Why some people remain single?

Amal Chatterjee
11 min readJan 19, 2019

Source : Google photo

Synopsis : Men and women remain single for many reasons. Some of the reasons are discussed in the blog here that have to do with the rules of the societies where they live, others depend on economic and eligibility factors. Here the blog differentiates between the forced celibacy and the voluntary one, the later depending on religious aspirations of a person so both are looked at.

This topic remained at the back of my mind for quite some time because I did not get around writing about it for one reason or other until now. When I saw hundreds of thousands of ascetics converging at Prayagraj for the Ardha Kumbha Mela this week in India, it made me think of the reasons why some people remain single and choose a life that is so different from the average people.

We can right away see two types of people who remain unmarried. Those who choose to be and those who do not. In the first category are the religious people that I will discuss here.

In India and elsewhere there are those men and women who decide at some point that they should choose the life of ascetics and renounce everything in life because they want to devote the rest of their life to spirituality and become free of the chains of mundane life that bind most people. They become what Hindus call sadhus or “good people” who have no family, no permanent friends, no home, no income to sustain them, no desire for material things and who embrace a life of wandering ascetics.

They eat only when someone gives them some food, they sleep under the tree or anywhere they find shelter and they wear saffron clothes. They do not cut their hair or beard, do not wear shoes and do not live among people anywhere. It is a hard life they choose of their own volition because they feel a higher calling that makes them live the life they do. Some give up everything including the clothes so they wander around completely naked and are called Naga sadhus. Some women also take the life of wandering sadhus.

They congregate in holy places like Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad) during certain religious festivals like Kumbha Mela that is held every 12 years, and then they vanish as suddenly as they appear. No one knows where most of them live and how they live but it is known that some live in monasteries or caves in the mountains while others live in camps called Akharas in Hindi meaning a place where they are fed and cared for by people who organize and pay for such camps.

Then there are monks who dedicate their life to serve the poor and join monasteries that run orphanages, schools, hospitals and old age homes for the poor and destitute. They also give up every comfort of life and assume a monastic name and cut all ties with their previous lives and relatives. The Rama Krishna Mission monks are known for their dedication and services but there are many other such monasteries for men and women in India such people join and live the life of monks or sadhus. The convent of Mother Theresa in Kolkata is well known for their charity work for the very poor people.

The higher call of spirituality that some respond to is an age old practice in all religions so we see numerous monasteries in Europe that are very secluded and difficult to reach because the monks who live there do not want to mix with the people and prefer their self-imposed seclusion from the world. They grow their own food and make their own simple clothes and everything they need so they can spend all their life to prayers and spirituality.

You will find such secluded monasteries in the high mountains or deep in some desert oasis that are very hard to reach. These monks keep the tradition of keeping ancient knowledge alive through meticulous translations and record keeping of ancient texts like the Gospels that have come to light in Egypt or elsewhere like the Qumran or Dead Sea scrolls.

The Buddhist monks have kept their traditions of calligraphy, ancient knowledge of science and mathematics and even martial arts in very secluded monasteries where they live the life of spirituality unstained by the contact of the common people.

The Muslim too have their ascetics called the Sufi saints who wander as sadhus who have renounced the world willingly and are revered by the people who seek their blessings so we see in all the religions , people who voluntarily choose the life of spirituality but it is a hard life and not for everybody.

I now come to the common people like you and me in the second category who want to live the life in a normal way meaning we get some education, get an employment somewhere and marry someday to raise a family, then hope to die in retirement someday somewhere surrounded by people we know and love.

Our society is composed of such common people that make normal life possible in any country. We the people grow food for everybody, run the economy and create businesses that employ others, man the machines that run the factories and fight for the safekeeping of freedom of our country and the society. We choose our government through votes and change the government also through votes where democracy is practiced.

Our lives are as different from the wandering sadhus , monks or Sufi sadhus as possible yet many of us are somewhat spiritual although in no way we can be equated with the ascetics who devote their whole life to spirituality and renounce everything that we the mortals can’t renounce.

It is the aspiration of the common people to find someone to marry and raise the family just like the animals do in order to procreate and continue the life generation after generation. But the animals do not worry about marriage and social customs that bind us and procreate when the need arises.

We on the other hand have created the rules which we expect all the members of our society to obey and live by in order to maintain a credible and moral society based on certain tenets of religion that includes marriage.

So marriage is nothing but a societal approval of sorts that permits the man and woman to live together and raise the family meaning procreate the off springs. The rules of marriage and numerous rituals vary from society to society and from one religion to the next but they do exist to emphasize the need for such rules and rituals to maintain the traditions of people.

In primitive societies where people also procreate, they may have simpler rules based on their necessities and resources that may be very limited but nevertheless important. They all feel the need for a life partner and stick together through good as well as bad times.

Now I am finally coming to the point of this blog where I want to discuss why some people remain single so the previous part was necessary to create the background and a point of reference for this topic.

Most common people do not want to remain single by choice because everyone seeks a partner. It may be due to the biological necessity of both men and women to procreate to continue the life to the next generation but not always. For some people they seek a partner on platonic terms so that they can be together in old age looking after each other although many married people at a certain age move on to the platonic part due to age or other reasons.

