Single and Satisfied

Ijah’s Note: This is a word for word reproduction of an article by Sherry Lynn Obenauer M.Ed., M.A originally published by the Self Help Magazine.

I decided to reproduce it here as I was typing an unpublished blogpost entitled “Kind remarks that are, well, unkind” and was looking for articles on the net that talk about the same topic: what’s so strange about being single and happy about it?

You see, as a perpetually single female, people always ask me if I am seeing someone (yes, but make that someones please; plural noun, not singular). It came up very frequent in my younger days as one by one of my friends waved goodbye to singledom and entered that mythical kingdom of married bliss. Then it petered off as we became busy trying to carve out a career.

Of late it has been making frequent cameos in conversations, with most of the time people asking me if I am married (instead of asking if I am seeing someone; I guess I can’t fake my age anymore. I am, after all, in my mid-thirties). When I say no, they’d look at me sympathetically and respond with something like this “I know/I hope someday you (too) will meet a good guy/husband,”. Typically the word “too” would be added if the person had just achieved a new milestone in her personal life – like a new boyfriend (fiance/husband/baby).

I always find this surprising, and more importantly, perplexing because there is no way I can respond to it without seeming defensive about the whole matter. So, over the years I have perfected this “I can’t believe you just said that” look that would immediately make the other party scramble to come up with saving face lines like “Oh I mean that in a good way” or “No offense intended”.

The truth is, I like being single and I haven’t, for a very long time now, been involved with anyone seriously that it leads to a long term commitment. I am not jaded nor did anyone break my heart so badly I am scarred for life. In fact most of the time, I do the scarring. I’m just not looking and don’t mind the fact that I am not looking. Sometimes I think my admission of liking my single status is harder on the person(s) who asks coz s/he would always have this sad, crestfallen expression on his/her face that I have to console/convince them and say, “Hey it’s ok, I really like the state I am in,” et cetera.

Let me make myself understood. I am not against men, the institution of marriage and babies, nor am I commitment-phobic. I love men (the less shirt they wear, the better. I like the expensive presents too) and babies (especially when they don’t cry or talk or move, or poop etc). I have been in two, very long, very intense, very long term and very loyal relationships despite my hippie free-love-for-all appearances. The rest were just fun, no-proposal-required kind of relationships that were good while they lasted but didn’t make me collapse all over the floor crying my eyes out once it ran its course. My point is, I know what the fuss is all about… been there, done that. But I’m at a point in my life where the view is really good, with or without a man (or men :-) ), so yes while it is true that I haven’t found the one (Debs and Bibs would argue otherwise), it is also true that I have not been looking at all. It’s like getting those unexpected free gifts when you buy your favourite perfume. The gifts are a nice extra but you’d buy the perfume anyway even without the freebies, you know what I mean? Being single and happy is ok, and it’s real – trust me.

So what do I do? The question should be what CAN I do? Nothing, really. As a society, we’re just conditioned that way. This article by Sherry Lynn explains everything succinctly. So, without further ado…

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SINGLE and SATISFIED
by Sherry Obenauer M.Ed., M.A.

What’s wrong with being single? A whole lot if you go by what you see around you. Whether you visit a bookstore or a library, watch television, go to the movies, listen to friends and family, adopt the values of society, or read the newspaper, messages about couplehood prevail. Little is spoken about being single, except as a condition to avoid like the plague. In the dawn of a new millennium, it’s time to say what being single is really all about.

Visit any bookstore and you’ll find dozens of books about relationships; how to keep them together, how to grieve the loss of a loved one, how to find and keep the “perfect” mate, how to satisfy your lover sexually, and the list goes on and on. Rarely will you find books on being single unless they relate to healing some aspect of yourself in preparation for a relationship.

Or, to take time alone to discover why you’re scaring people away. The majority of movies, soap operas, daytime talk shows and television dramas revolve around love relationships. Boy meets girl, boy beats up bad guys to save girl, boy marries girl and lives happily ever after are all stock images served up by Hollywood. Even action films try to sneak in sexual tension between the protagonists. Sexless soap operas do not exist. There’s so much steam, it’s pornographic. Every talk show has a weekly episode that examines relationships. Jerry Springer is renowned for sensationalizing combating couples while Oprah prefers to concentrate on deepening existing relationships.

