As we emerge from the pandemic’s seemingly endless restrictions, you may imagine that a long‑term singleton such as Alex Russell would crave the companionship of a live-in girlfriend.
On the contrary, he can’t think of anything worse. His last relationship ended a decade ago after two years and he has no intention of pursuing love — let alone living with a woman — ever again.
If lockdown has taught this eligible bachelor anything, it’s that he really is most content on his own. He’d far rather return home to his Jack Russell, Oscar’s, wagging tail than a female partner.
Women? Who needs them! It seems a growing number of men agree with this sentiment. When Femail ran a feature earlier this year about women so joyously single that they are eschewing romantic relationships, it prompted a deluge of comments from male readers eager to offer their side of the story — most of them echoing Alex’s feelings.
Women? Who needs them! Alex Russell, 46, (pictured) an eligible bachelor who lives in Surrey has no intention of pursuing love and said he has never imagined being married with children because he is so ‘independent’
‘Unlike one of my exes, my dog doesn’t nag me if I want to lie on the sofa and have a nap, or complain if I head out to the gym or spend hours restoring my classic Jaguar XJS sports car,’ says the 46-year-old, who lives near Dorking in Surrey and works in tech for a railway company.
‘I’ve never imagined being married with children because I’m so independent.’
Not that he doesn’t have great role models where marriage and family are concerned. His own parents have been happily married for a whopping 58 years.
In fact, Alex admits to feeling ‘very comfortable’ around women — as long as there isn’t romance in the mix.
‘Whenever I’ve dated in the past and they’ve shown keenness, I’ve always panicked and thought: “Oh God, where do I go with this?” ’ he says.
This week actress Kate Beckinsale, who was married to Hollywood director Len Wiseman for 15 years until 2019, spoke of her own preference for living alone, saying she couldn’t imagine ‘living with a person and maintaining my new-found autonomy’.
She explained: ‘For women in relationships with men, it’s culturally quite easy to lose track of your life. You’ve watched your mother, your grandmother, subjugate herself — even on stupid things.’
But as many of our correspondents told us, it’s not only women who can feel living with a partner erases their sense of self.
Investment banker Constantine Biller was married for 16 years until his divorce a year ago, instigated by his ex-wife.
Despite admitting he’s been lonely at times — compounded by the various lockdowns — and desperately misses living with his teenage children every day, he’s also realised how much happier he is without a woman in his life.
Though it would be easy to assume this is a knee-jerk reaction to his divorce, he’s adamant it’s not. ‘I was having this debate with friends last week, and they kept saying that I’ll feel differently in time and will want to be in a relationship again,’ says Constantine, who’s 45 and lives in Altrincham, Cheshire.
‘The past few years, as my marriage unravelled, have been very painful, as you’d expect. But I’ve slowly reached a point where, especially now restrictions are easing, I enjoy not having to look after or consider a female partner. ‘I’m enjoying not having anyone rely on me emotionally — or being needy — and do not expect to take care of a woman financially again in my life.’
Handsome and highly eligible, he’s relishing being able to make his own decisions ‘without having to report to anyone else’, including recently resuming modelling work he first did in his 20s.
‘My wife wouldn’t have wanted me to do that because the work is usually at short notice, for long hours and far away. She used to complain that she didn’t see me anyway because of my day job,’ he says.
Constantine Biller, 45, (pictured) was married for 16 years until his divorce a year ago and while he admits he’s been lonely at times he’s also realised how much happier he is without a woman in his life
‘Now I can do what I please. This includes listening to music by U2 and Coldplay as loudly as I want to in the house, and watching football on TV without a woman complaining or wanting my attention.’
A Liverpool season ticket holder, he got tickets to the final game of the season last month when crowds were allowed back in.
‘It was great being able to do that with no questions asked from a woman.
‘I don’t ever want to experience the bad bits of a relationship again. For example, I don’t have to worry about trust issues, or being told by a wife or partner what time we have to eat, what we’re doing at weekends and that I have to visit the in-laws, something I never particularly relished.
‘In this past year or so, I’ve experienced the true meaning of loneliness. But the flipside is that I now want to be on my own, and as life is opening up again I’m enjoying myself. And why not? From sunrise to sunset I can do whatever I choose. Who wouldn’t want that?’
According to recent figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of people living alone in the UK has increased by 4 per cent over the last ten years, from an estimated 7.6 million in 2010 to 7.9 million in 2020.
Alex is another who can’t imagine having it any other way.
‘It’s not that I’ve never wanted a relationship in the past,’ he says. ‘I just wanted to take it very slowly.
‘But if I said: “Let’s just see how it goes,” some women saw it as a cop out.’
His first proper relationship began when he was 28 and lasted two and a half years, including a ‘disastrous attempt at living together’.
