal?
Times are changing and alternative lifestyles are more acceptable than ever.
300 years ago you probably wouldn’t be single at 40.
But you might have been in a terrible marriage that you hated without any other option.
Being financially reliant on someone else, or being legally unable to divorce were very recent realities for many (and still are for some).
Can we all take a little moment to thank our lucky stars. Because not only do I think it’s normal to be single at 40, I think it’s actually a luxury that hasn’t existed for very long.