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What’s Wrong With Wanting to be Unsingle? October 22, 2009

Posted by Onely in Dating, Food for Thought.
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At the moment, I don’t want to be in a couple. I have weighed the pros and cons of being single as they relate to my current economic, geolocational, social, personal, and physical situations, and I’ve decided that (my perceived) pros of being single outweigh the cons. So I don’t particularly care to pursue a committed romantic ever-after partnership (CREAP) right now.

My friend doesn’t want to be single. She has weighed the pros and cons of being single as they relate to her current situation, and she has decided that (her perceived) cons of being single outweigh the pros. Does this mean that she “can’t be alone” and ought to cultivate that ability? If so, then wouldn’t it be equally (in)accurate to say that *I* “can’t be in a couple” and ought to cultivate that ability?

Should we respect people who *don’t want to* be single–even if they bounce from bad relationship to bad relationship? Isn’t it their choice? Aren’t they choosing what, to them, is the less painful path? To me, being in a bad or so-so relationship is worse than being single, but to them, being single may be worse than being in a bad relationship. Can we categorically say that one choice is better than the other?

In this day, age, and world, being unsingle or “seeking” to become unsingle is the status quo, the accepted denominator, the commonly understood goal, praised as an accomplishment–all in all, it’s probably the easy road (until your wife starts beating you or your husband cheats). Maybe we tend to disrespect people who “want someone” (ie., don’t want to be single) because it seems as if they’re taking the easy way out. But do we really understand their reasons for trying to change their status, in the same way that they often don’t seem to understand our reasons for being satisfied singles?

If someone wants to become unsingle (and they haven’t met someone in particular), I think it’s important for them to articulate to themselves *why* they want a (unspecified) partner. Because it seems easier? Because they think they’ll feel more fulfilled? Less bored? Safer? More able to provide for their children? Or because it seems “the thing to do”?

And even if their reasons seem stupid to us, can we say with moral impugnity that they’re misguided? I’m sure my reasons for currently preferring singlehood–I like to sleep with the light on; I don’t want people around when I’m sick; my hobbies take up all my time–seem stupid to some people.

Also, I have a certain idea in my head about what hang gliding is like. I’ve seen movies of hanggliding, and it looks exhilarating and silent and swooshy.  (Bear with me; I’m getting to a point here.) I want to go hang gliding because–because it seems as if it would add something to my life, give me some good memories, and make me feel good.  Realistically, it might also break my bank account and every bone in my body, but I’m not thinking about that–I still want to go hang gliding.

Is this how my unhappily single friend’s yearning for a CREAP similar to my yearning for hang gliding? If so, who’s to say which one is better?

Copious Readers, do your friends have good, specific, or interesting reasons for wanting to become unsingle? Should we judge them? (Oh yes, it’s fun to judge them, but should we?)


Note: In this post I’m talking specifically about pursuing a CREAP  for the sake of having a CREAP. If I or my friend were to stumble across Mr. Apparently Perfectly Right, then we would probably at the very least have to reevaluate our pros and cons. Also, I know that the acronym seems somewhat charged to the negative, but it’s a handy acronym, and also I think a little negative charging in this couple-crazed world won’t hurt anything.

P.S. Thanks to The Truth About Mating for getting me thinking about this topic.

But Who Will Kiss My Broken Cheek? October 3, 2009

Posted by Onely in Bad Onely Activities, Just Saying..
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From friends, teachers, blogs, magazines, newscasters, and our inner monologues we hear about how much work it is to maintain a healthy committed romantic relationship. We seldom hear about how much work it is to maintain a healthy network of friends and family. I worry sometimes that  I’m not doing a good enough job of cultivating a friends-and-family support system. Is this the enlightened-single’s equivalent of worrying about not getting married, as in, “Oh no, if I don’t have enough good friends I will die alone and be eaten by cats!”?  I have a lot of friends here in the D.C. area, but I don’t know who I could call if I fell down and broke my face. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to see my bloody boogers. 

Singles advocate and social psychologist Bella DePaulo (who recently guest-posted on Onely!) often mentions how single people tend to have wider networks of friends, cultivate more and varied relationships, and participate more in community activities. Singles build and use a sort of social scaffolding that couple-centric relationships often don’t have. Here’s one of DePaulo’s quotes along those lines (explaining why a study shows that always-single people are healthier than previously-married people):

Perhaps people who have always been single maintain a more diversified relationship portfolio than the married people who invest all of their relationship capital into just one person. Maybe single people have friendships that have endured longer than many marriages. Maybe they attend to those friendships consistently, rather than stowing them on the back burner while focusing on The One. 

Lately I’ve been reading these kind of things and thinking, “Oh crap, my friends-and-family network isn’t diversified enough, or strong enough, and gosh darnit, I don’t volunteer much (er, at all).” Forming and nurturing relationships with close friends, regular friends, new friends, nuclear family, extended family takes a lot of time and energy. If you want your support network to be strong enough so that it is really there for you if you fall down and break your face, then you need to have paid your dues–to have put in your own emotional and supportive energy. This involves calling friends, writing thoughtful emails, asking how they are, listening, scheduling, remembering birthdays perhaps. It requires most, if not all, of the same efforts that go into remaining “tight” with a spouse or sig other, with the difference that as a single person you’re making those efforts many times over.  

If you can pull this off, great. It’s better to (as Bella said) have a diverse portfolio of relationships to fall back on if needed. That way, when you break your face, you might have a calm driver to take you to the emergency room with your broken face, a foodie to make you soup, a gentle friend to kiss your bruised and broken cheek, and  a comical buddy to make you laugh–but not too hard because that irritates your shattered septum. This system may be much better than relying on one romantic partner to fill all these roles, especially if he trips over you and breaks his face too (because then what do you do?).

In my “circles” of friends and family, I have married couples, non-married but exclusive couples, and singles. The former are quickly outnumbering the latter. This phenomenon results in the timeworn singles’ lament, “My coupled friends don’t have time for me anymore”. I’ll see those lamenters and raise them one: “Even my single friends don’t have time for me anymore!” Well, this is not really true. My friends have time to email and Facebook me. They just don’t seem to have time to return my phone calls. I’m torn whether to blame our new cyber-obsessed society or the fact that maybe I “give bad phone” as the saying goes. I have six friends who haven’t returned calls I placed to them, ranging from a week ago to a couple months ago. Yet they all respond regularly over email, usually with some kind of plans to meet up in the near future. Perhaps I “give good email and in-person”, but not good phone? 

If someone doesn’t want to return my innocuous phone calls, how can I ask them to help me when I’ve just fallen and broken my face? I can’t.  Which is why I worry about the state of my support network, which as a single person is supposed to be legendary and far-reaching. And perhaps mine is, except it’s been watered down by a preponderance of superficial electronic interactions–time-filling but emotionally unnutritious, the refined sugar of relationships. 

Most people would balk at a committed romantic partnered relationship consisting mostly of emails, tweets, and phone calls with the occasional get-together-in-person lunch. Yet this is considered fine for even close friendships. That is because people are expected to call their spouse or their boy-girlfriend if they break their face (or maybe a parent, if one is available). So partnered people put a lot of effort into making sure their other half loves them enough to lift them off the sidewalk and stop the bleeding. But what do single people do about a broken face when they don’t have–or necessarily want–that kind of partner and they haven’t been able to keep up a support network beyond emails and occasional meals, either because their friends are busy with their partners, or satisfied with cyber communications, or think the single person gives bad phone? 


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