Jennifer L. Taitz, who describes herself as “a cognitive behavioral therapist focused on mindfulness and compassion,” had a particular goal in mind when she wrote How to Be Single and Happy: Science-Based Strategies for Keeping Your Sanity While Looking for a Soul Mate. She wanted to “show you that you can live with happiness and fulfillment, with or without being in a committed relationship.”
I don’t read books about dating but I have read reviews and commentaries and critiques of such books. I know that bookshelves are groaning under the weight of how-to guides that tell single people to just go ahead and settle, or to follow a set of rules that the author has made up, or to do what the author did because it worked for her. Dr. Taitz’s book is different in a profoundly important way – it is based on rigorous scientific research, and plenty of it.
Even more important, How to Be Single and Happy isn’t about dating and it isn’t even (just) about being single – it is about living your best life, regardless of your relationship status or aspirations. That was an especially welcome surprise for me, since I didn’t read How to Be Single and Happy to learn how to be single and happy. I have always been single, and I always will be. Being happy while single comes naturally. I read the book because, for decades, I have been writing for and about people who want to live their single lives fully, joyfully, and unapologetically, and I thought it was time to learn more about how single life is experienced by people who want to be coupled.
How to Be Single and Happy is an absorbing read. Several of the chapters open with a client Taitz is seeing in her therapy practice, and the life experiences that motivated the client to seek help. This approach is instantly engaging. Right away, I began wondering what the client should do differently. I was eager to see how Taitz would think about the issues, how the therapeutic process would unfold, and how the client would fare over time.
If you do a lot of ruminating, regretting, suppressing, avoiding, criticizing yourself, and telling yourself that you could never be truly happy without a spouse, Taitz can help. As she explains, if you are unhappy, the real culprit may be those kinds of thought patterns, rather than your single status. If you are lonely, or if you often feel disappointed in other people, Jennifer Taitz has a lot to say to you, too.
Taitz believes that her clients will benefit from mindfulness and meditation, especially loving-kindness meditation. She encourages readers to live well now, rather than, wait to find a romantic partner. We can do that by building our community, giving to others, adding more activities to our lives that give us a sense of pleasure and accomplishment, and perhaps most significantly, getting clear about our values and living according to them.
The book includes boxes that highlight key take-aways. For example, there are tips for dealing with unwanted thoughts and feelings, for fact-checking your own thoughts, and for figuring out what matters most to you. A quick guide for the practice of loving-kindness meditation is also included. The lengthiest boxed section, on egg-freezing, goes on for nearly six pages. It ends with a quote from an eminent physician who has helped many single women become pregnant: “I have never had a woman who said she regretted becoming a single parent.”
I was disappointed to see Taitz repeat the claim that marriage comes with perks such as improved health. At least she recognized that married people have benefits that single people do not, such as greater access to health insurance, as well as considerable financial advantages, and those factors, rather than their relationship, may be what matters. But the most sophisticated research suggests that people who marry do not become healthier, despite the unearned benefits they get simply because they are married. The question we should be addressing is how single people manage to do so well when they are up against unfair laws and policies, and when coupled people’s lives are celebrated and theirs are disparaged.
How to Be Single and Happy is brimming with insights and advice for single people who don’t want to be single that never, ever demean or disparage single people or single life. Here are just a few examples:
- “…focusing on finding love, rather than loving your life, closes you off from great opportunities, or leads you to settle for something that doesn’t feel right.”
- “…being single does not mean you’re flawed or in need of fixing. Your relationship, or lack thereof, has little to do with your worth.”
- “…there’s little upside to believing that finding a soul mate is a promising shortcut to lifelong satisfaction.”
- “Once you clarify your values…spending a night with friends is no longer ‘pointless’ if you don’t meet someone new; it’s an opportunity for bonding, a chance to focus on the importance of closeness with friends.”
- “A meaningful alternative to finding love is giving love.”
- “Needing to look good for someone else is dismissing your inherent worth.”
- “…just because you don’t have a child doesn’t mean people don’t depend on you. You deserve to show up for those people.”
- “…you don’t have to be single to feel lonely.”
- “Life has joy and purpose, and it’s possible to feel whole and happy, shame-free, without a person by your side.”
Jennifer Taitz’s warmth and kindness shine though on every page of the book. You just know she cares deeply for all the people she sees in her practice. For all her wisdom and expertise, though, she doesn’t take herself too seriously. I found it particularly endearing when she let readers know that her clients are not always enamored of her approaches. She describes them rolling their eyes at her suggestions and saying that no, they are not going to make up a song and sing it with her in her office.
Many contemporary nonfiction writers tell some of their own life stories along the way. Taitz does this, too, as well or better than anyone else I’ve read. She has experienced some of the same struggles as her clients and admits that she sometimes dealt with her challenges in all the wrong ways. She explains how she learned to do better, and how her clients – and you – can, too.
Curl up with How to Be Single and Happy: Science-Based Strategies for Keeping Your Sanity While Looking for a Soul Mate. You just may feel better about your life if you do, even if you were already pretty happy.
How to Be Single and Happy: Science-Based Strategies for Keeping Your Sanity While Looking for a Soul Mate
Paperback, 242 pages