Why I’d Rather be Single than Settle
Five years ago, I made a pact with myself.
After two failed long term relationships – one marriage, one almost marriage – I decided to break-up with relationships and I intentionally chose to be single.
This was a major turning point for me, as previously, I’d always thought that I ought to be in a relationship; it’s the way that we’re taught that we ought to be.
This was the question I found myself pondering as I began my new life as a single woman.
Why are we taught that we ought to travel through life, Noah’s Ark style, two by two? Especially as women no longer need to – in certain parts of the world, at least.
This Noah’s Ark conditioning starts early. I spent hours playing ‘mummies and daddies’ as a young kid, endlessly pushing my toy pram around the council estate where I lived. Endlessly walking back to an imaginary home, where my imaginary husband lived.
Because here’s the thing – us girls could never get the boys to join us in these games of dreary domesticity.
They were always off playing way more exciting games – having adventures on their bikes, or building camps in the woods.
As soon as I got a bike my games changed too. They were no longer domestic in nature, they were all about freedom and adventure, curtailed only by the words called by my parents as I hot-footed it out the door: ‘be back in time for tea‘.
But then the teenage years happened, along with a tsunami of conditioning about how teenage girls were meant to be: magazine articles, photo-stories, problem pages, even multiple-choice quizzes, all aimed at turning girls from free spirits into boy-traps.
‘If you answered mainly (c) it’s time to slick on the lip-gloss and get yourself a boob-tube. You won’t hook a boy with your nose stuck in a book…’ etc etc
And so I fell for the myth that I could only truly be happy as part of a pair.
And that being part of a pair was a prize worth starving myself, moulding myself, shrinking myself to fit.
The past five years have been a revelation to me.
I finally recaptured the sense of freedom and adventure I had as a bike-riding kid.
Being single for so long has enabled me to build my career as a writer and speaker, study the world’s spiritual traditions, go on my own spiritual quest, and become happier than I’ve ever been. I’ve moved to brand new parts of the country … twice, and I now live in a town that I fell in love at first sight with. I’ve travelled to new parts of the world – and discovered the joys of solo travel, and I’ve made loads of new friends. I’ve also had a handful of incredibly memorable encounters with men. Encounters I’ll treasure forever because they inspired my free spirit instead of stifling it.
And this brings me to the heart of this piece – and the new question I’m pondering as I contemplate dating again: isn’t it time that we celebrate the gift of discernment being single can bring?
I ask because so many women I know who are in relationships are unhappy and have sacrificed so much of themselves for the sake of coupledom.
Now that I know that being single can be such a fun adventure I know that I could never again settle for a partner who was threatened by my career or tried to stifle my independence or talked down to me.
I know that I could never settle for sitting at a pub or coffee shop table listening to an endless monologue about a guy’s life, without them pausing to take a breath to ask a question about me.
This is a complaint I hear time and time again from friends of my age who are dating again – women who are beautiful and accomplished and fascinating and yet the men they date just don’t seem to want to hear what they’ve got to say.
Maybe this is because none of us are encouraged to enter into this kind of equality in a relationship – neither women or men.
A few years ago I read an article by a woman for women about how to behave on a date.
‘You need to be like a vase,’ she wrote. ‘You need to be an empty vessel to receive the man. Men need to be made to feel special and seen.’
This isn’t the first time I’ve read or heard something like this and it totally baffles me.
Firstly, I don’t want to be a fucking vase.
I’ll never be able to be an ’empty vessel’ – I’m way too full of ideas and passions and hopes and dreams.
I want to be a wild flower – the kind of wild flower that’s so irrepressible it can grow through concrete.
And I want to meet men who are secure and happy enough in their own skin to be able to appreciate this about me.
I want rich, life-affirming, two-way conversations that go on for hours, both of us sparking like fireflies off each other.
I want a meeting of minds, as well as bodies and souls.
And, thanks to my fun adventures as a single woman, I’m more than happy to hold out for this. I’m more than happy to stay single than settle for something that makes me lose the will to live.
Because now I know what’s possible … and I know what it’s like to be truly free.
These are the gifts being single has given me.
Isn’t it time we started embracing time on our own as a wonderful opportunity, instead of viewing it as some kind of pitiful purgatory?