Adults Who Have Never Had a Partner: Is This Normal?

The absence of a partner may be a personal decision, but it's also a sometimes consequence of certain constraints that need to be addressed. We'll explore the reality of those who have never had a relationship here.
Adults Who Have Never Had a Partner: Is This Normal?
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 16 December, 2022

Although this trend is slowly changing, the truth is that even today, having a partner is normative and socially accepted. We grow up with the deep-rooted belief that, once we reach adulthood, we must share our lives with another person. Similarly, we assimilate the state of singleness with personal failure. Because of this, those who have never had a partner may feel bad and receive a significant amount of criticism.

Although this is a reality that those who live it try to hide it, the truth is that it affects more people than we think. Many adults have never had a formal romantic relationship and others have never experienced sex.

Sometimes, this may be due to certain limitations that need to be addressed. But in other cases, it may be purely a matter of choice.

So, when considering whether this is “normal,” we must not rush to judge. It’s first and foremost crucial to understand the context and circumstances of each person.

Adults who have never had a partner: A personal choice

It is to be expected that a person in his or her twenties has already experienced his or her first sexual relationship. This is the norm and the reality for most people. It’s also the direction in which our environments and societies tend to push us.

Despite this, it’s not an obligation, a necessity, or even often an optimal state. Those who have never had a partner are in no way inferior or defective; they should not be judged or rejected. While it’s true that living with a partner can be enriching and positive, it’s no less true that being single also has many advantages.

Some people choose this state because of the freedom it gives and the possibility of self-knowledge it offers. A single person can dedicate more time and energy to connecting with themselves, taking care of themselves, and nurturing themselves on a personal level. You can travel, make decisions, and enjoy your time without the responsibility of sharing it with someone.

For many, this is an ideal life choice. In this case, we cannot speak of there being any problem and there is no need for these people to forcefully adapt to the norm.

A person’s life path is personal and theirs and only theirs to walk.

a man who's single and happy
Certain lifestyles don’t mesh well with life as a couple, so the decision to be single is made consciously in order to enjoy other experiences. 

Sexual and romantic orientations

In line with the above, it should be noted that there are people who simply have no interest in sex or romatic bonds. It’s estimated that about 1% of the population identifies as asexual (that is, they have no sexual attraction or desire to have physical relations with others).

Similarly, there are those who have a non-romantic orientation. That is, they are not interested in having a relationship.

This is permissible and is not a problem that needs to be addressed. In these cases, the adult may never have had a partner.

We think you may also enjoy reading this article: 5 Signs that You’re Ready to Start a New Relationship

The case of personal limitations or difficulties

However, being single is not always a matter of choice. Many adults who have never had a partner suffer from this state or wish their situation were different.

They may want to find someone to share their life with and are unable to do so for a variety of reasons. This is when it’s a good idea for them to seek help.

This may be due to certain personal difficulties or limitations. These characteristics complicate the task of getting to know others, generating intimacy with them, and bonding in a healthy way:

  • Deficient social skills
  • Extreme shyness
  • Insecurity
  • Social phobia

It may also happen that there are unaddressed fears or open wounds that prevent them from realizing their dream of being in a relationship. Fear of abandonment, rejection, or suffering can lead a person to boycott his or her chances of becoming a couple or lead him or her to give up without even trying. Those with insecure forms of attachment (both ambivalent and anxious) are more susceptible to this.

It’s also a good idea to review the person’s core beliefs in order to identify those that are working against him or her:

  • If the person, throughout his or her life, has only observed dysfunctional relationship models in which violence or indifference were the daily routines, this will lead him or her to have a very negative view of love and of the situation of being in a relationship.
  • Having unrealistic expectations and little cognitive flexibility can also play a role in their views on relationships. Being caught up with the idea of romantic love and not being able to consider that a real relationship implies giving in, being tolerant, and going through ups and downs is a major (and common) issue. Thus, these people often believe that no one meets their standards and they react to this by avoiding relationships altogether.
  • Suffering from philophobia or fear of commitment. Some people believe that life in a relationship is a prison that deprives one of freedom and erases one’s identity. For this reason, these people tend to reject the idea of being emotionally vulnerable and making a long-term commitment, even though part of them may wish to do so.
have never had a partner
Extreme shyness can complicate the process of generating social relationships. In this case, professional help is necessary.

Like this article? You may also like to read: How to Recover a Relationship that Ended but Had a Future

Those who have never had a partner should ask themselves: Is this making me suffer?

In short, it’s not a question of whether having never been in a relationship is normal or not. Instead, you have to analyze whether this is a situation that causes suffering. If the person feels comfortable and satisfied with his or her reality, if it’s what he or she freely chooses for him or herself, then it’s absolutely fine. Now, if it involves discomfort, anxiety, suffering, or is due to a limiting fear, then it’s a good idea to look for help.

Psychotherapy is a safe space where the person can explore their beliefs, heal their wounds, face their fears, improve their skills, and change any dynamics that keep them stuck in an unpleasant situation.

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  • Bogaert, A. F. (2004). Asexuality: Prevalence and associated factors in a national probability sample. Journal of Sex Research41(3), 279-287.
  • Reynolds, J., Wetherell, M., & Taylor, S. (2007). Choice and chance: Negotiating agency in narratives of singleness. The Sociological Review55(2), 331-351.
  • Zubeidat, I., Parra, A. F., Sierra, J. C., & Salinas, J. M. (2006). Ansiedad social en una muestra de jóvenes españoles: características demográficas y psicosociales. Análisis y modificación de conducta32(145).

The contents of this publication are for informational purposes only. At no time can they serve to facilitate or replace the diagnoses, treatments, or recommendations of a professional. Consult with your trusted specialist if you have any doubts and seek their approval before beginning any procedure.