Is It Better To Be Single?


guys-drinking-bar-rotator

A while ago I was out with a buddy, and while we were eating he looked at me and asked “do you ever miss being single?”

That’s a pretty loaded question, so I had to get a bit of clarification on what he meant.  He wasn’t talking about dating, or looking for other women.  He was talking about simply being able to do what we were doing – being able to go out and grab some food with a buddy.  To not have to worry about kids, or when he needs to be home, or feeling guilty about leaving his wife alone with the kids while he goes takes time for himself.

Looking at it that way, do I miss being single?

Truthfully?

Of course I do.  But maybe it’s better to say that I miss certain aspects of it.

 

The Traditional Path

Growing up many of us follow the template:

  • Finish high school
  • Get a post-secondary education
  • Start a career
  • Date, with the hopes of finding that someone you want to build a life with
  • Get married
  • Raise a family

We follow the template because we see it.  It’s been modeled to us our whole lives – from parents, grandparents, friends, the media, etc.  And although people may not say it explicitly, at least at a subconscious level we are taught that this is “the best way”, or “the right way” to live.

Is it TRULY the best way to live?

Personally I like the template, but divorce rates (that continue to hover around 50% for first marriages) would seem indicate that it’s not necessarily an easy way to live.

So best?  Who knows.

At the very least, I can say it’s not the only way to live.

 

Different “Ways” To Live

There are other ways to life your life.

Some choose to remain single (with no relationship).

For people who do, I suppose you can question if they actually want to be single or if they have just resigned themselves to it.

I suspect it’s probably a mix of both.  Really, for the people who are married I wonder how many actually want to be married and how many are simply scared to be alone.  In any case, remaining single is a viable choice, and is the one that provides the greatest amount of personal freedom.

You may never actually be able to do whatever you want, but your choices impact less people when it’s just you.

 

Others may stay single yet date casually.  I guess this is way of trying to have some of the benefits of a relationship without the expectations commitment brings.

 

Then you have others who are in exclusive relationships, but have no interest in marriage or even living together.  I know a guy who’s been with his girlfriend for a few years now.  Both are divorced, have their own kids, and love each other.  But they still value living independently, and their relationship is mainly characterized by getting together a few nights a week and vacationing together periodically.

According to him this approach helps reduce the effects of taking each other for granted (hedonic adaptation), because they only see each other when they want to.

Personally I don’t get it, but hey, it seems to work for them.

 

For each of these approaches you can also add a variation – with kids and without.  If you’re raising a family together, I would think that probably works best for all involved if you are living under one roof.  But kids bring with them a whole other set of challenges.

Really, the life of a married couple with no kids generally looks VERY different from the life of a married couple with kids.  And even comparing couples with kids, the number of kids and their ages can have big impacts on what the couple’s lives look like.

 

Choosing a Path

So what approach is best?  To stay single (and not date)?  Date casually?  Get married?  Have kids?  Not have kids?

There’s no right or wrong answer here.

  • If you stay single you have the greatest control over your own life.  And although you may not have a “partner”, you probably have friends, family, coworkers, etc to provide much of the connection that people often look for in a relationship.
  • If you date casually, your relationship life is probably more “exciting” (speculating here, as I really wouldn’t know).  The early phase of a relationship is often referred to as the discovery phase, or the passion phase.  It’s a phase that can’t last though, so having a number of new relationships ensures you are always having new experiences.
  • If you are in a long term committed relationship where you are living with that person/married, you will have a partner in life, and someone to share experiences and “grow old” with.
  • If you have children, you have the experience of truly developing and shaping another life to be the best it can be.  And there is a certain level of pride and joy in being a parent that is difficult to articulate, and can only be understood by someone who is a parent.

 

Each approach to life is different.  They each have a number of strengths; but there are also a number of challenges and struggles inherent to each approach.

There is no perfect approach that can give you the good without the bad.  Being a parent has some incredible and rewarding moments.  But man, it also involves a lot of sacrifice and challenges.  Getting married and having a partner in life can be great, but it can also be very difficult.

