Published: Jan. 30, 2024 By

In a world that can seem suited for couples, singles—or “solos” as some prefer to be called—are a mighty cohort. 

In fact, 50% of U.S. adults today are single, 28% live alone and 25% of millennials are projected to never marry, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and Pew Research Center. One-person households are now the most common type of living arrangement, ahead of both couples and nuclear families.

While some people struggle with singledom, many others are thriving—including Peter McGraw, a bachelor, behavioral economist and professor at Leeds School of Business.

Peter McGraw.

Peter McGraw

McGraw, who, aside from teaching, hosts the podcast “Solo” and directs the Humor Research Laboratory (known as HuRL), has a new book out this month, “Solo: Building a Remarkable Life of Your Own.”

“Though I am a lifelong bachelor, I've had wonderful relationships and a couple near misses in marriage. As I was turning 50 and reflecting on my life, I decided to create a resource for people who were living single and wanted to live a remarkable life,” McGraw said.

Realizing there were few resources for those who “find themselves single by choice or single by chance,” McGraw said, he set out to write the book he needed when he was 25 and struggling with being single.

“We're seeing a global rise in single living, yet the world is still in many ways built for two. That is starting to change, but singles need a different playbook,” he said.

Four types of singles

Based on his own research, including surveys and interviews, McGraw profiles four types of singles in his book.

‘Someday’ singles

The first are “someday” singles, which McGraw said are “hopeless romantics on the hunt for a traditional romantic partnership.” 

“Many are struggling in their quest because it's hard to find that person. Relationship standards are higher than ever, and dating culture is fraught,” McGraw said, adding that these “somedays” may feel “less than, because coupling up is seen as a high-status position in life.”


The remaining three types of singles are “solos”—a moniker he created for those who are reinventing their view of relationship status. 

“Solos see themselves as a complete person. They may be looking for someone else or may not, but in the meantime they embrace their self-sufficiency, their autonomy,” McGraw said. “They tend to be unconventional thinkers. They're stepping a bit outside of the norms with the way they think about their relationship status.”

Resources to forge connections in the solo community

‘Just may’ solos

The “just may” solos, like their “someday” counterparts, are seeking a traditional relationship, but they neither feel diminished nor need to reach that goal to be satisfied with life. “They are certainly not waiting around to take that dream trip or purchase that condo,” he added.

‘No way’ solos

“No way” solos make up the third group, which is surprisingly large, according to McGraw. They are the approximately half of all singles in the U.S. who are not seeking a romantic relationship or casual dates, according to Pew Research.

“It is just as common for people to be looking for love as not. “No ways” are often focused on other endeavors: They may be in graduate school, they may be moving to a new city, maybe training a new puppy or caring for an elderly parent,” he said.

‘New way’ solos

Finally, there are the “new way” solos—”the sexiest and fastest-growing” group, according to McGraw. 

“These are people who would welcome a relationship in their life—romantic, sexual, casual dating or otherwise,” he said. “But they're not adhering to the strict rules of what we call the “relationship escalator,” the commonly accepted—and high status—way of doing romance and life.” 

“‘New ways’ might have a partner but separate residences or live in different cities or countries. Maybe they are polyamorous or ethically non-monogamous. Maybe their ideal partnership is not romantic—it's a platonic partnership. Oftentimes these people have very close, intimate connections, but it just doesn't look like the kind of romantic relationships you see in the movies,” he said.

McGraw considers himself a hybrid: 20% “no way” and 80% “new way.”

“I live a rich, robust life. I have lots of friends and activities outside of work,” he said. “There's times where I just don't have the energy or interest in dating. So, when I am in “no way” mode, I turn the apps off, and I'm not pursuing any sort of romance in my life.”

The “new way” part of McGraw enjoys his solitude and prefers coordination in his love life to compromise. He loves to travel alone, studies humor (and authored two books on the topic), practices improv and favors creation over consumption. Above all, McGraw considers himself a complete person pursuing a remarkable life.

“It’s incredibly liberating,” he said.

“I know for sure that regardless of who I find in my life, I don't want to live with that person. I like living alone. Like many people, I crave intimacy and connection. I just don't want it 24/7. New relationship energy is great, but I refuse to set aside my friendships. My friendships have made me the person who I am,” he added. 

