What I Learned From Being Single

“People who have been single for too long are the hardest to love, because they have become so used to being single, independent, and self-sufficient that it takes something extraordinary to convince them that they need you in their life.”

The above quotation is something that I read recently in a Facebook post, shared by one of my friends. And, I have to admit, when I saw it, it made me pause.

The word here that draws most of my attention is the word ‘hard’, which can, of course, be used in many ways. You might say that something is ‘hard’, and yet the fact that it is difficult also makes it fun or worthwhile – like a hobby, or some sort of intellectual puzzle. Yet, when we say that somebody is ‘hard to love’, this is rarely the way that we mean it. Usually, ‘hard to love’ refers to an individual who is unpleasant, or difficult, or generally unlikeable – the personality equivalent to that old phrase “a face only a mother could love”.

And, more than that, the phrasing of this quotation makes me think that this was what was intended as well. The person who is ‘hard to love’ is a ‘they’, an other, someone who the reader is not meant to relate to. Yet, the person who is trying (and, evidently, failing) to love them is referred to as ‘you’ – the reader. The way that this quotation is phrased, people who have been single too long are a difficult-to-love ‘them’, and those who are trying but ultimately unable to love them are ‘you’, the relatable one, the everyman.

Except, reading this quote, the one that I relate to is the ‘them’.

So, I’m not going to lie, I’ve been single for… a while. In the past few years, I’ve been on dates, I’ve flirted with people, but ultimately, a mixture of not having a particularly stable or consistent home, as well as my own personal issues, have meant that I haven’t really settled down into any sort of serious relationship.

And I won’t lie; at first, it bugged me. Both for admirable reasons and less-admirable reasons. On the one hand, I just wanted someone to be with, but I was also worried about petty, stupid things, like: would I be able to afford a house, a car, and a life if I didn’t have a partner? Would I ever be truly happy if I didn’t have a partner? Would I ever be able to have a relationship at all if I wasn’t gaining dating relationship experience right now?

It came to a point where I started to think that I should just latch onto the next person who came along, just so I could have someone, anyone, even if I didn’t actually like them.

But, fortunately, I just wasn’t in a place to maintain a relationship – physically or emotionally – which made it easier for me to resist this urge. Instead, I just… remained single. And, as time passed, it not only became easier – it changed the way that I saw both myself and any future potential partners.

Because there is something true about the quotation that I gave at the beginning: when you have been single for a long time, you learn how to live independently. You start planning your life around being single, and you learn that you don’t really need someone else in order to live or be happy; there are always other options. There are always other goals to be fulfilled, other ways to make your life worthwhile. When you’ve been single for a while, you began to learn that relationships are nice, but they aren’t a requirement.

And, personally speaking, I think that that’s an important lesson to learn. I have seen many people start relationships for no other reason than that they want to be with someone. I have seen many people stay with people who treated them poorly, only because they were afraid to be single. And I don’t want to pass any judgement on people who have done this; I completely understand the fear of being left alone. And, more than that, every experience, whether it be remaining single or choosing a mediocre relationship, comes with its life lessons. But, that being said, once we have learned that we don’t require a relationship in order to be worthwhile and happy, then we realize that we don’t have to settle for a relationship that isn’t constructive to our lives. We don’t have to stay with people we aren’t interested in or who treat us poorly, because there’s nothing wrong with being single.

And, really, what’s wrong with our own company? We should be able to love ourselves, to respect ourselves, to treat ourselves, whatever that might mean, because we are beautiful and we are important. We deserve relationships that are going to make us happy, that are going to support us and build us up. Not relationships that hold us down, or that we only choose because we think we have no other choice.

End of day, people who have been single for a long time are not difficult to love. People who have been single for a long time have simply learned that they deserve a certain kind of love – a constructive kind of love. We won’t settle for any old kind of love; we won’t settle for something mediocre, something destructive, something unnecessary. We won’t settle, because we know we have options – whether that be the option of another lover, someone who will deliver more to the relationship, or, quite simply, the option of our own company.

No love is perfect, of course, but love is intended to better our lives. Love is meant to build us up, to help us grow, to make us see new things and new experiences. And if it doesn’t do that, then we just don’t need it. We already have the love of our friends, the love of our passions, and, more importantly, the love of ourselves.

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Romantic Love is Not The Most Important Love

We as a society are positively in love with love.

We have love stories. We have rom-coms and romances and Harlequins and YA-novel love triangles. We have countless songs telling us that “all you need is love” and “I was made for loving you, baby“. We maintain Pinterest boards, planning out our dream wedding for that day when we finally find the right person. We have this idea in our society that we are not complete human beings, that we need someone else to complete us, to make us whole. And once we find that other half, then everything will come together and we’ll live happily ever after.

Our obsession with love is an oddly limited sort of obsession. We do not care all that much for a very sort of love felt toward all man-kind; some find that admirable, sure, but if the amount of violent video games and movies where the heroes preach shooting first and asking questions later is any indication, then this sort of love is too often forgotten about. We do not show the same level of obsession toward platonic love between friends or siblings or family members; we like it sometimes, sure, but it isn’t quite represented as the same.

No, our specific breed of obsession is toward romantic love.

And this can be somewhat alienating to people who have no interest in romantic or sexual love, people who identify as asexual or aromantic. But even if you do not identify with either terms, this obsession can be somewhat harmful.

This obsession might make you feel like you need to be in a relationship, no matter who it’s with. Because you find your value by attaching yourself to another person, any person, and it’s better to settle than be alone.

Except it isn’t.

This obsession might lead you toward feelings of depression and loneliness when you’re single, feelings of being not good enough, of being unloveable, just because you aren’t currently involved with someone.

But that isn’t true.

This obsession might force you to make sacrifices that you wouldn’t otherwise make, because you’ve been told by everyone and everything – by your friends, your family, your movies, your magazines, your songs, your self-help book – that love is the most important thing in this world, and nothing else can possibly compare.

But there are more important things.

Like, say, your happiness.

I won’t deny that romantic love can be very fulfilling, as well as a great source of happiness. But, despite our society’s obsession with it, it isn’t really the most important type of love out there.

After all, self-love is more important.

It is more important for you to find completeness within yourself than within another person. It is more important for you to value yourself than your relationship.

Because, end of day, people leave. Circumstances change. The world turns, and things don’t always turn out for the best, but ideally speaking, you should always be able to depend on yourself.

Self-love is what will make you realize that you deserve better than to settle for a relationship that doesn’t make you happy.

Self-love is what will make you realize that your comfort matters, that your dreams and desires and wishes, they matter just as much as anyone else’s.

Self-love is what will make you realize that, even if you aren’t in a relationship right now, that doesn’t mean that you are unloveable.

So maybe all we need is love, but it isn’t always romantic love. Sometimes, the only sort of love we really need is to look at the mirror and to realize that the person looking back at us is strong, capable, resilient, and worthwhile. That that person is loveable, even if, right now, that love doesn’t come in the form of a lover.