You Don’t Have to Get Used to Staying Single
Enjoying time on your own and settling for being single for eternity are different
I am terrified of dying alone. There, I said it. It has been on my mind for quite a long time now, and it took me a long time to admit it.
I read (and wrote, too) tons of articles about being single and about how to enjoy it, how to make the most of it, how to make peace with it. There was one that I remember too well because it nearly broke my heart. The point of that very article was that if you are single, you have to make peace with the possibility that you will stay single forever. According to the author, this was a liberating feeling — and it is within the realms of possibility.
I was reading it and I was screaming internally. No. No. No.
It was a well-written article with solid arguments. And as the author was painting the picture of the possibility of staying forever alone, I felt some excruciating anxiety creeping on me. She meant well. She found solace in acceptance. She made peace with being alone. But it felt like a horror story for me.
The world is unpredictable. Anything can happen. Anything good and anything bad. It is within the realms of possibility that tomorrow I get diagnosed with a terminal illness. Or I get hit by a bus. Or I win the lottery. Or I meet the love of my life. Or not.
Being single doesn’t make you more prone to staying single than being with a partner. Someone who is married can get a divorce — I know, I did. It is possible to lose a partner — they can leave, you can leave, they can get ill, they can even die.
Sure, if you already have a partner, you don’t need to find one — one less problem. But it doesn’t guarantee you a happily ever after. Yet somehow we don’t talk about partnered people needing to make peace with becoming single and then staying single forever. Apparently, it’s just single people who are exposed to the possibility of staying that way forever. Apparently, you being single means that you (and not those with a partner) need to face the looming option of not ever getting a partner.
The opportunity of being alone and lonely, however, is only reserved for those who are currently single. As if a current relationship status would indicate some kind of character that condemns you to forever-single life.
“I am terrified of dying alone. I don’t want to make peace with the possibility of it. I don’t want to get used to being alone.”
I told my therapist these words — ready to defend my stance, ready to attack back, ready to leave.
She was looking at me and spoke very calmly.
“It is perfectly natural that you want company. It’s not an impossible wish. You don’t have to get used to being alone forever — that would be unnatural. But you can try to enjoy yourself until you find your partner, can’t you?”
This was a different aspect.
She didn’t say work on yourself first. She didn’t say become a better version of yourself and then you will become lovable. She didn’t ask me why am I so afraid of facing myself. She didn’t dismiss my fear. She validated my feelings and made me feel normal about my need.
Happiness has nothing to do with your relationship status
When we talk about happiness, it is a concept that is reserved for people with partners. As if you couldn’t be happy on your own. As if you couldn’t possibly have a full life on your own. As if your happiness would depend on whether you are partnered or not.
Happiness is in the little things. And it has nothing to do with being alone or not.
Within my last relationship, I was miserable. Not despite having a partner. I was miserable because I had a partner — he was abusive, and he made my life hell. I can’t remember a darker time ever in my life. I wasn’t single. I had someone to go home to, to care about, to love. But I wasn’t happy.
Comparing my happiness factor 4 years ago and today, I am a lot happier today than I was back then.
Happiness is a state. It consists of little moments of joy and accomplishment — and it’s different for everyone.
Being single is not a disease
When we talk about single people, it sounds like they were infected with some unknown virus or some illness. “Oh, you are still single?” “I don’t understand why are you still single…” “It must be hard to be single… and do everything on your own.”
As if becoming a partner to someone was an accomplishment that suddenly makes you whole. As if your worth increased immediately — regardless of who is beside you. Just because you could “land” a partner, it makes you already a better person.
HR researches show that single people deemed less reliable than someone with a partner — as if keeping together a relationship, or not being abused or cheated on would have a direct influence on your professional capabilities.
Being single is not a life sentence, it is a phase. When you get married you don’t count with getting a divorce. But when you divorce, you should say that your marriage was just a phase of your life. But we don’t say that — as being partnered is more valuable than being self-sufficient.
Interestingly, having kids as a single parent don’t count. The love and care that you have towards your kids don’t make you a whole person, don’t make you better or more reliable — to the contrary. As if it wasn’t enough that you are single, you are also a single parent — what a horror.
You don’t need to make peace with staying single forever
Just because you are single now, it doesn’t mean you will stay single forever. It’s not a terminal illness or a disease. You have every chance to get a partner. It might not be easy, but it is possible. It is just as possible to go from single to partnered as it is the other way around.
The fact that you have time on your own doesn’t make you incapable of getting used to being with someone else or even living with someone or having a family with someone — if that’s what you want.
You can live a single life, you can get used to spending time on your own, you can enjoy having the bed and the bathroom completely for yourself. These won’t render you incapable of finding a partner.
Even if you spend a lot of time together where you enjoy your solitude, you can get into a state of being happily partnered. It might mean making compromises. It might mean getting used to the quirks and habits to another person — but it’s always the same. No two people are the same, getting used to them, forming a relationship with them are necessary steps anyway.
You don’t need to look at a relationship as taking away your freedom that you are so used to being single — a relationship worth nurturing wouldn’t rob you of your me-time.
Society and our peers need to stop telling single people that they are somehow a lesser form of existence. They also need to stop trying to fix us or frighten us with the looming possibility of never being able to get out of it.
Relationships are fragile things. They are no guarantee for the happiness of anyone. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work on being happy with or without a partner. But the presence of a partner doesn’t guarantee a happily ever after, nor does the absence of a partner mean that you are to be unhappy forever.
I am terrified of dying alone — so I refuse to accept that it is even a possibility.
However, I need to accept that this current phase of my life has to be about finding my happiness on my own — not linked to the existence of someone else, but not dissing the possibility of becoming happier when someone comes along.
If I look at being single as a phase that is temporarily something to accept and embrace it makes the whole situation easier to handle. I am not broken. I don’t need to become a better version of myself. I don’t need to be fixed. I don’t need to be completed.
I am whole. I just happen to be single for the moment.
And when I will be in a relationship, I still need to be whole on my own — this is exactly what I am practising now.