Peter McGraw.

I like living alone. Like many people, I crave intimacy and connection. I just don't want it 24/7.” 


An alternative narrative

McGraw says he’s personally fulfilled and pursuing the most meaningful work of his life with his Solos project, which includes hosting a weekly podcast that covers everything from non-monogamy to being single with cancer to creating remarkable friendships. 

He says his mission is “helping people cast adrift who feel like there's something wrong with them because they're not doing what society tells them to do.”

“I present an alternative narrative, showing the rich and remarkable ways that single people are living a life of their own,” he added.

Can McGraw envision an alternative narrative in his own life story? “If I had married—if one of these near misses had not been a near miss and I ended up having a family—I don't have any doubt in my mind that I would have thrown myself into that endeavor and sought to be a good husband and father and sought to have a remarkable life in that kind of way.

“But I don't feel like my life is lacking because I haven't done that. I have rich, rich friendships. I've had wonderful romantic partners over the years. I've been able to dedicate myself to creative endeavors and the Solo movement in a way that I never would have been able to if I was dedicating that time and energy and intention into a family.”

Perks of being single

McGraw’s new book outlines the many emotional, financial and personal benefits of being single. They include:

Space to create and dedicate

Solos have more time and flexibility to “make music, build a business, invest in their education, make art,” McGraw said. “Having space in your life can allow you to dedicate your time to other responsibilities, giving to the community or investing in your broader family.”

His advice: “Think about what lights you up, and spend your time and the energy and the attention on that thing.” 

More connections

Research reveals that singles have more connections than partnered people and married couples. “They have more friends, they're more involved in their community,” McGraw said.

He cites research that shows singles donate more of their time and energy to the community. “The relationship escalator crowds out many endeavors because a romantic partner is to be ‘everything,’” he said.

Control over spending and career

There are countless financial and legal benefits to coupling up, chief among them being the ability to split expenses. Naturally, singles tend to spend a greater percentage of their income on housing.

However, singles can have financial autonomy and complete oversight over their budgets, so they can lower their expenses should they want to. They can also relocate to another city to pursue opportunities or start a weekend side hustle with the goal of quitting their 9-to-5 job.

McGraw added: “Being partnered in America and pursuing the American dream is incredibly costly.” 

As a solo, McGraw chose to take on roommates early in his career, drive an older car and plow as much money as possible into savings without radically altering his lifestyle—with the goal of an early retirement.

“In a world that's telling you to buy, buy, buy, I thought about other ways to go about solving problems without reaching for my wallet,” he said. 

By the numbers

  • 50% of U.S. adults are single
  • 28% of U.S. adults live alone
  • 25% of millennials are projected to never marry

Interdependence rather than codependence

In McGraw’s experience, being solo allows relationships to bloom. “You’re not looking for this person to fill the void in your life, to solve all your problems, to make you happy,” he said. “A ‘solo’ identity allows you to maintain autonomy within a relationship. As a result, there is a lot more coordination with regard to your lifestyle rather than compromise.”

For example, when you and your partner can’t agree on a movie, you’re allowed to say, “Honey, go into your movie. I'll enjoy my movie, and we'll meet for dessert afterward and talk about our experience,” McGraw said.

Challenges of singledom

What about the less-enjoyable aspects of single living? When facing a challenging Valentine’s Day or a missed invitation, McGraw advised resisting the urge to wallow in self-pity or outrage.

“Yes, the world is built for two, but it's not personal. It can be very easy to feel victimized by society,” McGraw said.

“I don't think that it does much good to complain or be annoyed by the fact that you're a little bit left out sometimes—that you don't get invited to the dinner party because the host doesn't like odd numbers, or they don't want that sexy single person near their husband or wife. Turning your attention to the opportunities is a much healthier way to go about transcending relationship status.”

It’s important not to equate solitude with loneliness, McGraw added. “Solitude can be a chance to reflect and a time to recover,” he said. “But when it's forced upon you, it's heartbreaking.” 

“That’s why having social connections—friends, family, community—is so important. I urge members of the Solo community to commit themselves to other people, even if they're not willing or able to commit to an escalator relationship,” McGraw said.