Quantifying “It’s Complicated”: Looking at Singleness on a Spectrum

One of the very last questions we ask students who take the Marriage Pact is, admittedly, a little straight to the point: how single are you?

Knowing your current relationship status helps us ascertain what you might be hoping for in a match. People take the Marriage Pact seeking a lot of different things: maybe you’re single and looking for your on-campus soulmate, you’re already partnered and need a study buddy or new face for your friend group, or you’re in something of a situationship and are looking to branch out. The questionnaire allows participants to rank their singleness on a scale of one to seven, from "totally taken" to “help me pls.”

But what are the quantifiable differences between those who report that they’re very single or very taken? And what does it mean if they’re somewhere in between?

To answer this, we looked at the data from three recent Marriage Pact surveys across the nation to see if we could answer what, if anything, makes “it’s complicated” so complicated. 

singleness avg

In general…

At UCLA, Georgetown, and UVA, around half of 2021 Marriage Pact respondents answered either one or seven, indicating that they were either very taken or very single. For the purposes of this article, we’re going to be referring to the complicated “situationship” crowd as anyone who answered three, four, or five to the question how single are you.

singleness graph

On average, the more single a participant is, the more disappointed they indicated they would be if they didn’t meet their Marriage Pact. 

singleness disappoint(4)

At Georgetown and UVA, first-years were the most likely to respond that their relationship status was in “it’s complicated” territory. At UCLA, seniors were most likely to answer smack in the middle with four, while juniors and sophomores were most likely to answer three and five, respectively. 

singleness student who answer 3.4.5(1)

At both UVA and UCLA, sophomores were the most likely to report that they were the most taken, while Georgetown juniors were the least available bachelors at their school.

singleness student who answer 1

Each school saw similar results for the most single students by class year, which likely speaks to the unequal sample size of each class year. 

singleness student who answer 7

Differences in Relationship Behaviors

At Georgetown, very taken students were the most likely to say they enjoy playing games that involve disclosing intimate thoughts and feelings. They also were the most likely group to report that they would say what is bothering them, even if it made their partner uncomfortable.

In fact, the more single a respondent considers themselves, the less likely they are to want to disclose their discomfort to a potential partner. Perhaps these students as a whole may be less sure of their boundaries since they aren’t currently committed, or don’t want to scare away potential partners by bringing up negative emotions. 

Questions About Their Partner

At Georgetown and UVA, participants who self-report as more single are less likely to want their partner to be friends with an ex and more likely to have no trouble sleeping if their partner was upset at them. This trend does not appear to be completely overarching, however, as the inverse is true at UCLA.

Despite these trends, the differences between students who reported that they are very taken, very single, or somewhere in between were overall less evident than anticipated. When it came to more divisive questions about a student’s deeply held values, current relationship status wasn’t a predictor of students’ responses.

This was true of many “dealbreaker” questions, including abortion should always be legal, I’m comfortable with my child being gay, and it’s okay that my partner does harder drugs. This speaks to the consistent, divisive, and intensely personal nature of the types of questions: no matter your relationship status, what you will and won’t put up with in a relationship appears to be pretty consistent.

Another aspect of the singleness question that impacts our ability to make generalizations is the fact that at each of the schools we drew data from, the largest category of students who took the Marriage Pact self-identify as very single, with over a third of respondents at each school answering seven. 

But our statistical misfortune could be your goldmine: if you’re struggling to find the one for you, just know that others at your school are going through the same thing. More than half are some shade of single, by our count.

And who knows? Maybe the next time the Marriage Pact swings around to your school, we’ll find the perfect person for you. The algorithm’s got your back.