Sunday, April 14, 2024

“I Feel Like I Can’t Win”: With NZ’s Wildly ‘Meh’ Results in an International Survey, We Ask – What’s It Like Being Single in New Zealand Right Now?

You don’t need us to tell you that being single is tough – but it turns out it’s even tougher than we first thought. Kelly Bertrand examines why single women in New Zealand are struggling to thrive – or even survive.

“I’ve never been more stressed in my life,” says Hayley.

A 34-year-old teacher, Hayley is gorgeous, smart and has her shit together. But after four years of solid singledom she says she’s struggling in all areas of her life – and it’s not because she’s wanting a partner. It’s because thriving – or even surviving – as a single woman in New Zealand is damn near impossible.

“Financially, socially, mentally – it’s all fucking tough,” she tells Capsule. “I feel like I can’t get ahead in any part of my life and I just don’t understand why. I’m an independent woman and yeah, while having a partner would be nice it’s not like I’m desperate or anything. But I can’t be the only one to think that everything – EVERYTHING – is geared towards couples, and then you couple that (sorry pun not intended) with the fact it’s not easy to try and NOT be single. I feel like I can’t win. What the hell are you supposed to do?”

Hayley’s far from alone in feeling this way. The struggles of the single wahine have been covered in Capsule extensively before, including my own story here: The Social Cost of Being Single – When Society Simply Doesn’t Know What to Do With You. Stuff’s Money Editor Susan Edmunds covered off the financial aspects of being single in this brilliant story where she spoke to a Christchurch woman, Pauline, who says she feels “forgotten about” constantly.

“You hear about everything the Government is doing for families, children, the elderly, students…I don’t begrudge them at all, I’m very happy to see these things and the benefits and help they get, that’s great. But you kind of feel like you’re the one being left out all the time… everything seems to be geared towards everyone else, except single people.

“When you’ve only got one income coming in, it means forking out so much more of one salary. When others have two salaries, or they’ve got some form of benefit or some form of financial assistance coming in… when it comes to things like being able to have income protection insurance, medical insurance, there’s no chance you can do that on one income.”

Aside from banding together to live in a commune (every girl group has the same fantasy, right?) there doesn’t seem to be too many solutions for the issue of being a single girl in a world designed for couples.

Susan’s story came in the same week that a survey by Australian comparison service Compare the Market named New Zealand as only the 17th best country for single women’s liveability out of the 35 countries ranked (yes, before you ask, we bet Australia – they came in at 20th).

While Iceland, Denmark and Slovenia (?!) were the top three nations (maybe don’t move to Latvia, South Korea or Mexico if you’re single) New Zealand was disappointingly middling, ranking low in average wage and mortgage rates, and high in monthly cost of living, to come in with a ‘liveability’ score of 5.08 out of 10.

It’s no surprise to Hayley, who says bearing the cost of expenses solo is crippling her during the cost of living crisis.

“I mean I’m 34 and still flatting which I absolutely HATE, but there’s just no way I could afford to live on my own – I’m a teacher. I know compared to a lot of people I’m privileged and I don’t take it for granted but I’m so sick of struggling pay check to pay check just to drag myself to try and teach kids who don’t even want to be there. For once I’d love a little bit leftover to put aside for a holiday or just for a bit of breathing room but you just can’t do that yourself.

“I talked to a mortgage broker last year to assess my options for the future and I was all but laughed out of his office. The rate I’m going at the moment I’ll never be able to own a home – even if I somehow managed to scrounge up a deposit, a bank would never lend to me because they wouldn’t have faith that I could make the repayments and honestly I don’t blame them.”

And while financially it’s a bitch to deal with, Hayley says the mental toll being single is taking on her is even worse.

“How am I supposed to afford to go on dates, first of all?” she says. “Getting all dolled up to share overpriced wines with a disappointingly dull person is a costly exercise – and that’s before dinners, Ubers and the rest.

“Then you have to contend with the dating pool itself – like, for fuck’s sake I’m bisexual so I have my pick of anyone but do you think that helps!? No! Where are all the good, kind, non anti-vax people with their shit together!? Please, someone give me a map and a compass because I am LOST out here and it’s so demoralising.

“And emotionally I have to admit that sometimes I’d just love someone to be there for me. I had a God-awful day last week and I came home and cried hysterically for more than an hour, which lasted longer than it needed to because as I was sobbing into my pillow I just wanted someone there to give me a hug, tell me it’s ok and make me a cup of tea.

“Ok fine, a strong cocktail. But although I’m at a loss and I’m clearly not offering any solutions here I just want anyone reading this story who is going through the same thing that at least they’re not alone.”


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