There is a societal assumption that to be truly happy you must be in a committed relationship. Leslie Malchy talks about the joy we can find while single.
I remember when one of my friends had said to me upon getting married to his wife “I can’t wait until you find someone to fall in love with and get married too.” While the intention was not malicious, I couldn’t help feeling alienated and even a bit misunderstood.
At the time I was happily single and not looking for a relationship at all; so the idea that I was somehow missing something or on my way to some other more preferred state, well it was annoying to me. There is definitely a stigma in society about people who live their lives single. However, some people are truly unhappy being single and are constantly searching for happiness in coupledom or pining away after that elusive relationship for company, companionship, joy and the simple act of sharing your life with some other or others. This article is geared to those folks.
1. We spend much of our lives being single, all of us
Well-intentioned but ignorant things are said all of the time to single people who are happy and fulfilled. We actually spend much of our lives (and especially women) being single.
We are born into a family and do not start dating until our late adolescence or early adulthood. In between relationships and through separation or divorce in our adult lives, we spend time again being single. Even if we do have a lasting and committed relationship, eventually through death we often find ourselves single again for a time into widowhood. For most of us, at least one third of our lives are spent being single as a part of the greater family life cycle. If you spend much of this time wishing it were otherwise, you may be wasting precious time in your life spent in more fulfilling ways of developing parts of yourself.
2. Getting to know yourself
Time spent being single in life is an essential way in which to get to know you. One of the key aspects to living a fulfilled life is through self-awareness and understanding who you are, what you need and what you like and don’t like.
If you are looking for a relationship at some point in your life, self-awareness is an important ingredient in making relationships work well. The more you know yourself, the better able to are to identify your issues in the relationship and what you need to take responsibility for if or when you do decide to search out a mate. Being able to be comfortable with yourself and who you are is not always easy. It is a learned skill for many people to understand how to be alone with yourself and tolerate the related anxiety associated with it. Knowing the difference between loneliness and solitude is key to being able to cultivate time being a relationship with yourself. After all, this is the relationship that in the end is really the most important one we have.
3. Cultivate friendships
One part of being single is being able to develop many different kinds of relationships. It is a shame when I hear clients in my office saying “I am single, so I am alone.” You may be single and alone, but more often you are not and the two do not necessarily have to be equated with one another.
Many people who are single may tend to undervalue or render invisible the relationships they do have. Our society does not glamorize or validate friendships in the same way that it does to intimate partnerships; yet, many friendships hold a special level of intimacy and understanding that may not be able to be duplicated in other types of relating. One of the keys to being single and being happy is having the time, space, energy and availability to make time and spend time with people who interest you and give you energy outside of a sexual or familial relationship. For many people, friendships are often the longest lasting as well as most satisfying relationships we can have. Try not to undervalue those relationships that feed you. They may be the very same ones that help keep you centered if and when you do become intimately involved with someone. We all need many varied kinds of relationships in our lives.
4. Being single does not mean being alone or lonely
Loneliness is an affect or feeling state that often besieges us when we feel emotionally void. Being single does not have to mean being lonely. Some people are very lonely within relationships and experience their partnership as an emotional vacuum. Being single is a great choice for many people who experience their lives as rewarding because their needs are fulfilled. They have varied and diverse interests, meaningful work, satisfying and intimate friendships and family relationships and devoted spiritual practices.
There are so many different ways to live.
And be happy.
What is your way? Are you happy within your relationship? Are you happy being single. If not, what are the reasons? It may be a fact of your needs not successfully being met more than a relationship status. Are your needs being met most of the time in the situation that you are in? Evaluate your life and get to know what you need.
[image: via kris krüg on flickr]