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No Relationship? Maybe Greater Personal Growth Than If Married

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Our culture is witnessing growing diversity in how people choose to live: with whom, their traditions and norms. But it's practically a stereotype to portray single people as unhappy, unfulfilled, and lonely; perhaps emotionally troubled. Of course, that can be true for some. We see some psychotherapy patients, for example, who are single and experience significant conflicts in their romantic quests.

But that's also a misleading assumption. In fact, new research from UC Santa Barbara turns that picture of single people on its head: It finds that single people have heightened feelings of self-determination and are more likely to experience more psychological growth and development than many married people.

According to the study's lead author, Bella DePaulo, "It is time for a more accurate portrayal of single people and single life -- one that recognizes the real strengths and resilience of people who are single, and what makes their lives so meaningful." DePaulo adds, "The preoccupation with the perils of loneliness can obscure the profound benefits of solitude."

And there are plenty who are solitary. Currently, Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 50.2 percent of the nation's adult population were single as of 2014. "Increasing numbers of people are single because they want to be," DePaulo points out. "Living single allows them to live their best, most authentic, and most meaningful life."

Moreover, other findings contradict the view of single people as necessarily more isolated, lonely and unhappy. For example, one study finds that single people value meaningful work more than married people. And, that single people are more connected to parents, siblings, friends, neighbors, and co-workers. Also, another study found that the more independent the person was, the less likely they were to experience negative emotions.

Overall, this new study, in combination with others, suggests that single people have a heightened, conscious sense of their personal development. They are more likely to experience continued growth and development as time passes.

Based on the study, DePaulo emphasizes that "What matters is not what everyone else is doing or what other people think we should be doing, but whether we can find the (circumstances) that fit who we really are and allow us to live our best lives."

I think these studies underscore the reality that there are many ways to live a fulfilling, meaningful life; and experience continued growth through your lifetime. It depends on the person you are: what you value and seek in your personal life and in your relationship to the world that you're interconnected with - whether you're part of a committed couple, or single.

dlabier@CenterProgressive.org Douglas LaBier, Ph.D., is director of the Center for Progressive Development, and writes the blog Progressive Imact. For more about him on The Huffington Post, click here.