On the surface, single life may look and feel the same for all singletons out there. Many similarities exist between singles with the most obvious trait being the absence of a romantic partner. I’d like to suggest at least one other fundamental difference. It relates to how you perceive single life. Do you see being single as a temporary phase you are going through or as an ongoing lifestyle? I believe the answer you may have to this question, can make a huge difference to how you then live your life. ‘In what way?’, you may wonder. Well, I’m glad you asked!
On first glance, one might assume the distinction involves time. Being a long term single suggests living a single life may be a lifestyle whereas shorter periods suggest it’s only a short term phase. But, don’t let the time factor fool you. Although time can serve as a useful marker revealing which side of single you are on, it need not be the only defining factor (I am a living example!). What truly exposes a single’s standpoint, is their attitude towards living life solo.
If we examined single life treated as a phase it centres around the belief it is only temporary. By no means is this problematic because let’s face it; pretty much everything in life is temporary (couples cover your ears). However, what I do find troublesome is when experiencing single life as a phase, it can have a disproportionate influence on the way you think. A future event will bring the phase to an end, an event which hasn’t occurred as yet, and is neither guaranteed to do so, holds great power in single life so to speak.
This is expressed in a number of ways. One popular version is the single who seizes the opportunity to do everything they “will not be able to” once they have ‘settled down’ in a relationship – like travelling solo or partying every weekend. The drive doesn’t purely stem from a desire to pursue such experiences, but rather because the perception is, it won’t be possible or appropriate further down the road.
Another version which should carry a huge warning sticker is when transitioning from single life into a relationship is expected to deliver something better. I know this well because I fell into this trap and would like that part of my life to serve as a cautionary tale. My “phase” thinking manifested itself through a sort of life paralyzation, putting me straight into waiting mode.
There was an unwillingness to make long term decisions, commitments or to move forward because of a voice deep inside whispering, “but what if I meet someone?”. My logic told me if I move in any direction, I may miss an amazing event destined to cut my single status chord.
It made more sense to take no risks and remain on constant standby. As I grew older (especially when nearing 30) the tighter the ‘phase’ grip held. All focus was geared towards exiting my single phase and entering partner territory. Exploring other paths to happiness like visiting dream destinations, painting projects or spiritual practises were all blocked.
My dating life left me drained – mentally and emotionally. Although I learned valuable lessons, the sheer number of rejections and disappointments outweighed the good. Forcibly, I was coming to terms with a prospect that was for a long time unthinkable: What if I’m single for the rest of my life? The devastation was real!
Once the mourning process was over (yes, it was that bad) the doors I once closed burst wide open. I dived into newfound dreams and voilá! – I leapt into a lifestyle where I no longer treated single living as a phase.
Treating single life as a lifestyle, is for me, pretty cut and dry. I accept this is the way life shall be. I do not allow myself to hold back due to the “absence of a partner”. The prospect of having a relationship is left out of the equation when making choices and deciding directions in my life. Living with this attitude doesn’t exclude the potential of finding a partner, neither does it imply it’s not wanted. It just means my ‘now’ is not overtaken by an imaginary person to be found in the future but instead, is flowing from a place of other worldly desires.
I certainly do not blame singles for living solo life as a phase. Society encourages us to treat singledom as temporary and the opposite for couples in a relationship. A classic example is the expectation relationships should last for eternity or else it has “failed”.
Can you imagine if it was the other way around? Where the general view of single life being a permanent status brings greater social acceptance and benefits with it? Then when a relationship is entered, everyone around would comfort and say things like “Don’t worry, you’ll get through this and one day when you least expect it, you’ll be single again”.
I’m not promoting singledom as a phase or a lifestyle. I just wish for acceptance without judgement that being single can be a desirable way to live just like any other lifestyle choice. That’s all. Whether you treat single life as a temporary phase or a lifestyle it means you can settle down in life, rather than settling for or settling down with another person.