Each choice involves making some sort of sacrifice, and giving up something else.  It’s part of the trade off.

 

Grass is Greener Syndrome

Where we get ourselves in trouble is when we start comparing, or looking at “the road not chosen”.

When times are good, we don’t even think about our choices (which sadly means we actually taking them for granted and not appreciating the good in them).

When times get hard though?  Well, during those times the sacrifices and challenges or our chosen road often stand out.  And it’s easy to start to question if it’s worth it.

 

Imagine you have chosen one road, and you find yourself talking to someone who has chosen another.  It’s really easy to look at their life and see primarily the good parts.  The freedoms they have that are different from yours, the sacrifices you make that they don’t seem to have to make.

Remember though – two people can go out who have chosen different roads, and talk.  And each can head home envious of the others life.

The grass isn’t really greener on the other side.  It’s just a bit different.  With both strengths and weaknesses – just like the life we have now.

 

Going back to the start, do I miss being single?  Sure, sometimes.  I would be lying if I said otherwise.  I also sometimes miss the freedom from my life before I was a parent.

Hell, I miss the days I lived at my parents – where I had no job (beyond my paper route), no responsibilities or bills, and not a care in the world.  Did I appreciate that life at the time?  Of course not – because that life was just what I knew.

And that’s the sad part.

Often you don’t appreciate the things you have until they are gone.  We shouldn’t HAVE to lose things before we can appreciate them.  We should be able to take time out every day, and be truly grateful for the things we DO have.

If we could do that, maybe the bad times wouldn’t feel so overwhelming.  Maybe we wouldn’t get to the point where we are looking longingly at the road not taken.

 

So instead of looking at what we don’t have and what we are missing, perhaps we should be trying to remember and appreciate the strengths of the road we have chosen.  And focusing on making it the best life it can be.

justNeedToWaterIt

 

 

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “Is It Better To Be Single?

  1. I could probably say a lot on this topic…here’s one thought.

    As background, my wife and I have been married 35 years. After we had kids, we became gradually more and more disconnected. For the last ten years, until recently when we started trying to unwind the disconnection, we were basically completely unconnected. I’m still not sure how my wife feels about how things were, how things are going trying to change that, and where we’re going…but I have been and remain very discontent with the state of our relationship.

    Here’s the thing, though. I could easily live by myself. In many ways it would be much, much more simple. I can do groceries, laundry and clean toilets. Honestly there isn’t much companionship or warmth between us, still, so that isn’t much of a factor. What I can’t do living by myself is be challenged by trying to live with someone and build/rebuild a relationship. Of course, the other thing I can’t do living by myself is have a committed, warm, intimate friendship and lovership (if that’s a word) with someone, but that’s not really happening at this point (yet?), so for now it’s just the challenges: the challenges to be open, to be thoughtful and considerate to someone who’s living with you every day, to try to act in a loving way even when there isn’t any feeling behind it.

    I have had friends who lived their entire adult lives single. They have great lives, but they have never had the challenges that come from living with someone in a committed, full-time relationship. Of course they haven’t had what you would hope would be the benefits of that, either. There are advantages to that life, but I really think there are parts of you that never develop without those challenges.

    Speaking for myself, we would probably be divorced now except that I really want to understand how things got this way and what my role and responsibility has been and continues to be in this relationship. That’s another version of the challenge that living with someone in a long-term relationship. And I can only do that if we stay in the relationship. And maybe we will discover the roots and let a new tree grow, to borrow the metaphor from your most recent post.