Now it seems to me that women depend more on their family meaning parents and relatives to look for a suitable mate in traditional societies where marriages are arranged between two families by the parents. Men also depend on their parents to find suitable mates for them in such cases so the traditional society as a whole discourages boyfriend girlfriend relationships.

This is what I call the tribal society where a lot of restrictions are put on women and not much on men to maintain the tribal laws the violation of which by anyone is severely punished in some societies through honor killings that we read about frequently in Pakistan and other very strict tribal societies.

Hindus are not as strict as the Muslims when it comes to tribal laws but they too try to maintain the status quo as much as possible although not going to the extreme of honor killings. Why people resort to honor killings and why mostly women are blamed for bringing dishonor to their families through their act of elopement or having sex outside marriage and not men is perhaps a subject of a future blog.

In some countries like China there are more eligible men than women due to their one child policy so many men remain unmarried due to this shortage while in other countries the reverse may be true like here in the Philippines.

One word that stands out among others is the status of eligibility that defines who is marriageable and who is not in traditional societies like in China or India. This means the groom must be handsome, tall if possible with good education and a stable and good job but it is the earning capacity that is more emphasized than any other because it determines how the groom will take care of his wife and the future progeny.

Now in the era of rise of feminism in some parts of the world, the women take the leading role and decide by themselves who they will marry and often disregard the earning capacity of their partners if they are earning a good salary but the male dominated traditional societies reject such trends out of hand. There it is the role of the man to provide for the family and not the wife.

When I discuss the eligibility aspect of any man or woman for marriage, I am tempted to mention the case of the Philippines because here it seems to me that more women go to college and get good jobs later than men so many remain unmarried because they cannot find their match. A college graduate who earns a good salary wishes to find a man with similar or better standing although this rule does not apply to men. An educated man who has a good job may marry a woman who is less educated and may be limited to the role of a housewife because in the man’s world, women take a second subservient role. Some women even give up their career and prefer being a perfect housewife and a loving parent. I know because I married one.

A fellow in our neighborhood was teased relentlessly by his companions when his father in law built a nice house for his daughter because it is the job of the man to build a house for his wife and not his father in law. So their marriage ended in separation because divorce is not allowed under the law here.

If we look at the situation in India, we find that many beautiful and eligible women who are college educated and have jobs can’t get married due to the exorbitant demands of dowry from the groom’s parents. In poor families with many daughters, a father is hard pressed to come up with the suitable dowry so many girls remain unmarried. They are also not allowed to have boyfriends.

In more open societies where men and women choose their mates , the question of eligibility always looms in the background although some women may prefer to overlook them because they want to get married no matter what resulting in many problems later on.

The lower self-esteem of the man who is less educated and earns less than his wife can lead to marital troubles down the road that may cause divorce or separation. So the eligibility in terms of education and earning ability does matter in any society open or closed ones.

Now this issue of self-esteem is very important in any marriage. I think a reason among many others is the dominance factor in men and women. No one really wants to be dominated by another person in a marriage but more so a man than a woman so you will find many female school teachers or college teachers who remain unmarried because they tend to portray the image of dominance that men shy away from.

I know a woman who is now over 50 years of age and a manager of an Insurance firm that earns her a handsome salary remained unmarried because she is dominant, dark and not very good looking although she is a wonderful person once you get to know her.

But another dark and not so good looking woman got marriage proposal once the potential groom found out that she is a citizen of Australia and will mean a quick citizenship for him in the Promised Land. Here the citizenship factor overrode the dark skin color and ugliness of the woman so they got married and live in the Promised Land hopefully happily ever after.

Now I come to the part where many women over a certain age who are spinsters or who have either left their partners because of divorce or legal separation find themselves in the market for a second chance. Some of them can be seen in bars drinking and keeping an eye on who walks in. If a handsome gent comes in and sits down in a corner by himself nursing a drink, the women ask the bartender to send the gent the drink of his choice and pick up the tab.

This is not a made up scenario because you will see this sort of thing in the movies all the time that reflect the reality of the modern society in some countries. If the gentleman accepts the drink from the woman, she then winks and invites him to join her at her table or will boldly sit down at his table. The rest does not need to be elaborated here because it can go either way.

Many women have learned to their dismay that the handsome gentleman is not a gentleman at all but a real life monster that beats women and rapes them and may have criminal records yards long.

Another scenario is the dance clubs where such men and women congregate to dance and drink with strangers with a streak of abandon and recklessness that may end up tragically for some of them.

So there is no easy answer to the question of forced celibacy in common people. Different cultures offer different remedies but none of them are perfect as I mentioned earlier.

In the matter of heart, women and men find themselves guided by other factors that may not be practical or even approved by the society so they take their chances and later find that they made a mistake. We are after all human so liable to make mistakes .The important point is to learn from our mistakes and move on. Being unmarried is not the end of life. In fact it can be quite exhilarating with a sense of freedom that is denied in a home and hearth type of situation. What is more important is the purpose in your life and your commitment to it. The rest does not matter.

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