Tracey Cox questions single men and women to find out if they really are happier than couples

Romcom producers should be in their shoes: the stereotypical sad, lonely ‘singleton’ is on the verge of extinction.

It turns out that more and more people prefer to be on their own.

There is global evidence: fewer people are getting married and we are staying single longer. Sometimes permanently. Many divorced people now choose to remain single.

Canadian research recently found a significant decline in the number of people living together as a couple between 1981 and 2021, echoing trends.

Are you sure? Wait a minute, I know a lot of single people who would love to be in a relationship, I hear you say.

‘Romcom producers should be in their shoes: the stereotypical sad, lonely ‘singleton’ is on the verge of extinction. It turns out that a growing number of people prefer to be alone,” says Tracey

Possibly. But that can be a very good thing because you give them that feeling.

Research shows that single people who are surrounded by people who constantly question them about their single state are the least happy of the group. The others are doing fine, thank you very much.

Is the research correct? Couldn’t a happily ever after be the secret to lifelong happiness?

I asked a selection of single men and women to tell me how happy they were single – with mixed results.

I loved being single in my twenties, but it’s depressing in my late thirties

Natasha, 38, has a four-year-old son

‘There’s nothing lonelier than being in a bad relationship. I was married for six miserable years to someone I was completely incompatible with.

‘The irony is that I knew it wouldn’t work before I went there. If you are a single woman and want children, panic arises: there is a real shortage of men.

‘If people question your choice of partner, they should be aware that you are choosing the best from what is available to you.

‘I felt abandoned: friends were renovating kitchens on child number two and I was still sharing with housemates and putting my name on stuff in the fridge. Being single can be great – I loved it in my 20s – but it can be bloody depressing in your late 30s.

The British sex and relationship expert asked a selection of single men and women to tell her how happy they were single - with mixed results (stock photo)

The British sex and relationship expert asked a selection of single men and women to tell her how happy they were single – with mixed results (stock photo)

‘I was happy with my then husband for a short period of time. I have a son who I love very much, but it was clear from the moment he was born that we have drastically different views on parenting and life. He is a pessimist and I am an optimist. He dragged me downstairs and I didn’t want that to happen to my son.

“When we finally parted ways, I felt a huge sense of relief when I saw him walking down the path. But then despair because you have to go there and find someone again.

‘That was two years ago. I haven’t bothered dating because I just can’t stand it. To be honest, I feel happier when I’m alone. It’s easier and I’m lucky to have a lot of friends and a great family.

‘There are sad times. I recently read a quote that sums it up for me: I don’t want anyone to do things with me – I have friends. I don’t want anyone to do anything with it. I don’t want to have to plan a weekend. To know there is someone nearby to hang out with. That’s what I miss the most.’

Life was bad after my wife left, but the freedom of being single is addictive

Mark is 42 and divorced with no children

‘I got married very young – I was twenty. I enjoyed being married and was shocked when my wife announced she was having an affair and left me. I was 35 when it happened and was completely lost. I always had her with me, it scared me to be alone. I wasn’t used to it. I lived in a small town and didn’t have many single friends. Life was bad there for a few months.

‘Then my younger sister, who lived in central London, took pity on me and asked me to come visit. She worked in publicity and happened to have a lot of single friends. She had told them everything I needed to cheer up, and by God, didn’t they do just that? There were about 10 of them. They all cheered me up, made me laugh, flirted with me and made me realize that my life was not over, it was just beginning. Yeah, I’ve slept with one or two of them. The sex was out of this world. I was never adventurous, but I checked off most of my sex bucket list in six months.


Research shows that married couples have sex more often than singles, probably because of the occasion. They also report higher levels of overall sexual satisfaction. Singles, on the other hand, experience more variety and novelty and score higher on an individual pleasure level.

Swings and roundabouts!

For singles:

The good: You experience what long-term couples miss most: novelty. The excitement of having sex with someone for the very first time is impossible to recreate, no matter how much effort you put into making everything go smoothly.

The bad: Casual sex can be exciting, but is often unsatisfying. It’s selfish sex: you’re often both out for your own pleasure. Studies also show that women still experience shame after casual hookups, despite a more tolerant society.

For couples:

The good: Lust may not last, but intimacy is just as, if not more, satisfying. There is a difference between having sex and making love. The better you know your partner’s body, the easier it is to give him or her an orgasm. You know each other’s triggers, what works, what doesn’t. While some are more likely to go wild with a stranger, others find themselves more open to erotic adventures with a partner they know and trust.

The bad: Making love to the same person for the rest of your life has obvious disadvantages. People quickly become desensitized to ordinary stimulation: this isn’t helped by the fact that most couples do exactly the same thing, in exactly the same order, every time they have sex.

‘That was seven years ago. Shortly after that first life-changing weekend, I moved to London. I’m still single and living it. I have nothing against settling down once I find the right person, but I love the freedom that being single offers. I like not having to answer to anyone, being able to come home when I want, to stay out when I want, to see whoever I want. I like to make my own decisions. I even like cleaning and making sure my apartment looks neat: I’m a clean freak, my wife was a bit of a sloppy one. You have to like your own company, but I understand why many people choose to avoid relationships and stay single.’

I’m not sure I ever want to get married or have children

Becky has just now completed an art education

‘I’m 26 and have never had a ‘real’ boyfriend, as my father calls it. He doesn’t understand why not, and I can tell he’s trying to work up the courage to ask if I prefer women to men. Not me.

“The truth is, I don’t see the rush to get into a relationship. I know he and my mother were serial monogamists from the age of 16, but that doesn’t happen in my generation. I can have sex whenever I want, so that’s no reason to be with someone.

‘No one in my friendship group is in a relationship – there are about ten of us, a mix of genders and sexualities. Maybe it’s because we have such a good group of single friends that none of us feel the need to be in a relationship with one person.

‘I don’t need a man to make me feel ‘whole’ or ‘complete’. They’re such dated concepts. I’m not sure I ever want to get married or have children. If I am in a serious relationship, I may choose not to live with them. I don’t want to have to do things I don’t want to do just to keep a partner happy.

‘I am not cynical and I do believe in love. I just don’t see it the way my parents do. I don’t want to merge into ‘one’, I want to maintain my independence and individuality. Until I figure out how to do that and still be with someone, I’ll be very happily living alone.’


Alex, 32, has never been in a long-term relationship

‘Single is fine if you are attractive, wealthy and have lots of friends. Not so much fun when you’re small, broke and shy.

‘I’ve never had a girlfriend, even though I would really like to. Part of the problem is my job: I work in IT and work from home, so I never meet anyone. The other reason is that I take care of my mother, who is elderly and needs care. I’m not exactly a catch.

‘I’m usually desperately lonely and jealous of what I see happening on social media. I understand that some people prefer to be alone, but there is a difference between being alone and lonely. My mother has no company: she is ill and does not feel like talking. I’m not good at making friends so all I do is work.

‘I’ve tried dating sites but I don’t look so there’s no point. I can count on one hand the number of sexual encounters I’ve had. Life was better when I was in school because at least I was around other people and there was hope. Technically I’m a virgin and I’m afraid that if I meet someone it will scare them off.

‘I would give anything to be in a relationship. To be loved, touched and cared for and to do the same in return. Being single sucks. I detest it.’

*Some names have been changed

Visit for Tracey’s books, product ranges and podcast, ‘SexTok with Tracey and Kelsey’. Her latest book, Great Sex Starts at 50, is available from all booksellers.