The Difference Between Voluntary and Involuntary Singles


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Think about the singles you know well. Group them now into voluntary and involuntary celibates:

the involuntary bachelors would be people who often feel lonely and want to be in a long-term romantic relationship, but have not been able to find a suitable partner. the voluntary singles (single by choice), on the other hand, would be those who enjoy the freedom of celibacy and have no interest in long-term relationships or marriage.

Do you think there are any major differences in the personalities of the members of the two bands?

A study by Apostolou and Tsangari, published in the February 2022 issue of Personality and individual differences, suggests that the members of these two groups are indeed different. Specifically, he concludes that high levels of the ‘openness to experience’ personality trait and low levels of the ‘extraversion’ trait are associated with “different types of celibacy: people with high openness scores are likely to prefer to be single, while people with low extraversion scores are likely to be single, but not want to be.

Let’s go deeper into the study.

Survey of the Big 5 and involuntary celibacy

To taste: The study was conducted in the Republic of Cyprus. The sample included 1,418 Greek-speaking participants (627 men), with an average age of 32.

Relationship status of participants:

  • As a couple (35%)
  • Involuntarily single (20%), meaning they had trouble finding a romantic partner
  • Married (18%)
  • Temporarily single (16%), meaning they were in relationships
  • Single by choice (8%)
  • Single for other reasons (4%)

Equipment: The Big 5 inventory, consisting of 44 items.

Note that the Big 5 refers to five personality dimensions: extraversion, agreeableness, openness, conscientiousness, and neuroticism. These traits are described below:

  • Agreeableness: being cheerful, friendly, kind and confident.
  • Conscientiousness: Includes traits such as responsibility, thoroughness, and planning.
  • Extraversion (also written as extroversion): being assertive, talkative, outgoing, and energetic. It is the opposite of introversion.
  • Neuroticism: Neurotic people are generally described as emotional, anxious, moody and tense.
  • Openness to experience: refers to a tendency to prefer variety, to have many interests and to be imaginative.

Results: Data analysis revealed that agreeableness, conscientiousness and neuroticism were do not predictors of celibacy. Celibacy, however, was correlated with both extroversion and openness to experience.

Specifically, extraversion decreased the likelihood of being single:

As the Odds Ratio indicates, a one-unit increase in extraversion increases the likelihood of being in the “in an intimate relationship” category than in the “involuntarily single” category by 40.3%…[and the] probability of being in the “between relationships” category rather than the “involuntarily single” category of 38.5%.

On the other hand, the openness to experience personality trait increases the probability of being single by choice:

One unit increase in openness increased the likelihood of being in the “single by choice” category than in the “in an intimate relationship” category by 58.7%.

The duration of celibacy was also correlated with two personality traits:

Increase of one unit of [extraversion] was associated with a decrease in the duration of the period of celibacy of 2.19 years…[And a unit] increase in [openness] was associated with a 1.38-year increase in the duration of celibacy.


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The personality traits of extroversion and openness are predictors of relationship status:

  • Introverted people, compared to extroverted people, are more likely to be involuntarily celibate or to experience a longer duration of celibacy.
  • People who score high in openness to experience, compared to those who are less open to experience, are more likely to be single by choice.

Based on these findings, introversion is one potential reason why some people who desire a romantic relationship are still single. This makes sense because introverted individuals tend to spend more time alone and engage in solitary activities (eg, playing computer games, reading books, daydreaming), which means they have less social interactions and therefore fewer opportunities to meet potential partners.

The data also showed that those who score high on openness to experience were more likely to be voluntarily single than in a romantic relationship.

Why do these individuals prefer to be single? Given the connection between openness and the preference for variety, they may want varied experiences with different romantic partners, which being in a committed relationship would prevent. Additionally, they may be more liberal than the average person and therefore less likely to conform to society’s norms regarding marriage and long-term relationships.

Essential Extraversion Readings

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