I remember talking to a television executive last year (not my usual social milieu, but hey, I was in LA at the time), and we got to talking about how more young people are choosing to avoid relationships.
“I don’t understand that,” she said. “My family come from a Jewish psychotherapy background, and for us it’s all about relationships. That’s where all the growth and learning is. To avoid relationships is to avoid life.”
I’ve thought about that a lot since.
There are no doubt benefits to being single:
- You learn how to be independent
- You get an identity and friendships outside of someone else
- You learn how to make yourself happy (or hopefully you do)
These are all good things. They make you come to relationships from a position of power. But even as someone who is capable of really enjoying the single life, I understood what she meant.
I’ve had several relationships in my twenties, and I’m positive that it’s within those that I did the most maturing and emotional growth, difficult as that process could be. As a result, I can’t help but see the idea of people avoiding relationships as a matter of principle, especially if they have zero experience of them, as a very shortsighted strategy.
The ability to successfully manage a relationship, meet someone else’s needs, and communicate your own effectively, is a skill that takes work like any other. So it pays to get some practice in.
Yet, you’ve probably heard all the excuses people make for avoid relationships:
- “My life is SO busy right now.”
- “I want to focus on my career.”
- “It’s a lot of effort to think about someone else – I just want to do my own thing.”
I get it. I’ve used all of these before as well. Sometimes they’ve been 100% true.
But here’s the problem: these things will always be true.
- If you’re a Type-A, active person, you’ll always be busy.
- If you’re ambitious and driven, you’ll always want to put time into your career.
- If you find it hard to think about someone else’s needs…that will still be hard 10 years from now, so you may as well try it sooner rather than later.
The truth is: it’s not relationships that hold people back, it’s bad relationships.
If you find a relationship is killing your career, sucking up all your free time, or making you feel like you’re constantly giving and get nothing in return, it’s probably a sign you’ve chosen a partner whose values and needs aren’t compatible with your own.
But here’s the catch: You only learn who the right partner is by dating a few of the wrong people (unless you get super lucky on your first try), so experiencing relationships is one of the best ways to discover the qualities you REALLY want in a long-term relationship.
Enjoy Being Single, But Know Why…
Believe me, I’m the last person to suggest you go out and immediately jump into any relationship just so you can get more experience. In fact, please definitely don’t do that. There are already enough crappy marriages in the world caused by society’s insane pressure to see everyone (particularly women) coupled up as soon as possible.
What really matters are your reasons for wanting to be single or in a couple.
We all get addicted to our excuses, and a huge amount of progress comes when we realise how silly these are: e.g. “It’s not possible to have a great career and a successful relationship at the same time”, “I don’t know if the guy I want exists”, “I have no spare time”. When we let these go, it’s liberating. It frees us from our self-imposed stories and makes us open to possibilities again.
I have no dog in this fight. If you love being single, then go for it. Embrace the time for yourself, dive in, and try not to piss too many people off in the process.
Just realise WHY you’re doing it.
It’s always good now and then to look at the stories we tell ourselves in our heads, and ask the difficult question: Is this story bulls**t? Do I have a good reason for believing this? Are there people who I admire who have figured this out in spite of why I’m telling myself it can’t be done?
What excuses are still keeping you single (or making you afraid of it)? Let me know in the comments below!