The Case for Being Single

The Case for Being Single

98% of my life is good. Favorable. Rich. Meaningful. 2% is not. I used to think about that 2% 98% of the time. A lot of people do this. It’s insane. 

I bought a house in October. I never wanted a house. I think it was part of the continuation in my work with Amy. If the house feels good and you can afford it then you should get it. Everything that simple. 

Maddy and I stopped talking just before I closed. She was supportive during the whole search. Even when I told her I was giving up my New York apartment to make it happen. “I can see you living in that house. It’s perfect,” she told me. 

I’ve been living alone in this house for close to 8 months now. And I’ve lived two lives here already. The life that wishes I was sharing this place with someone else. Someone to sit next to on the couch and read while we listen to records. A person to take neighborhood walks with. 

And then there’s the life that is grateful for all this space and freedom. For my hobbies and routines. For the meals I cook myself. The way I take time to exercise and take care of my body. And the beauty of uninterrupted sleep. 

My life is often measured by whether or not I have a partner. I might think work would be easier if I had someone waiting at home to hear all about my day. Or that a trip to Paris would’ve been more romantic with that special someone. That’s the nostalgic part. The belief that the relationship would somehow change how I experienced the world.

Then there’s the reality part.

I’ve traveled to Europe with significant others. And fought over where to eat, what neighborhood to stay in, what time to get up, if we should power through jet lag or just succumb to the sleep. I’ve sat in airports waiting for my partner (who didn’t have Global Entry) to clear customs on the way back. 

And I’ve seen friends try to tell their partners about their annoying boss (or any basic problem) only to be mansplained to death. 

It’s hard to get what you need. 

Which begs the question – Are relationships actually preferable?

I understand the nostalgic shine that love provides us with. And how I can imagine things being better if someone else were there. But how much of that is just me wanting what I don’t have? And how much of it is an attached narrative that being alone is bad? That a moment is worth less because there was no one there to share it with.

I also understand the functional application of a relationship. There is security in knowing someone will be there when you need them. The ease of knowing two people are responsible for the bills. And if you want to have kids it’s a hell of a lot easier to talk a partner into the endeavor than a stranger. 

But consider the reality of some of those scenarios. The actual day-to-dayness of it. What if the way your partner shows up for you is actually holding you back? Or causing you more stress? What if relationships aren’t the best way for you to experience the world? 

The more I realize I can lead a wonderfully full and uncompromised life all on my own the less obsessed I am with having a partner.

I’ve never looked at couples favorably. Mostly because I very rarely see a happy couple. When I see a couple out in the world I heavily eavesdrop on their convos. I want to know how they talk to each other. 

The couple in front of me on the plane argues over how her phone is reflecting light onto another man’s face across the aisle. How could she be so careless? 

The new dad pushing the stroller past me on 32nd thinks it’s really lazy that the new mom doesn’t want to walk one extra block to see the house with the new porch he really likes. Is it really that hard to walk one more block?

All this misplaced anger in ourselves being pointed at the easiest target in front of us.

That’s part of the reason I think more people should be single. To be alone enough to get an idea of who we are. And learn how to fill a day with the things that interest us. And, hopefully, gain enough comfort in our own skin to not project a shipping container full of insecurities on the people closest to us. 

Then I see an old couple walking by holding hands. Or a young couple kissing outside the grocery store. They’re smiling. And I feel warm inside. 

And I think, maybe it does exist. 

All of this is part of the problem. All I do is think about relationships. Being in one or not being in one, it is still the metric for everything that happens in life. 

When I look at the world through these relationship-colored glasses all I see is whether or not I’m holding someone’s hand. And perfectly wonderful things can feel like nothing. 

I can learn to love the empty spaces, too.

I get most excited when I am able to see something in a different light. When I have enough of a revelation that it actually changes how I think and feel. 

I’ve always looked at relationships as the ultimate goal of being alive. My worth has been dependent on the value someone else has placed in me. And that takes a lot of unwinding. Realizing that being in love is important, but not everything. 

There is a strong case for being single. Mostly that learning how to be alone – filling my own days, taking an interest in my own life – makes me think of how completely uninteresting I used to be. And how I brought that sense of need for meaning into my relationships. What I was asking out of my partners was impossible. 

Most of my relationships came with asterisks upfront. A voice in my head that told me no. And I went forward anyway, because it was better than being alone. Which means I’ve spent a great deal of my life pursuing things that weren’t benefitting me. Not that I didn’t learn a lot, it’s just that I was putting off the much more challenging work of learning to like who I was. We take all the power back when we can be alone. And, of course, that’s when people catch our scent of confidence and come from all angles. Who is this incredibly strange creature who doesn’t need my approval?  

When I think of being with someone now it’s a lot different. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t want to pursue something that’s all-encompassing and disorientingly intense. I mean, of course I do because who doesn’t, but I’m much more careful not to get lost in the story of it. Instead, I try to recognize if the person in front of me has a similar ability to be interested in their own life and fill their days with things that are meaningful to them. Someone who can have a generally positive outlook on the world they’ve created around them and wants to share that with me from time to time. 

Until then, I’ll be making sure to appreciate my days for all they are filled with, like speeding through airports untethered, sprawling out in my bed, and cooking the same dinner every night without complaint. 

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