By Dayna Mason
It can be challenging to be truly happy as a single person in America. Many single people are either silently (or not so silently) longing to have a plus one in their lives or are weighed down by others’ expectations of them finding a “soulmate.” And our society promotes twosomes over singles in myriad ways.
Society prefers couples
Traditionally, U.S. culture has endorsed being paired-up, specifically in marriage, as the preferred mode for being. Prior to the 18th century, marriage had nothing to do with emotions and everything to do with economics and how the pairing could benefit the immediate families. Love was not part of the equation. By the late-eighteenth century this began to change and the ideal of love as a primary reason for marriage spread, partly due to the thinkers of this era promoting the right to personal happiness.
Today, our culture continues to favor the coupled with financial benefits of everything from tax deductions, and insurance incentives, to discounted occupancy rates for travel.
The author of “Singled Out,” Bella DePaulo, has coined the phrase “singlism” to describe discrimination against singles. This stereotyping includes the belief that singles are miserable, lonely, desperate to get married and/or there must be something wrong with them, otherwise they would be in a relationship.
The good news, times are changing
Millennials are changing this perception. There’s been a significant shift towards individuality in our younger generations. They don’t want to be limited by the standards of previous generations. Their willingness to break from tradition in support of a meaningful existence has sent shockwaves through the workplace establishment and this disregard for the status quo extends to relationships as well.
They are not marrying until much later in life, if at all.
One of the biggest demographic trends of the past 50 years is the rise of singles: In 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey reported that more than 48% of adults aged 18 or older, were single, compared to only 29% of this population in 1970.
With almost half of our adult population not coupled, our attitude towards singleness will need to evolve as well.
And it looks like this is already happening.
I complete me
The 29-year-old, actress, Emma Watson, made headlines recently with the term “self-partnered” to describe her single status. Emma says, “self-partnering focuses on the ideal of being happy and complete as a solo individual. A self-partnered person would feel whole and fulfilled within the self and does not feel compelled to seek fulfillment through having another person as a partner.”
But this new viewpoint doesn’t mean absence of relationship. It simply means that fulfillment can be found in connections with other than a partner.
Singles need relationship
There was a great meme passed around social media years ago, defining the word intimacy as, “In-to-me-see.” While intimacy can include physical touch, it doesn’t mean sex.
In marriages over one hundred years ago, friendship satisfied the intimacy we now have come to expect from our partner. In the book, “Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy,” author, Stephanie Coontz, writes, “Male friendships included much more physical contact and emotional intensity than most heterosexual men are comfortable with today.” It was not uncommon for men and women to hold the hands, greet with a kiss, write love letters, and sleep in the arms of their same gender friends with no sexual connotations. Both men and women of that era, experienced a much greater intimacy in friendship than we do today.
Being single, doesn’t mean being alone. Some friendships, even today, provide more fulfillment than many romantic relationships. But, spending time alone, is a chance to explore another relationship.
Making friends with the person in the mirror
Single people have a unique opportunity to take the time to get to know themselves and become their own best friend. They have the freedom to create a fulfilling life for themselves. They can explore their world with the wonder of a child, going on adventures and finding friends to join them. This doesn’t mean they have to let go of a dream of finding a partner to share life with them, they just have to let go of trying to make it happen.
So how can you be happy being single? Focus on creating a full life now and surround yourself with other happy single people.
Ideas to become happily single:
Start now. If you’ve been waiting for Mr. or Ms. Right to show up so you can buy a house, travel to somewhere exotic, or take up Salsa dancing. Quit waiting. Go it alone or grab a friend to join you, but don’t let another day go by waiting for your life to start.
Take yourself on dates. Learn to enjoy your own company. Take yourself to that fancy restaurant you’ve been wanting to try. Go see that movie you’ve been dying to see that no one else is interested in. Purchase a ticket for one to that obscure band that you’ve always want to see live.
Nurture your friendships. Spend more time with the people in your life who are supportive and make you feel energized and spend less time with those who make you feel drained. If you find your existing friends list lacking, find some new friends. Don’t wait for others to invite you to join them, extend invitations to others. Lots of invitations. Even if only one in ten invitations is accepted, don’t take it personally, keep inviting. The only way to develop friendships is by spending time together.
Enjoy your life now. Don’t let culture pressure you to put everything on hold until you find “the one.”
Time is going to go by either way. Why not spend that time living a life you love?
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