Feb 11, 2024 - Culture

How to happily live the single life and be solo

Photo illustration of Peter McGraw surrounded by abstract shapes.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals; Photo: Courtesy of Peter McGraw

The newest relationship status is "solo."

What to know: The difference from being "single" is intention and value, says Peter McGraw, a behavioral scientist at the University of Colorado Boulder's business school.

  • In his new book, "Solo: Building a Remarkable Life of Your Own," McGraw offers a roadmap with insights and humor about the advantages to solo life. "The issue with marriage is it crowds out a lot of stuff," he told John in an interview.

The intrigue: McGraw, 50, is quick to note he's not "anti-marriage" but believes it's "over-prescribed."

  • "There's other ways to live a good life besides this conventional, high-status, socially valued relationship that doesn't fit everyone," he explains.

Why it matters: His book is a how-to manual for the solo life that he wishes he had as a younger man, and a call to action for society to begin to address the needs of a growing group rather than incentivize marriage.

What he's saying: The book, based on his own research and experiences, profiles four types of single people — the "someday" singles who are looking for a romantic relationship, "the just may" and then the "new way" and "no way" people.

  • "What I want to do is elevate single living … to be equally valuable," he says.

The big picture: A record number of people are delaying marriage or forgoing it altogether, demographic studies show.

By the numbers: In Colorado, 49% of households are married, slightly more than the national average of 47.5%, according to census data.

  • 44% of the state's households are single, on par with national averages, and the rest are cohabiting but not married.

Between the lines: McGraw, who lives in downtown Denver, says he decided early in life he didn't want marriage. His parents divorced when he was 9. He also didn't want children.

  • "I wanted to live a remarkable life — travel the world, see the pyramids of Giza, the Great Wall and explore the American West," he says. "Plus I couldn't even get a girl to go with me to prom, so we're getting way ahead of ourselves when it comes to marriage."

Zoom in: He threw himself a bachelor party at 34. "Why is it only married people that get to celebrate their singlehood?" he says.

  • At age 38, he decided to go the solo route after a heartbreaking split with a woman who wanted children.
  • He still dates — calling Denver a "good town" for it because people are open-minded — and he's upfront about his dedication to singlehood at the start.

The bottom line: "I've been accused of being a Peter Pan, and from the outside it may look that way because I'm not willing to commit. … But not only do I live a rich life but I like to believe I'm contributing to the world," he says.

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