Considering that I got married at 21, before I’d even rented my first apartment, I might seem to be the wrong person to talk about the importance of singleness; however, most people don’t know that I actually planned on being single for life.
When my partner came into my world, love was the last thing on my mind. I’ll never forget the horror and dismay I felt when I realized I’d fallen for him and that marriage suddenly didn’t seem like an atrocious idea. I mourned losing my unfettered future.
The way people talk about being single makes it sound like a horrible curse, and since I did experience a measure of loneliness in high school, I get part of that.
Yet when I hear someone bemoaning the lack of a girlfriend or boyfriend in their lives as if having a relationship is the only thing that will make their lives feel fulfilled, I can’t help by inwardly groan at how much they are missing…and how unready for a relationship they reveal themselves to be.
So very few of us ever learn how to be alone with ourselves. We surround ourselves with people, if not physically then virtually or fictionally, to the point that we don’t even know what silence sounds like.
And our media tells us that being alone is bad, that it means there’s something wrong with us. The good guys in the fairy tales get married and live happily ever after. Only the evil queens and witches live out in the woods by themselves. We have musicals where the main plot line is the need to find a mate because god forbid the protagonist turns thirty without having had five children!
But if I could give one piece of relationship advice—just one that could create the potential for successful relationships by itself—it’s learning to be content single.
The capacity to be alone is the capacity to love. It may look paradoxical to you, but it’s not. It is an existential truth: only those people who are capable of being alone are capable of love, of sharing, of going into the deepest core of another person–without possessing the other, without becoming dependent on the other, without reducing the other to a thing, and without becoming addicted to the other. They allow the other absolute freedom, because they know that if the other leaves, they will be as happy as they are now. Their happiness cannot be taken by the other, because it is not given by the other. –Osho
If a person is looking for a partner to make them feel loved, to take care of them, to make their life meaningful, or to end their loneliness, they’re setting themselves up for failure and disappointment. Beyond the very fact that the desperation of “must have mate” is a little bit like having a neon sign on your chest that says “Run away if I ask you out,” the fact is that no one will ever be able to fill in those needs!
Because they’re things we have to do for ourselves.
Self-love can’t be replaced by love from another. Self-fulfillment can’t be fulfilled by another. Our life’s purpose can’t reside in another.
It’s our own individual work.
Putting it on another person automatically creates an unhealthy dynamic in the relationship because it says, “In order for me to be a healthy, whole, stable person of value, you have to love me.” If someone walked up to you and said that at the first date, would you really want to be with them?
Unstated yet still implied isn’t really better.
I hesitate to even call something love if someone needs another person to complete them. It’s just using that other person as a distraction from the fact that they haven’t found completion in themselves. Taken to its extreme, it becomes an excuse for someone to use their dependency as a weapon, threatening all manner of tragic things if the relationship ends.
I’m not saying that every couple who coupled up without doing some work in singleness first is automatically unhealthy and unstable.
It’s possible to learn how to be complete and alone while in a relationship. I’ve had to learn how to differentiate myself, love myself, fulfill myself, guide myself, and be with myself while still being married.
But it’s hard. There aren’t many pop references of what it’s like to be in love without losing yourself in the process. Undying, unconditional, obsessive love is still the ideal, despite the fact that it usually means an unboundaried love.
I see singleness as an opportunity to get your shit under control before entering into a relationship. There used to be this joke that I think had more truth in it than people realized. “You never find love when you’re looking for it. It’s when you’ve finally given up that love finds you.”
I prefer a spin on Osho’s thoughts. You’re not ready for love until you are content just being single. But who’s going to write that into a musical?