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 good news, times are changing
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.
In 2017, the U.S. Census Bureau reported that more than 48% of adults 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’s already happening.
I complete me
Actress, Emma Watson, made headlines recently with the term “self-partnered” to describe her single status. She says self-partnering is focused on being happy and complete as an individual not on seeking fulfillment through a partner.
But this new viewpoint doesn’t mean absence of relationship.
Singles need relationship
There was a great meme passed around social media years ago, defining the word intimacy as, “Into-me-see.” While intimacy can include physical touch, it doesn’t mean sex.
In the book, “Marriage, a History: From Obedience to Intimacy,” author Stephanie Coontz, describes how over one hundred years ago, friendships not marriages, satisfied the intimacy we now have come to expect from our partner. It was not uncommon for people 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. People 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?
Start now. If you’ve been waiting for Mr. or Ms. Right to show up so you can buy a house, travel to somewhere romantic, 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 people 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 invites is accepted, don’t take it personally, keep inviting. The only way to develop friendships is by spending time together. Surround yourself with other happy single people.
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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