Attention, single people. Your lives are happening right now. This minute. While you’re reading these words. We’ve let people convince us that our lives won’t really start until we find our soul mates. There’s an expectation that as long as we’re single we can’t be truly happy. And I’m pretty sure someone in a relationship decided that, someone who may or may not have been happy themselves.
It’s actually pretty ridiculous because if I sat down right now and made a list, I could easily list more troubled couples than happy ones. In fact, if I’m totally honest, there are very few partnerships that give me relationship goals. It’s not that I don’t believe in long-term monogamous relationships. I do. But I also feel that there are tons of people out there who settle for less than what they want and then just make the best of it.
Most of my evidence is, admittedly, anecdotal. But if the messages from married men that I’ve received over the years is any indication, there are a lot of people in committed relationships out there testing the waters. They don’t even look at it as cheating and often try to skirt that line. But the intentions are there. Their partners are rarely aware of the communication. Some people might participate in this sort of dialogue, but I am not here for that. I have no interest in a partner who found me when they were supposed to be committed to someone else.
My evidence also includes what I’ve heard. I listen to people who talk about their relationships. I’m not trying to sit in a place of judgment, but we all know those people who are in spectacularly unbalanced relationships. They’re always giving, and the other person is happily taking with little to no appreciation. This comes in a lot of forms. Financially. Sexually. In every area of the relationship, the scale seems to tip decidedly in favor of one member of the couple over the other every single time.
Yet, society tries to tell us that people in relationships are universally happier and healthier than single people. But are they really? Single people often have more time to devote to healthy pursuits. Or perhaps we have more motivation. Some people get in shape to attract a mate. Some people do it as revenge for a former relationship. Others of us do it because we want to be the strongest, healthiest version of ourselves. There are even people who just flat out enjoy working out.
That covers healthy. As for happy? I know single people who travel and single people who spend their time happily pursuing assorted interests. I know single people who enjoy their time and space and ones who have no interest in curbing their interests in favor of someone else’s. That sounds pretty happy to me.
I’m not saying that we, the single, are perpetually happy any more than I’m saying that people in relationships with an imbalance are perpetually unhappy. I am saying that our relationship status doesn’t mean anything when it comes to determining health or happiness. Yes, it’s nice to have a partner to share things with, and it’s great to have an emergency contact and a support in raising children. But it’s also nice to have time to ourselves and really learn the art of self-care.
I feel like people have just mixed up our relationship status with the United States preamble like some people do with lyrics. You might be saying it wrong, if you think this is how it goes:
We, the single, in order to find the most perfect union, establish households to insure domestic tranquility, provide for our home defense, promote our general welfare, and secure the blessings of society for ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish a committed union for the United States of we-don’t-believe-anyone-should-be-single-at-all.
Maybe you laughed, or maybe you rolled your eyes. Or both. It’s silly, but you would think this is our culture’s motto when it comes to relationships. We put so much of an emphasis on relationships as a key to happiness and the true start of our whole lives. There’s even a root in truth.
After all, our relationships do- in a way- determine happiness. We need a strong support system, but the mistake is in assuming that a romantic partnership is necessary in order to have a proper one. We leave out the strong friendships that add value to our lives. We forget about the family members and colleagues who often provide additional support. We leave out the whole “village” who often surrounds and supports us. We act like only romantic relationships have value. We act like who we are can only be defined by our relationship to other people, as if who we are alone isn’t enough.
We are enough though. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. We, the single, need to start declaring our freedom from caring about what other people think about our relationship status. When people start with their nosy questions, maybe we should return the favor with an inquiring-minds-want-to-know-style inquiry into their current satisfaction with their relationships. Or perhaps we should remind people that it’s really not their business.
This isn’t about being petty. But it is about realizing that we don’t have to be defined by what society thinks about our relationship status. Our lives don’t begin because we establish a love connection. Our lives are happening now. When we remember that, we can go back to focusing on what we want for our lives (other than a romantic partner). We can decide how to spend our time in a way that gives our life meaning and contributes to our happiness.
Our lives do change in some ways when we enter a partnership. But it doesn’t mean that our single lives mattered less. I would say that every day we live matters. Our choices still have consequences, both positive and negative. There’s no need to put our lives on a shelf, waiting for the “right” person to come along so we can start living the way we want. We don’t need a permission slip to start enjoying happy lives right this minute. We just need to get started.
Maybe there are some couples out there giving the rest of us mad relationship goals. Maybe they do feel happier and healthier than we do. This doesn’t meant that single people can’t be happy and healthy, too. It doesn’t mean our lives are in some sort of holding pattern. Being single isn’t the preamble to when real life starts. It’s actually real life. We can have full, beautiful lives, too, and they don’t count for less just because we walk them alone. They matter just as much. And those lives are happening right now. Enjoy them!