Single. Dating. “Friends-with-benefits”. Coupled.
People like to tell us that one state is desirable over another. And yet, 10 years of working with people in their relationships has taught me that it’s possible to feel wildly fulfilled or totally miserable in just about ANY state between flying solo and a committed relationship.
But that’s not what we’re told.
The cultural story tells us: “Your life will finally make total sense when you meet the right person.”
Actually, it’s even worse than that. It says:
“Get a relationship, or else your life won’t have meaning.”
This is why being single can be extra tricky, especially for women, who face far greater pressure to prove their worth by “locking down” a steady relationship by age 30ish.
The cultural narrative tells us that all roads must eventually lead to a relationship, rendering singledom as a kind of purgatory abound with lonely humanoid atoms, hovering past one another until they finally get paired up and can live the rest of their lives in blissful duality.
Well, fuck that.
I don’t have a dog in this fight. Being in a relationship can be incredible. But being single is also AMAZING and gets taken for granted way more often.
But to do single right, you need to avoid the traps that lead to dating burnout, bitterness, or a feeling like you’re waiting for connection to come and finally give your life purpose.
1. Stop Forcing Dating
The greatest tyrannical mantra of singles is this: I must find someone else to merge with as soon as possible.
Unfortunately, a LOT of people say so.
Even as a 30-year-old man, despite not being subject to the same pressures as women, every year I get older I find people have a bemused expression when I say I’ve recently been happy single and pretty much out of the dating game. It’s weird. But it seems to render people genuinely incredulous when you tell them you’re enjoying not having a relationship and don’t plan to have one for a while.
Let them assume you’re hiding. Or you need to grow up. Or pay someone to give you extensive therapy and delve into all the reasons you may be burying a terrifying fear of intimacy.
I’m not saying that getting into a relationship is an unworthy goal.
I’m saying that once you learn how to love being single and squeeze the juice out of it, you won’t care about finding a relationship UNLESS it already adds to your bountiful, exuberant, jolly, freedom-filled single-fun-fest (think Homer Simpson skipping through the land of chocolate, and you’ll get a picture of where I’m at on this).
And the epiphany comes when you realise: Just because I’m single, I don’t have to date.
Suddenly everything gets easier. You can switch off from all the dating anxiety and throw yourself into all your passions guilt-free and love every second of it. You get PILES of precious free time. You can actually read books. You can fly to your college friend who lives 6 hours away just because you’ve always felt like seeing Budapest. It’s pretty damn enviable.
And just like that, ahhhhh. Relief.
2. Listen To Your Gut
Ok, but what if you are single and also out there dating?
Then you need to be smart about it.
Too many people in the single world waste time and emotion pursuing terrible leads.
They date men and women who don’t invest in them, they spend hours waiting for texts back only to get one-word answers, and they chase intimacy from people who only want attention/sex/validation.
So if you’re single and looking, and want to actually enjoy it (i.e. keep your self-esteem, self-respect, and NOT get burnt out with people in general), you need to listen to your gut more than you listen to what you’d like to be true.
I’ve written many times about how to decide whether to stay get into a serious relationship.
But let’s make it super simple. Ask yourself these 4 questions:
- Am I REALLY REALLY attracted to them?
- Do I REALLY REALLY like them and respect the way they live?
- Do they treat me REALLY REALLY well (and make me feel wanted)?
- Do we REALLY REALLY want the same things in the next 5/10 years?
Your gut knows the answers to all of these.
If it doesn’t, you’re still avoiding an important conversation you need to have. So listen to your gut and HAVE IT NOW.
Once you start listening to your gut, then comes the hard part…following it.
In relationships, it knows where you need to go. Unfortunately, what it has to say is sometimes very pleasant and you want to punch it, especially when it says, “Now I want you to go break it off with that sexy person because they clearly treat you as an afterthought and trying to win them will waste years of your life and turn you into a ball of misery and resentment.”