    If I had to say what’s better – well, you can only answer for yourself, right? But to answer a slightly different question, I think a long-term committed relationship has the power to make _us_ better – better, more mature, more loving human beings. Of course, it can also make us depressed, bitter, angry, insecure and any number of other bad things, too. The human challenge is to pursue and develop the good. To answer differently, I am still in this marriage though I sometimes wonder why and how we can reunite and reorient ourselves. And if we wind up separated, if I think I can figure out enough of the lessons that I am sure I need to be learning, if I think I could be a good and loving and constructive and supportive partner to someone, I would like to grow into another long-term, committed relationship. One day at a time…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Jack,

      that disconnection you describe is disturbingly common, and to me is one of the saddest aspects of marriage. I don’t think it has to be an inevitable state, and there are a ton of things we can do to try and prevent it before we get there (which was one of the goals of this blog). Addressing it after the fact? Really damned hard. I still think it’s possible, but as I said in my tree post, that’s because I’m stubborn as hell and always try to remain optimistic.

      I had a series of posts a few years back about “rebuilding passion”. Not sure how effective the ideas in there are (as I haven’t had much practical application), but at the very least they are things that made sense to me at the time of writing.

      I fully agree with you about there being value in the challenges that come with long term relationships. I do think it makes you stronger, and probably a better version of yourself than if you hadn’t experienced them. You are right though that it can also make you bitter, angry and not trusting.

      I hope you find something similar to what you want. And the part of my who believes in marriage hopes you are able to “grow a new tree from the roots of the old” and recapture that with your wife.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks…I think we have a good chance. Reading some things people have posted here and elsewhere sometimes makes me reflect – even with people of good will who love each other, sometimes things just don’t work out well (or well enough).

        And really being an honest observer of yourself is so hard. I am just beginning to realize that a lot of what I’ve been doing and saying this year has been either explicitly or indirectly pressuring my wife to do or change things, which wasn’t what I was trying to do, and I need to stop that and take a harder and more honest look at myself.

        And (I hate starting sentences with “and”!) there’s all the ways I’ve begun to realize that I get in my own way, sabotage what I say and think I want. I need to lean into my fears and push through my anxieties. Sounds awfully trite until it’s YOUR life that you’re really looking into.

        We don’t have to be perfect, aren’t going to be even if we try. Our relationships aren’t going to be, either. Hard to really accept those, but even harder not to accept those…

        Please keep up your blogging. It’s such a light.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Hi Jack, glad to hear you think you have a good chance – because belief is REALLY important. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t subscribe to the notion that you can just “wish things to be better”. But I do believe when you’ve given up hope, then it’s almost impossible for things to improve.

        Anything *can* improve. It’s just a question of what are your boundaries, and what is enough?

        I wrote a post a while back called “the magic sword”, and the main point of that post is exactly what you talk about hear. Being an honest observer of yourself is damned hard. I actually think most people go through life telling themselves all sorts of lies about themselves, and convincing themselves that they are true. Seriously looking in the mirror is really hard, because it requires us to be accountable for our own lives and our own decisions. At the same time it can be hugely liberating, because it’s only when we are honest with ourselves and are able to accept who we truly are that we can begin to change.

        All the best.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not sure how relevant this can be to you coming from my perspective as a wife. But determining to only focus on the good even when the only good I could think of was long past memories or my own hope for the future helped me. Determining to not condemn my husband helped me.

    I didn’t do these things perfectly, probably far from it. But I remained determined or I repeatedly renewed my determination. I controlled and examined my thoughts and feelings and tried to deal with them in healthy ways that did involve telling him that it was all his fault.

    He was hurting me and making bad choices on an ongoing basis. And I did not pretend to feel positive emotions I didn’t genuinely feel. Nor did I sabotage myself emotionally by disallowing the experience of the negative emotions that came to me. But I did try to deal with it all as well as I could.

    In the long run none of that could save my marriage from his choices. But I say all of it in order to share what helped me renew my love for him so that I no longer wanted to give up, so that I had less and less ways I was screwing up the relationship.

    Two more things:

    1) I’m atypical apparently because I’m not sure I ever felt like his mom so that may or may not color my view too much for all the marriages that have that problem to relate to me. I don’t know how much was me just being wired differently or me already viewing it as a loving and good thing to do as a wife to take care of the home and him or me due to my health problems and my own unique attitudes not having the consistent habit of jumping in and picking up slack from all the times of him not doing stuff he should have been owning and doing. I’m sure there were some good and some (maybe lots of) bad about me as a wife in that respect.