‘She moved in with me for a month at one point but she hated it when I’d go to the gym at night when she wanted me on the sofa with her watching TV. I ended it as I started to feel trapped.’
In his 30s, he found it easier to have female ‘friends with benefits’. Alex adds: ‘If there was an understanding between us that we were friends who occasionally had sex but nothing more, that worked for me because I didn’t have to worry that suddenly they might want to start getting into a relationship.’
You might conclude, like some of his former suitors, that Alex is a commitment-phobic player, intent on sowing his wild oats. But according to chartered psychologist and scientist Dr Meg Arroll, that’s an outdated viewpoint. ‘Societal norms have changed significantly, and it’s entirely possible that a man can be single into his 40s and beyond for reasons other than promiscuity,’ she says.
When Femail ran a feature earlier this year (inset) about women so joyously single that they are eschewing romantic relationships, it prompted a deluge of comments from male readers eager to offer their side of the story. Pictured: The original Femail feature
‘Both men and women are more empowered now to make decisions about how they live their lives according to their values, beliefs and needs, rather than trying to fit into society’s gender stereotypes. This freedom of choice is something to be celebrated, rather than criticised.’
Alex acknowledges that meeting women has never been a problem, particularly when he signed up to various dating websites.
If you’re thinking of looking him up online, however, forget it. Having realised he was happier not being in a relationship, he removed his profile a couple of years ago.
‘I came to realise that I’m content being single and absolutely love being able to do what I want, when I want, without having to consider a partner’s movements or feelings. I’ve got a cat and a dog instead of a woman!’ he laughs.
But what about intimacy?
‘I won’t lie, I miss sex,’ he admits. ‘But as I’m older now, it’s not such a big deal, and part of the reason I’m happier is that I’m not constantly thinking about it or wanting it as I did when I was younger.
‘I’m what some people call an introverted extrovert. So, although I’ll happily go to parties or out and about and chat to lots of people, I also find it exhausting sometimes and I’ve struggled with anxiety.
‘This means there are times I’m quite comfortable passing up an invitation to go out because I’d rather spend a weekend in my own company, which has caused problems with women I’ve dated in the past.’
Consumer rights expert Scott Dixon, 51, is equally content being single.
‘In my late 30s, when I was working in finance on the Isle of Man, I dated a lady a few years younger who was desperate to settle down and have kids,’ says Scott, who specialises in motoring disputes and now lives in Edinburgh.
‘Although she had her own place, she moved in with me for a short while. But overnight the dynamics of our relationship changed completely. Suddenly, it was as dull as ditchwater.
‘We used to look forward to seeing each other and catching up over dinner or drinks, but all that sparkle disappeared when it became clear that her top priority now was to have a child, which is not what I wanted. We were together for a couple of years and I truly loved her, so when it ended I was heartbroken. But her desire to have children was the deal-breaker in the end.’
Meanwhile Scott, 51, said his ex’s desire to have children was a deal-breaker for him and said he is happy to have women as friends without any of that pressure (file image)
Dr Elle Boag is associate professor in applied social psychology at Birmingham City University and says that not having a life partner can be good for us.
‘There have always been men who’ve been eternal bachelors but they’ve been seen as against the norm, which is why this is now perceived as a trend,’ she explains.
‘But just because a man chooses to be single doesn’t mean he wants to go jumping in and out of different women’s beds. He may simply enjoy having the freedom to choose to live life on his own terms.
‘Also, women are becoming more dominant and confident in themselves and at work, which means a lot of men in their mid-years are feeling the pinch. They were brought up in households where Mum stayed at home and Dad went out to work, but this has shifted.
‘So whether they’re divorced or planned to marry later in life or never wanted to marry at all, women are more of a challenge for this generation of men.’
Scott’s personal take differs: ‘I don’t find opinionated career women too much of a challenge at all. I’m just far too set in my ways to contemplate being in a serious relationship ever again, but thoroughly enjoy platonic female company.
‘Why would I want to live with a woman? Right now if I want to have a lie-in or if I want to go to Spain with an old mate every Christmas, that’s what I do.
‘Looking at my home now, I don’t have to answer to anyone nagging me to spruce it up. And if I want to pop to the pub for a pint with a few mates on a whim, I can. In fact, that’s exactly what I did last Sunday. We all have our faults, me included, but I like not having anyone else to answer to.’
However, Scott insists he is far from being a woman-hater or bitter as a result of old relationships that didn’t work out.
‘I love having female friends and being able to share emotions in a way that I can’t with my blokey mates,’ he adds.
‘Women have a different view and emotional perceptions, and I enjoy having that to complement my male friendships. One female friend is happily married and another is a neighbour.’
Scott’s last date two years ago was to an art gallery followed by a poetry and comedy night in a pub. ‘It was fun, but she made it clear she wanted to move things on between us at a pace. I’m just happy to have women as friends without any of that pressure.’