In May 2021, my relationship of four years ended. I was determined to be single after this breakup. I give away too much of myself in a relationship and make my life revolve around my partner - a fun little BPD quirk. So I told myself that I needed to be single for a while, that it would be good for me.
I’ve seen a lot of Tiktoks surrounding the same rhetoric, where they say that they intended to stay single but accidentally met the love of their life, or at least their next long-term partner. And whilst that’s great for them, that isn’t where this story is going.
I stayed single, and I reached a point where I no longer ‘needed’ to be single, but instead, I wanted to be single.
Because being single is pretty great. I love not having to share a bed. I love all the time I can dedicate to my writing, and I’ve never read so much as these past months. I get to choose what TV show I watch. I get to be this whole fucking person, and I can’t even describe how great it feels.
The only thing that I don’t like about it is everyone else’s opinions. I recently met up with a few people I hadn’t seen in almost seven years, and one of the first things they asked was whether I was dating someone. That’s the least important thing to ask me after all this time. Let me tell you about my job, my gorgeous home, my writing aspirations, my friends, my family and all the other important components of my life. I don’t want to start by talking about some shitty Tinder date.
And it isn’t just them. Friends automatically ask me how dating is going, as they assume that since I’m single, I must be dating. When I say that I’m not keen on dating apps, they tell me to try again, because they know someone who knows someone who found their fiance on a dating app. That is so great for them - congratulations to that mysterious happy couple everyone seems to know!- but I don’t need it.
So I really thought about this. I listened to a bunch of podcasts, read up on the subject, discussed it with friends, and realised that we see singledom as a transient period, when it really shouldn’t be.
My sister recently pointed out to me that we see single as the ‘other’. You’re either in a long-term, hopefully happy, relationship, or you’re in the ‘other’ box. We reduce it to these two categories, assuming everyone is simply aspiring to be in the relationship box. We create an exclusive club and urge everyone to attempt to enter, even if their partner isn’t right for them, even if they have their own shit to work through. As nothing could be worse than being single, right?
Single is the ‘other’ as we assume the norm to be a relationship. But what if single was the default? Imagine if single was the line of normal functioning, and if you find the right person, you veer off from it.
We would create room for the complexities of dating, as it isn’t as simple as single or taken. Modern dating can’t be reflected in these narrow windows, as nowadays there is polyamory, open relationships, and far more. The finish line is no longer marked by marriage, as not everyone wants it, and hey, check out how many people get divorced and perhaps remarried. We can’t play into the roles of relationship or other, because it’s improbable one relationship will be the endgame for someone.
As we present single to be the box people unwillingly sit in, we also present it as a decision out of their control. When someone is single, it is always accompanied by that ‘why’. You’re single; why?
Is it that no one wants you? Is it that you’re difficult to be with? Did someone just break up with you? Do you struggle with commitment? Are you too picky?
You have to be single and attempting to enter another relationship; by going on dates and actively searching for something. You’re not given the room to simply be single. Society simply cannot fathom that you are single by choice.
That isn’t to say that I’m single but have a line of people knocking on my door, but simply that I’m not looking behind that door. There could be someone, there could be no one, and it really doesn’t matter, because I am choosing to be by myself, and that should be a valid decision in itself.
I don’t want to go on dates because I don’t want to be with someone right now. I like learning more about myself and having all my time at my disposal. Someone could be going on dates but not looking for something serious, and that’s also valid. My point is that single is a complexity in itself, and is always a valid choice.
If we can respect people in relationships, and I honestly do, then why can the same respect not be returned to us?
Being single doesn’t have to be a transient period, a waiting room until someone who wants you finally comes along. It shouldn’t be a game of musical chairs where you quickly grab the closest partner simply to avoid the label. It should be as valid a label as being in a relationship. It should be its own period of existence, with advantages and disadvantages just like anything else. So instead of asking someone about their dating life, ask them about all the other interesting things that comprise the person.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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