Even newspapers, whose primary purpose is to inform citizens of world events include a personals section with want-ads of lonely singles desperately seeking a mate. Cities are littered with singles clubs and discotheques that aim to pair people up, even if it’s just for a one-night stand. Society expects every man and woman to wed, preferably before the age of 30, and to have at least one child (two is perfect). Even though the term “old maid” is no longer politically correct, many still respond with surprise if an older woman remains unhitched. Single women are supposed to date regularly. If not, friends, family, and coworkers love to set singles up with blind dates (and we all know how satisfying those are). The message couldn’t be clearer. It’s not okay to be alone. Sometimes, singles are excluded from “couples” nights or activities or they’re advised to “bring a friend.”

Being in a loving relationship has its benefits, no doubt about it. Someone to talk to at any given moment, someone to rub your sore shoulders after a hard day’s work, someone to do things with, someone to keep you warm at night, someone to buy you gifts at Christmas time and Valentine’s Day, someone to make you feel special, and someone to whisper “sweet nothings” in your ear. And don’t forget, someone to satisfy those pervasive sexual desires. Financially, couples are better off than individuals, and child-rearing is a lot easier with two parents. Also, being in a relationship helps us feel “normal.” You don’t have to worry about playing the dating game or trying to figure yourself out (maybe); you’re okay because someone else says you are. Right?

Is there anything wrong with being in a relationship? Of course not, if both parties feel the same way towards one another and share the same commitment, values, and goals. A relationship can be terrific if both people are in touch with who they and their partners are and are okay with being alone. A dyad is great if both people share honestly with each other and are relatively healthy (for who of us is totally healthy 100% of the time?). Couplehood can be marvelous as long as there is mutual respect and some communication and conflict- management skills. Unfortunately, few relationships share all of these points leaving many people dissatisfied. What about being single? Typically, society views it as being out of our control. If we’re single, it’s because someone left us or doesn’t want us. Seldom seen as a choice, loneliness is more often seen as boring, depressing, sad, negative, and something to remain in for only a short period of time or to be altogether avoided if possible.

Socially inept recluses isolated in dimly lit rooms devoid of furniture and warmth, lacking friends and family, hating their jobs and life in general are the usual way in which single people are portrayed. Or, single people (typically men) are seen as bar flies, squandering money, buying outlandish gifts for themselves (to make up for dwindling self-confidence), and engaging in meaningless acts of sex with strangers. Either way, singles lack a positive image.

However, being single can be a life-saving, rejuvenating experience. In fact, one can’t truly be successful in a relationship without being single for a time. Being single allows us to do what we want, when we want, and with whom we want without having to answer to anyone. Being single allows us to take full responsibility for paying our bills, cleaning and decorating, cooking our meals, planning our activities, and entertaining ourselves. It allows us the time to sit in quiet solitude, to run naked around the living room, to belch as loud as we want, and secretly watch shows that no one else would actually ever admit to watching. This is because we have more time on our hands and are not avoiding looking at ourselves by focusing our energies on someone else.

Basically, being single affords each of us the opportunity to discover who we are, what we do and don’t like, how we deal with things, what we want out of life, what our expectations are, what our potentials and limitations are, what energizes and empowers us, and what discourages and disappoints us. The goal of being alone should not be to prepare us for couplehood. Rather, the goal of being single should be to learn to fulfill ourselves, to meet our needs, and to develop as a human being regardless of whether or not we choose to enter into a relationship. By learning to love and care for ourselves, we diminish the risk of starving for someone else to fill the void within our souls; a void that only we can truly fill. The purpose of entering into a relationship should be to share oneself with another person as opposed to trying to get from someone what is lacking in ourselves. Expecting someone else to fill in the gaps usually results in grave disappointments , a sense of failure, and endless resentment.

Being in an unhealthy relationship is no more admirable than being alone and isolated. However, choosing to be single can be just as satisfying (if not more so) than thriving in a healthy relationship. With the advent of increased divorces, delayed marriages, fewer births, and growing female independence, more and more people will find themselves single. So, why not make the most of it? Sit back, have a soda, and try belching as loud as you can! You’ll never know what you can accomplish until you try!

References:
1. Porter, D. (1999). 365 Reflections on being single.
2. Broder, M., & Clafling, E.B. (1990). The art of living single.

 

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