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Single in the City and the Census

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Julie (not her real name) couldn't believe her ears. He wanted to take a break. Another relationship over before it began. She was tired of waiting, not for Mr. Right, but basically any man at all, to pursue her. She would be 38 in a couple of months and much as friends advised her to forget about her age that wasn't easy. Everyone has some bit of advice, typically less than helpful. Look for a man like you look for a job! (Really?) Just get out there! (She is.) Don't overthink it. (Um, ok.) She hates rehashing details of what went wrong. She's not happy that sex with him, in her words, simply "didn't work."

Meeting online, texting, talking, meeting in person, starting a relationship, which wasn't actually explicitly discussed, having sex and breaking up -- all of that happened in the span of two months. It's a drain of time and energy. Julie is a regular sort of woman of the best kind: she loves her job (most days, of course). But for her, having a family is something she wants, and this is difficult to find.

The most recent Canadian census bears this reality out, in some ways. Census 2011 showed that for the first time there are more single person households in Canada than there are households made up of couples with children. While nearly one in three Canadian households are made up of one person, other countries have seen even more dramatic increases in this category. In Norway, Finland and the Netherlands, forty per cent of households consist of one person. As of 2014 in the USA, there were for the first time more singles than married adults.

The question is: Does this reflect what women want -- are marriage and family no longer a priority? Or do they desire marriage and family even as it eludes them, as in Julie's case?

We are researching how the sexual revolution has changed women's lives as regards family and relationships. Some themes are emerging. Most women would like a stable relationship, but a sizeable number don't have that. We hear different expressions of the problem: "Technology has replaced face to face conversation," one woman says, while another cites the increased objectification of women. Still another describes lower levels of trust in relationships today, making it harder to develop a lasting relationship, much less one that could lead to marriage.

Ultimately, while there are many benefits from the sexual revolution, there are also aspects that many women find problematic. Changing the ways in which we approach sex, relationships and marriage has an effect, and we are wondering what that effect might be for all sorts of different women.

Social isolation and singleness are a theme of the current age and good research can help uncover how family and relationship does or does not help cope with these realities in women's lives.

Andrea Mrozek is the executive director of the Ottawa-based Institute of Marriage and Family Canada. She is co-authoring a book with Rebecca Walberg, a Winnipeg-based writer, about women's relationship experiences in an age of (sexual) revolution.

If you are interested in participating in a five minute anonymous and confidential survey, please follow this link. The information will anonymously contribute to a book about the sexual revolution and what it means for women in the 21st century.


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