Your gut will help you drop the WRONG people faster, so you have space for the right person when they cross your path.
3. Be open about whom you meet, but picky about whom you invest in
This one idea changed my entire life.
Because I’ve seen 10,000 single people do this the opposite way around.
Most single people do dating like this: They swipe through profiles, go to parties, attend singles events, and in their head is a constant “NO”-monkey, telling them all the reasons they don’t want to talk to that person.
This monkey says things like:
- He wears THOSE shorts with that shirt?
- She’s into THAT stupid book?
- His smile seems kind of cocky…
- I don’t like people who wear beanies. She’s probably an annoying hipster.
And so on, and so on…
Hey, you have standards. Great. But maybe also that monkey who keeps telling you a thousand excuses not to meet people hasn’t always got your best interests at heart.
Because here’s what else happens when that monkey kicks up a fuss and makes you dismiss everyone: you stop meeting ANYONE.
In fact, you meet so few people that the next time you finally bump into even ONE guy you really like, your monkey looks at him like he’s a magical never-ending banana tree, and screams at you “PICK HIM!!! OH MY GOD, HE’S AMAZING!!”, ignoring the fact that those bananas often disappear for three weeks, stop texting back, and then reappear kind of mouldy later saying “hey. U up?” (bananas can talk in this flimsy metaphor).
The smart way to date is to flip this around: Be open-minded about whom you talk to (even if it’s for 5 minutes), but be SUPER picky about whom you invest emotion in.
That way, you train your monkey to examine the tree a bit more and see if it has strong roots i.e. if these bananas are the real deal or just a clever mirage.
4. Have some adventures
People always want to know if they should be on the “hunt” when they’re single.
As I said in point #1 – if you don’t want to date, don’t date.
This is a golden opportunity. Enjoy it now, before you wreck it all by falling in love and then have to take another whole human beings needs and desires into account! (you know you have to do that in a relationship, right?)
Put simply: Go. On. Adventures.
Obviously this applies whether your coupled up or not, but when you’re single? Now is the perfect time to take advantage of your relative freedom and seek out unusual activities, fun places, solo travel, and generally enjoy the fact you can show up to parties and leave exactly when you get bored.
Basically, you get to dive into as many things as you want, and then when they suck, you can say screw it and spend a weekend binge-watching those Seinfeld episodes you’ve never seen as you sip an oat milk latte while pondering an afternoon walk before treating yourself to some new books, just because, hey you’re single, who else do you need to spend the time and money on?
Don’t be that person who bemoans singledom. Be the person who is having so many fun adventures that they have to be convinced to bring someone else along for the ride.
5. Be willing to TOTALLY change what you thought yesterday
One danger of being single is becoming stubborn.
You can easily get set in your ways, certain you know everything, or build up some idealized story of why you’re single in your head and NEVER want a relationship.
It’s easy to rationalise any situation and cling to a narrative that’s no longer true.
Which is why I’ve always loved the saying: “Strong opinions, loosely held”.
In other words, be willing to let go of any belief that stops serving you.
Maybe being single is working for you today and is amazing. But life goes through phases. And it doesn’t always have to be all-or-nothing.
Some of our beliefs that make us single now may not be true tomorrow:
“I’m happier alone than I am with someone” – Maybe. But maybe that’s just a belief you’ve adopted after a couple of not-so-great relationships, and the right person would make you fulfilled in a way you’d never have believed.
“I don’t have time for a relationship” – Maybe. Or maybe you just have other priorities right now. Or maybe you’re focusing TOO much on your career/friends/hobbies and would be better off trying to make time to meet a partner who would serve and support your goals.
“I can’t find someone who really gets me” – Maybe. But maybe that just takes time and it’s worth being open to people and what might happen, because life works in funny ways and you want to be ready if the day occurs when someone amazing walks into your world.
For the record once again: I have no dog in this fight.
I’ve been happy single. I’ve been happy in relationships.
