It is important to define who singles are to separate singles from their married counterparts. This helps singles, and others, to better understand what they are discussing by using the term in the same way. Singles are anyone who is not married.
Merriam Webster defines single as simply “not married.” Simply stated; if you are not married, then you are single. This is true even if you are dating someone. A stable romantic or stable relationship with a partner with whom you are dating or living with still makes you single. This is because of the legal definition of marriage is the “union of a couples as spouses.” In the strictest sense, everyone is truly single until they get married. However, there is the additional complexity of how society and culture views couples who are not married.
In the age of social media; individuals can change their relationship status from single to a range of other categories that are recognized by people and society, but not by the law, with the click of a button. These options are recognized by people that live in a society that recognizes these as other alternative lifestyle choices. However, except for civil union, certain definitions of domestic partnership that are dependent on a state’s law may be closer to being considered unmarried and single rather than living together and in a marital type of relationship. For this reason, although cultural norms may recognize people as a couple or “In a Relationship” the individuals in most popular relationship categories are truly still single. These individuals are just a different type of single. They are singles who are in a relationship, or want to be in a relationship, of some kind that appears to be like marriage but is not marriage according to the law. While cultural understanding of what constitutes a couple compared to being single is not clear cut, there are other singles who consider being single as part of their identity.
Individuals who consider themselves to be happily single or do not plan on getting married are now recognized as being single by choice. There are different reasons why someone may be single by choice, which places individuals in different categories under this identification. An individual could have decided to be a lifelong single due to experiencing a series of bad and damaging relationships. An individual could have committed a religious vow that forbids them from ever getting married (this vow could require celibacy). An individual could aspire to achieve other life goals that makes remaining single the best option while dating, getting married, or having a family would be a hindrance. Ultimately, the range of reasons why someone will be single by choice will depend upon everyone’s personal experiences and life choices.
Despite the range of options that popular culture may consider to be couples, most of these relationship statuses are merely ways for people to cover up the fact that they are still single. Marriage, and certain civil unions and domestic partnerships, is the only way that someone will no longer be single. Although someone my change their social media status to being “In a Relationship” or “It’s Complicated” does not change the reality that they are in fact still single. Ultimately, with some exceptions, singles are anyone who is not married.