There is someone for everyone. That is what I was told growing up. Yet, everywhere you look, it seems that being coupled up is valued way more than singleness. But, if I am single, is that a problem?
Full disclosure, I wrote much of this article years ago when I had been single for four years. I am now married, but I can honestly say that based on what I’m sharing here, I could have quite happily gone the rest of my life unmarried.
The questions I asked while single ranged from: ‘Am I called to be alone?’, ‘Will I ever find THE ONE!’, ‘What’s wrong with me?’, ‘What’s wrong with them?’ – ‘Am I the one that’s called to celibacy?’ – the gift nobody wants!
The Problem Of Singleness.
We all have a longing for some form of connection. A deep groaning to know and be known. That sense of love, belonging and deep companionship seems to be a desire in most of us.
We know that phrases like ‘third wheel’ or ‘spare part’ paint the picture of couples and single people not being compatible. These phrases deepen the message that it is a problem to be single.
I would ask myself why we sometimes feel the need to get into ‘relationships’? Where does our sense of security (or lack of) come from? Is it possible and maybe even beneficial to live differently?
The Department of Health is attempting to measure the extent of “social isolation” in the UK, after warnings that it has sparked spiralling levels of illnesses, including heart disease, high blood pressure, dementia and depression. – Telegraph, 18th June, 2014 web
It is thought that 45-50% of people in our nation consider themselves isolated or lonely. A significant number of those people are in their 20s. A generation growing up in a culture focused on self-sustainability and isolation. Stoicism, the “Every man is an Island” mentality, is an old Grecian philosophy that accentuates the need for people (usually men in particular) to be all self-sufficient.
Now, I’m all for self-improvement, as evidenced by this website; however, some of our culturalisms double down on trying to survive the effects of our problematic approach to relationships rather than dealing with the causing issues.
We’ve lost a sense of community, belonging, friendship, healthy relations, and communal identity. A big question in schools (early 2015) is “what is Britishness?” – we are having a tough time defining that because we’ve lost a sense of identity. Our understanding of community is far removed from our trusting and connected ancestors of long ago.
How many people know their neighbour’s name? And if they do, can they name three or four others? It would be unusual in today’s Britain.
Single has become synonymous with loneliness and isolation. You can quickly think, ‘I’m single; what’s wrong with me?’. The answer is nothing! A healthy relationship shouldn’t come out of need but want. It may not even need to happen at all.
Often we couple up because of a subconscious or conscious need to be with someone. That dependence defines the relationship from an unhealthy starting point. However, there is a difference between dependence and interdependence.
Dependence is best understood as excessive emotional or psychological reliance on another person. For example, a baby usually depends on their parent for food, shelter, protection and emotional nurture. That’s a healthy and appropriate dependence.
As a child grows, we want to see their level up into becoming less dependent and more competent at managing their lives. Emotional growth means that we are less reliant on others for emotional fulfilment.
As a developed person, if we find ourselves saying phrases like ‘I am made complete in you’, we may be in a place of emotional dependence.
People have in the past used phrases like, ‘I am made whole when I am with that special other’. This sounds okay, but it is actually an incredibly unhelpful thought pattern. A personal philosophy that places the total weight of our emotional well-being on another person is not one of responsibility or personal competence.
Colossians 2:10In Christ, you have been brought to fullness. (NIV)
From a Christian perspective, I have been made whole in Christ. I am incomplete without Christ. When we replace the work of Jesus with a relationship to fill that emotional need – no wonder we are left feeling empty and unfulfilled.
It’s in Him I live, move and have my being. It is in Him that I have been brought to fullness. Jesus brings wholeness, and it’s out of the strength of that wholeness that relationships should be formed.
Put it this way – two broken people have enormous potential to break each other more; two complete people can share their strength of security and contentment.
Interdependent is more about reciprocation. I bring something, and you bring something that enhances ‘us’. We are not needy by ourselves and so are self-secure, but we do more when we come together as secure people.
A healthy relationship can look like three pads; The man stands on his pad, it is his life, and it belongs entirely to him. The woman stands on hers, it’s her life, and she owns it. So between them is the third pad, it is theirs, and they own it.
They can both stand on the middle pad, they bring something together, but they cannot step onto the other person’s pas.
They can see, appreciate, and respect it, but it is theirs. This is a simple picture of loving another person. There is no attempt to change, dominate or invade the other person, but appreciate and join with them in a relationship.
This is not exclusive to romantic relationships but is a picture of all our personal connections. We have our personal boundaries, thoughts and parts of our life that we do not wish to or have to share with other people. That middle space is where we want to engage with those around us, and we all have limits to what we want to happen in that central space.
We can make excuses to be in a relationship because of social pressure or isolate ourselves because being single is odd. I want us to see that it’s not a negative if we aren’t in a relationship.
If you are married/dating/engaged, or single, there are things that you can do to help build up others and engage in a more profound sense of community.
There are four things that single people need to overcome and rise above. These four are not the significant issues we like to convince ourselves of but excuses we make to not engage when we’re single.
1) Being the third wheel:
The excuse we make is ‘I can’t build friendships with couples and families because I am the third wheel’. You need to rise above this.
If a couple invites you over, they want to see you and spend time with you. We convince ourselves that if our level of relational lifestyle does not match the people around us, then a connection can’t exist. You do not need to be in a relationship to relate to people who are. Stop holding potential friends at arm’s length because of their relational status.
2) Valentine’s day ‘I’m alone:
It’s the same as any other day but with an overly commercialised focus on relationships.
People focus on relationships, sure. However, it is no different than if couples decided to go out on any other day. It doesn’t affect me either way so let’s not make this molehill a mountain. It is possible to be happy for others without feeling the need to lament being single. Enjoy the fact that you are not paying extortionate meal prices and find some friends who want to hang out at events like Valentine’s day. Why not hold an anti-valentines movie fest?
3) Treating couples like a package deal instead of individual people:
You know how it goes – we lump couples together; ‘I’ve told one, so I have told them both. NO!
Sure there is a unique bond that couples share. They have built something together emotionally, but they are still individuals with their own personalities. Interdependent, not dependant. Do not assume you can’t be friends with them.
4) They are never free:
When you have family and spend time together as a couple, etc., it can be busy. It would be easy to give up inviting a friend over who is in a relationship because they have said no a few times. However, being busy does not mean being uninterested in friendship… it means being busy. Singles need to keep inviting, and couples need to help carve out time where possible.
Making Singleness A Choice
I get that it might not be everyone’s first choice. The fastest way to interdependence is to learn to live in a genuine community and be content in singleness. This means that you build (it does not happen by accident) relationships that are emotionally full and well integrated into your life. Remove the sexual dynamic of relationships and you have very similar building blocks for finding deep bonds with others.
Not all relationships have to be romantic and the art of establishing close bonds without sexual attraction is entirely lost in the west. When you are secure in your emotional connections and comfortable with the company of yourself, it is easier to be with others. You are no longer driven by need but by choice.
Even if you do want to find a long-term romantic spouse, I challenge you to embrace your singleness beyond a year. See how secure and fulfilled you can become in not chasing romance.
You may find you like it and could last a lifetime! Why would that have been so bad?
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