Our conversations around relationships have changed over the years. The old picture of a nuclear family- a heterosexual, lifelong marriage with at least two children, is no longer the only socially acceptable way to be in a relationship. And lately, people are starting to accept that monogamy and heterosexuality may not be the only way to structure a healthy relationship. The evolution of what a relationship looks like has changed, in many ways, and although society as a whole is becoming more open to “alternative” forms of relationships, being true to yourself is the most important piece of the foundation in any relationship.
But what about people who choose to be single?
The idea that an individual could lead a fulfilling and happy life and not be in a relationship is sometimes a hard thing for some people to understand. For example, a woman is not a weird, lonely spinster if she chooses to spend her life on her own.
We tend to view relationships as signs of success, a marker that your life is on track in adulthood, so if someone chooses to be single, there is an implication that they must have “failed” at life in some way. Let’s be clear, they have not.
Here are some things to keep in mind when you know someone who chooses to be single:
- Being single does not always mean being lonely. Our culture tells us that if we are not in a relationship, then we must be lonely. For some people, this is true, as they are constantly and consistently looking for a relationship-- a serial monogamist. But for other people, they prefer the freedom of not being in a relationship and are happier this way. They are not actively looking for a relationship or waiting for the right person to show up. They are single by choice, not by circumstance.
- Relationships are a lot of work. People who choose to stay single are choosing to put their energy towards other things in life instead of being in committed relationships, but rather into developing personally and emotionally. This is a perfectly acceptable and healthy lifestyle choice. We all have different preferences about how we spend our time. Single people may choose to focus on their career more, traveling, family, and friendships. They do not feel that their life is empty because they are not in a long-term committed relationship. There are ways to make your life full and feel complete without being with a partner.
- There may or may not be a time-frame. Don’t assume that someone is just “taking a break” from being in a relationship if they are single by choice. People who choose to be single often feel a lot of pressure to explain themselves and to define being single as something temporary, instead of a lifestyle choice.
There is no one right way to live a life. The relationships you choose to have, or not have, in your life should be those that help you learn, grow and feel supported. If you find that is easier, better and more fulfilling to be done alone, then that is what you should do. If you are feeling pressured by family and friends to be in a relationship and that feels suffocating to you -- perhaps you need to try stepping back and reevaluating what will make you happy. It is possible that being single by choice may be the answer, and you need to take the opportunity to see how that feels. Your village doesn’t have to be made up of spouses or significant others, you can choose to build the family and support system in the way that makes you happiest.