But I do know the danger of clinging too hard to one position and using it to justify whatever we’re currently choosing (just look at the couples you know who rationalize why they’re staying in a crappy relationship and you’ll know what I mean!)
It’s a beautiful fact of life that the philosophy we followed yesterday can turn out to be completely wrong for who we are today.
Meet someone. Break up. Stay together. Go solo.
All can be happy roads, if chosen for the right reasons.
Want to build the self-worth and confidence that makes you TRULY fall in love with your life? Click here to reserve your spot on our next LIVE retreat program!
27 Replies to “Don’t Get Into A Relationship Before You Read This…(Or: How To Be Single)”
Great advice as usual….Thanks Matthew! ;)
Love this!!! As someone who once thought I could only be happy in a relationship, I am now happily single, having adventures, but am open to dating, being pickier about who I give my time too, because, let’s face it, when you’re living your best life, you don’t want to waste time on people who aren’t investing in themselves or you!! I’m talking to random people at gas stations about their jet ski, starting my own business and loving every single minute of it, and a lot of this is because I had the sense to start following my heart, and the advice of some very wise Hussey’s (amongst other badasses). Love you both sooo very much and thank you for being here on my Journey xxx
So many great words! … “love being single and squeeze the juice out of it” unless it adds to my Homer Simpson skipping through the land of chocolate life also wise words about gut instinct & taking care of the mindset about being single!
Stephen! That must be one on THE BEST blogs that you have written! I love how ‘bright and clear’ you have painted most of the things that us singles love NOT admitting. Yet everything is so smashingly true, it just aches our heart cause that might make us feel like the bad guy. And no one wants to feel like that. Sometimes it is necessary though to kick your own ass and to make sure you are the best for yourself!
I personally feel that something clicked when I turned 30 last month. Years of doing the work yet never still actually fully getting it, I finally as if by magic get it!
I hope It doesn’t take so long the young ladies reading this to realise that they matter (solo or coupled)!
Stephen, amazing words and emotion behind it!
Loved this article Stephen. You always drop some good words of wisdom! I really like when you mentioned about being open when dating, sometimes we don’t want to talk to someone over the smallest thing but we could be missing an opportunity. Keep them coming :)
The mouldy talking bananas… – the metaphor made me laugh so hard! :-D
Fabulous writing. Not many people will understand.
Thank you for this article. You’ve really helped me. It’s exactly what I’ve needed at this stage of my life. “Learn to love being single … “. Thank you once again xx
I think I’ve identified my problem: Being single has become my comfort zone. On one hand, I like the fact that I currently have the freedom to throw myself into my creative passions; that I don’t feel dependent on anyone else for my sense of self worth; that my daughter sees that it’s more than possible to live a meaningful life without being in a romantic relationship. I also like the fact that I KNOW I won’t be trading my “me time” for anybody unless they’re: a) awesome, and b) treat me with the same consideration and respect as I would show them. I like that I have those standards.
I do worry that I’ve become SO used to this freedom from romantic relationship obligations that I will never actually be able to adjust to a relationship and all the compromising that may entail. My first reaction to the thought of sharing my living space with someone is : “Ugh…”. Perhaps that’s partly just because, as a single parent, I don’t get *quite* as much freedom and space as a single non-parent,so I tend to value those things quite highly!!! BUT it can be difficult to distinguish between justifiable single parent concerns and the possible excuses I may be making to avoid intimacy and commitment….
I’d like to think that the fact I am aware of this possibility means something (!), and, if I’m honest, I certainly wouldn’t turn someone away if they were amazing…but still; as I get older, I’m just worried that, if I suddenly decide at some stage that I REALLY DO want a relationship,that by then it will be too late.
It’s a tricky one, because, right now, after a period of illness, I am FINALLY persuing my career goals and dreams, and it feels so good- so good that I don’t feel the need right now. I just worry that by the time I DO feel the need, that ship will have sailed.