    2) there’s a biblical concept where two people separate for a time by mutual consent for prayer and fasting. I’m not sure but I tend to think that our culture should give this some thought as to how separations that are relatively short term and where there is always a goal and a commitment to work on the marriage, to get back together might be used to great effect, and maybe even more so if utilized before there is critical mass years down the road.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I truly believe that focusing on the good (even when it’s hard to find) is the key to happiness. Not just in relationships, but in all of life. And by that I don’t mean being blindingly positive and pretending the bad doesn’t exist; but rather accepting that bad things DO happen, and (depending on what your boundaries are), that’s alright.

      If someone is being a jerk, or being cruel, or having an affair or something I’m not about to pretend it’s not happening. Certain behaviours aren’t alright, ever. But I also don’t subscribe to the notion that bad things automatically undo all the good. They don’t. We ALL have good sides AND bad. And even the best of us can be selfish jerks at times.

      With that, I think it’s very easy to get frustrated and angry with people. And in the wise words of Yoda, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to the dark side of the force. Hmmm, not sure if the force is actually relevant here, but I see very little use/benefit in anger. So instead I try to let a lot of things go, and focus on the good whenever I can.

      I like how you say “And I did not pretend to feel positive emotions I didn’t genuinely feel. Nor did I sabotage myself emotionally by disallowing the experience of the negative emotions that came to me. But I did try to deal with it all as well as I could.”

      I think that’s huge, because I find there is a tendency for negative energy to start to spiral out of control. Left unchecked, small issues can grow into something much larger. So your approach is likely one that will serve you well going forward.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thank-you for the Yoda quote, sincerely. It was actually relevant but also gave me a smile.

        Now I kind of wish I had included something about having a sense of humor. It is easy to lose your sense of humor when you are under constant stress. It has been part of an intentional healing journey having my sense of humor return. I don’t really know how much of that was choosing to help it return and how much was that it naturally was returning as I was healing. But it is definitely important!

        Liked by 2 people

      • I couldn’t agree more. I’m naturally a fairly playful guy, and I enjoy trying to add humor to all aspects of my life and keeping things fairly “light”. Which is strange in a way, because I can also be super analytical and I enjoy fairly heavy topics. When stuff is too heavy though it can start to feel oppressive, and humor is really needed to lighten things up. I have a degree in philosophy, and one of the reasons I took philosophy is because in my first two years I had a professor who found ways to take any topic (from serious things like abortion to boring things like epistomology), and make them fun. And it was great.

        Stress definitely seems to erode humor, which I think is maybe part of that downward spiral of negative energy in relationships I was talking about. When things stop being fun, it becomes harder to add the fun back in. And then things can start to seem hopeless.

        I suspect this is where the idea of “fake it until you make it” comes in. Sometimes we need to just do things, even if they aren’t feeling natural. And then hopefully over time is won’t feel forced anymore.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Drew, this blog posts speaks to me in my own special quirky way since I have to face single life one way or another. There will be benefits. And I need to endeavor to embrace them and be glad of them. I think I can. I think I can. I think I can. …

    Liked by 1 person

      • When you say “for my kids”, I’m in agreement that it’s always best for kids to grow up with two parents in a loving household. At the same time, if the household has ceased to be loving, then I think it can actually do more harm than good long term. I’ve written on this in the past (https://thezombieshuffle.com/2015/01/06/for-the-sake-of-the-children/), but kids learn from what they see. And if they grow up witnessing a loveless household, where the parents are together “for the kids” then they grow up thinking that’s normal. And it’s not.

        I’m wondering what you mean by personal integrity? I’ve talked to a lot of people who struggle with failed relationships and divorce – and often there are feelings of shame and failure.

        But maybe another way to think about it is, what exactly is a marriage? Is it really just a piece of paper, or a vow taken stating that you will stay together forever no matter what?

        Or is it actually about what you will do, and put INTO the marriage each and every day for the rest of your life?

        To me, the commitment of marriage is a very serious one. But it has nothing to do with leaving the marriage. Instead, it is about how I treat my partner, and how I try to value them and work together with them as a teammate. It’s about putting them and their needs at the same level as my own, and promising to always be there for them when they need me.

        But it’s a reciprocal commitment.

        So if one person stops putting in, then it doesn’t mean I get upset and stop putting in effort. But over time, if they have completely checked out on the marriage, and no matter what I do they have no real interest in engaging me (or they will engage me only on their own terms), then is it really a marriage? I would say no.

        At that point, the piece of paper and/or the vow have become meaningless. Because the person who spoke them isn’t living the words they spoke anymore.

        It’s a tough spot, and divorce should never be easy. But if you can look at yourself in the mirror and say “I did my best, even when times are hard”, then I don’t see any reason to feel shame, or feel like a failure.

        Because all you can ever do is your best.

        I know you’re struggling with things right now, but hopefully this makes some sense. And you are able to find some peace.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’m trying to get some work done, so I have to be spare with my words. The premise behind any of my three points wasn’t to have the relationship stay in stasis. The point is that BOTH people feel the same way, and commit themselves to changing the relationship. To something different, something new. Just ONE person wanting it leads to all the examples you just cited. My point was that I’m that one person. My wife chose not to be. But that’s not on me – that’s on her. My choice is to work on it. For the three reasons I said.

        Liked by 2 people

      • I think I understand, and agree. Given the choice, I would always choose to work and honor the commitment.

        And really, I think that’s the whole point of my blog. I would like to think my philosophies are pro-marriage, and I try to look at the “harder” parts of marriage as primarily things that are normal, and can usually be overcome.

        Liked by 2 people

  4. (Oh dear…the following turned out terribly long! Please understand that I am speaking to my own foundational character and beliefs and my own experiences.)

    I think that both the commitment to stay and the commitment to work towards making it better matter. I feel far better (than I would have done) about my integrity now that it is over for not having left.

    It is a hard balance to explain and an even harder one to figure out how to live.

    I know that he *feels* he did everything he could or everything reasonable. He *feels* justified in leaving the marriage but he is wrong. He embraced his faults. He refused growth and healing and just because he has found a drinking buddy to sleep with and some wildly outlandish mental, emotional, and spiritual constructs to justify himself does not make his faults any less his faults or his choice to give up any more valid or good. His alcohol abuse and his internet/screen/pornography addiction for example did great damage over the years not only to me but to our children because of their exposure and experiences with their dad or his effect on their environment. He will probably never own the fact that a porn habit can’t be hidden and children end up exposed to it by virtue of living in the same home and being kids. I’ve had to face it and own part of it that it was what happened and had severe effect on my oldest child (which I had to face the effects of years ago starting when my son was 12 but only learned the start of where they came from three days ago). My ex does not own that. Although he knew at the start, the reality of the effect is so hidden from his mind’s eye it is as if he has had a break with reality. I think if he did admit the reality to himself he would nearly die from the pain of it. His government career includes exposure to child abuse cases which he is very tender hearted about, especially those involving sex crimes. So he just always kept a wall up in his heart and mind between what he thought of those cases and the extremely similar but less severe effects he has had on his own children, just not through overt assault. He has not changed it or healed from any of his faults or addictions.

    He thinks he has. He claims he has. But there is bountiful evidence to the contrary.

    He has continued to refuse ownership, growth, and healing since he left partly because now he has ongoing validation from a new codependent relationship. In leaving, he piled fault on top of fault treating not only me, but also his children, his vows, and his own former standards and convictions as disposable. He feels it was all about me never responding to him and me not giving him forgiveness or love or support. But his fault remains. He was mostly checked out most of the time even as he was feeling desperately like he was trying and nothing was working. He was, on a regularly recurring basis, sabotaging everything and everyone. And now that he has further embraced his faults and added new faults on top, his growth and healing that he chose to refuse are still needed for the sake of his children who he is still hurting tremendously. My youngest seems to be beginning to call it ongoing abuse that he harasses her trying to coerce her into contact with him but never acknowledges the things he has done or the way he has effected her and has never apologized.