Stephen, I love how you beautifully crafted those amazing insights into words! I’ve been enjoying being single, “squeeezing the juice out of it” yet prepared to be swept of my feet by someone AMAZING who’ll walk into my life.
Beautiful blog post Stephen. Thanks for sharing. I love that you hit one the idea that it is hard for women with the ticking time clock. However, as much as I love the idea of being single and not having to date if I don’t want to, I really have to keep in mind that if I want to have a family some day, I need to do it within a certain window. It’s a lot of pressure and stress and it is so hard. Also, I’ve truly realized that NYC and DC are extremely hard places to date as a woman, no matter how confident and attractive you are. I am naturally a very optimistic and positive person, but the last few years entering my thirties in nyc has been tough.
I am out of the dating game, but I am not out “meeting interesting people”. I just prefer to focus on rebuilding myself and my social life (the PhD sucked the life out of me XD).
If an interesting person comes along, I am always up to meet them.
Right now I am just a bit unlucky :P Not many interesting people around me!
I think also than focusing on having fun and better yourself you meet more people that share your interests and you grow your confidence because you learn new things every day… What is sexier than that :P?
what an interesting piece of writing. looking forward to reading more!
wonderful use of words. especially the part where you said you feel comfortable being single.
you actually said the thing i agree with. i am actually very comfortable in my single life.
Every word is so true and meaningful! It’s beautiful in all the stages, roads when we have our standard, we love ourselves and have awareness of inner struggles and insecurities. Telling that from my own experience. I really started to enjoy my (single) life after the Retreat. Before appearantly I was always looking for someone who would “fulfill my holes” and was seeking for love from outside when I “just” needed to love myself more.
Now I’m happy with my life, keep growing and having adventures, open for new connections and when it will come – relationship.
Thank you for “Be open about whom you meet, but picky about whom you invest in” reminder! Will put it on my wall.
So spot on Stephen! And this article couldn’t come at a better time. I’m 33, female and single, and just started at 2,5 months solo travel in South East Asia…let the adventure begin!
Ok…..I get it! But, if my self worth is not the same as yours then what makes me or the situation wrong or the other way around? I been talking & observing other people regarding their worth & I have notice a difference between us all. Some drastric others…just a tiny bit. I’m just concern when people state…”Know your worth!” And you may or may not be misleading….Hmmmm?
My parents were married, they had all the free time they wanted, and they could throw themselves into all their passions and love every second of it . All of the articles I read about the advantages of the single life say “You have SO much free time !” . I’d trade a large amount of my free time in a heartbeat if I could have a girlfriend ! There aren’t that many books that interest me . I don’t have enough money to travel . If I was married, mt wife and I would both have incomes and we’d both have more money . I’ve read all the articles about “How to love being single and squeeze the juice out of it” you can handle . I guess I don’t like the way the juice tastes . I can’t get on on that bountiful, exuberant, jolly, freedom — filled single – fun – fest . Unusual activities, fun places, and traveling is more fun when you have a romantic partner . I’ve warched Seinfeld, I don’t like oat milk lattes, I don’t like walking, and I don’t have enough money to buy books . I’d give anything to have somebody else to spend my time and money on . Rhere’s no possible way I can have so many fun adventures that I have to be convinced to bring someone else along for the ride . I don’t think there are that many fun adventures in my state . I don’t think there are that many fun adventures in the world . I can’t possibly build up an idealized story of why you’re single in your head and NEVER want a relationship . If I got to the point where I never want a relationship, I’d commit suicide ! The only part of your article that resonated with me was when you said “… the right person would make you fulfilled in a way you’d never have believed .” and ”you’d be better off making time to meet a partner who would serve and support your goals .” . What’s so amazing about being single ? The single life is a punishment . I hate being single . I can’t be happy unless I’m in relationship . My life won’t make sense until I meet the right woman . My life won’t have any meaning until I get into a relationship .
All-Time POPULAR Posts