    For all his faults and all my hurts, none of it means that I was faultless. Some people have treated me as if I was. I appreciate their support and actually need the love and validation they are offering in acknowledging just how hard it was to live in that marriage and that I did truly try to make it work. However, I did have faults to own, to heal, to improve upon. And I have to embrace that. It is just as important that I face that as it is for me to recognize how abusive my husband has chosen to be, how lacking in integrity, or moral fiber, or strength of character. If I had chosen to blame him and dump him I would have been compromising my own integrity AND my own personal growth that I needed. I believe that to get married without committing to offer a husband “agape” would be a great wrong on my part, and would likely either end in the total brokenness of divorce or perpetual misery.

    People tend to be attracted to and attach to other people of a similar level of health. I think he and I were both a couple of train wrecks when we first got married. Sadly, it is a common story among certain therapists and health coaches and the like that when one person heals the other will not tolerate it, (will not believe that they need any improvement themselves) and will one way or anther end things. I think it is important for people in bad marriages to explore what their real damage is and where it really came from. It may be very very different in its source and in how it manifests compared to their spouse. But in many cases it definitely exists.

    I struggle a lot now with how much harm was done to my children and if it could have been prevented if I had left him years earlier. But I know that there was also benefit to them in observing my healing (or trying to heal) from my own faults. I know there was benefit to them seeing my struggle to have integrity and to learn to love and to not treat their dad as disposable no matter what mistakes he made, and in having the stability of our commitment (if not the stability of it being a better functioning relationship) in their lives for as long as they did, and from seeing and experiencing his good qualities and character traits and choices on the occasions that they showed up, which admittedly was not often in certain years of our marriage. They have a long journey in front of them to heal from their own baggage and to learn to integrate and accept and understand both the good and the bad, to allow for the existence of both. But it is a valuable journey. And I do not think coming from a home that broke years earlier would have necessarily turned out any better for them. It is just as possible that it would have resulted in a different kind of brokenness and tragedy or even in far more pain and dysfunction.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I know you’re relatively new to reading my blog, and I don’t know if you’ve looked at any of the older post – but there are a few common themes that will appear in my writing.

      I believe in love, and commitment. I believe in marriage, and think it CAN be a wonderful and fulfilling thing. I like nothing more than the idea of growing old with someone that I love.

      BUT, I also believe that love is not enough. And the more time I’ve spent thinking about these things, the more I think *most* of us go into relationships for all the wrong reasons.

      One of my core beliefs is that perfection doesn’t exist, but we should all strive for continuous improvement. Continuous improvement is really hard though, because it requires openness, honesty, and vulnerability. And I think those are concepts that people may pay lip service to, but in actuality I think they scare the hell out of most people.

      Underlying the “relationships can be good” theme of my posts, I also try to write about what I consider “truths”. Responsibilty, accountability, personal growth, facing and accepting the sides of yourself that you may not like. Doing what is “right”, instead of what is easy.

      As you alluded to in your comment, each persons level of health (mental and emotional) is of utmost importance, and lays the groundwork for the health of our relationships. So I really don’t see how it’s possible to talk about relationships, and talk about trying to have good/healthy ones without also talking about trying to be the best version of yourself that you can be. You state it perfectly when you say “I think it is important for people in bad marriages to explore what their real damage is and where it really came from”.

      Honestly, there ARE bad marriages out there. But often our disappointments on our relationships say more about US than they do about the person we are with. So understanding and trying to improve the damage that we bring INTO the marriage (and we all do, to some degree) is a key to having a good relationship.

      Sorry to hear about the details of the breakdown of your marriage. The story you related to me shows a great level of self awareness though, and I think that really positions you well for whatever your road brings next.

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s