Self Improvement

How to Be Single, Properly.

Many of us were raised to think you could either be: actively looking for a partner (begrudgingly single) not interested in looking for a...

Many of us were raised to think you could either be:

  • actively looking for a partner (begrudgingly single)
  • not interested in looking for a partner (intentionally single)
  • somewhere in between the two constantly justifying why on earth you’re not currently swiping despite being single

The narrative that those are our only possible states of existence needs to get in the bin. I’ll be exploring why in this week’s post.

Before we get started, I should point out that I’ll be using men as examples and sharing my experiences as a woman but if you live and love differently, these principles will likely need some seasoning to match your experience of the world so far. Regardless, whether you’re single or you love someone who is, I hope you’ll find this helpful.

I’ve always been irked by questions about my dating life because of the many assumed ‘truths’ these types of enquiries to single people tend to be based on:

  • something is lacking in your life therefore you are by default incomplete no matter how fulfilled you personally may feel about your life as a whole (i.e romcoms where entire ambitions are sacrificed for a man’s love),
  • you’ve either given up or are actively failing at something (i.e. finding a man to love you).
  • If you’re single and actually happy, then you clearly don’t want a man - only cats and wine.
  • If you’re single and miserable then finding a man will definitely make you happy.

These ‘truths’ are permeated in our everyday language, played back to us on a constant loop in the stories we tell through to how government policy is designed. Even our loved ones feel the need to reassure with various loving but misguided platitudes - if I’ve missed one, stick it in the comments to get it off your chest:

  • “Aww don’t worry, it’ll happen when you least expect it”
  • “Have you tried xyz app?”
  • “You’ll find someone I’m sure of it, you have so much to offer”
  • “Maybe don’t be so picky, I didn’t fancy xxx when I first met him”
  • “Try to keep an open mind” (usually said by those who truly believe that any man is better than no man, regardless of how uninspiring said man might be)
  • “Are you sure you’re going to be ok spending ‘insert holiday here’ alone?”
  • “I don’t know how you’re still single and also no we don’t know any single men to introduce you to sorry”

I’ve said some of these things before to other single friends as I’m sure you have too. We’re all part of the problem.

Don’t get me wrong, I know questions about our dating lives come from a place of love and “wanting you to be happy”. I started a series on my Instagram called “How’s your love life, Lumes?” where I share the least...erm...fulfilling interactions I’m having on the various dating apps. I shared these experiences to pre-empt having to deal with questions from loved ones about my dating life and to protect my ego from what other people might think about my ongoing singledom. As if to say “It’s not my fault, see? I’m trying!”

In all this, I failed to check in with myself on my own feelings about it. Until now.

Hardcore stoics will say these are all my own thoughts that I’m having in response to questions that are objectively just a neutral combination of words but that’s a little too simplistic in my view. Yes, the questions themselves are just questions BUT they carry the entire weight of society’s teachings about what counts as a valid whole life for a woman. Ask any little girl what women are for and she’ll tell you - it’s marriage and babies.

So no, these thoughts aren’t just mine, they’re all of ours and I’d like to unsubscribe please and thank you.

What’s the new narrative then Lumes?

Look, there are pros and cons to being single just as there are pros and cons to being in a relationship. If you live your life thinking one is better than the other, you’ll end up just wishing your life away instead of doing whatever actually makes you feel happy today.

Singledom isn’t something we need to tolerate/endure/’make the best’ of until we’re released into a relationship. I had it so wrong for so many years. I treated being single like it was a hurdle that I had to overcome in order to get to the “guaranteed happiness” of being in a relationship. I devalued my present day happiness because “I still hadn’t met a man yet”. Madness! With that unmanaged thought pattern and that language, I was letting days go by missing all that was already so good at this very moment.

I decided to change the thought pattern and start thinking about my single life as a whole entire life and so the journey began.

Step one was to identify all the things I’d been putting off for this imaginary future relationship I was going to be in one day. I’d suggest everyone do this exercise as it’s so invaluable as a tool for reflection.

What are the things you love doing but you only do when you have a date? What are the things you love but won’t allow yourself to enjoy until you’re someone’s “other half”? What could you do today but you don’t because you’d rather do it with a partner? How differently would you live your life if I told you you’d never be in another relationship again? Would you go to that restaurant you’ve been meaning to try? Take that trip? Start that business? Finally sort out your pension? Become a parent? Get your dream forever home?

If you’re in a relationship, you can play along too! What were the things your single self decided to delay until future you got a man? Are you keeping those promises past you made to future you?

Hopefully, the list you make will highlight things you love but you don’t allow yourself to enjoy because you've created some arbitrary rule for yourself about when and how you’re allowed to be happy. As if life isn’t hard enough. SMDH.

Making the list might also bring to light the various narratives you're subscribed to so you can re-examine why they're in your head in the first place. i.e. For me, I discovered I've been telling myself that I can’t be too joyful in singledom lest it scare off potential suitors because damsels in distress are hot and men have to feel needed in order to want to be with you. \n\n

Here’s an excerpt of my list so you can see how irrational it is and know that whatever is on your list, you’re not alone:

  • Wearing my favourite fanciest perfume and lighting my posh candles when I’m all by myself at home
  • Re-watching every episode of my favourite TV shows which I’m ashamed to say I was saving so I could introduce someone new to them and we could watch them all together
  • Booking an impromptu weekend away somewhere on my tod
  • Hobbies I'm keen on but don't do because I'm unlikely to meet eligible men (i.e. women's racing, sewing class, candle making)
  • Getting a dishwasher even when people laughed and asked why I need a machine to wash the dishes of just one person
  • Taking myself out on solo dates to dinner/standup/movies/etc instead of waiting for friends/tinder matches to be free to come along with me
  • Wearing non-wedding rings on my “wedding” finger because it’s “bad luck” even though that’s the only finger where one of my fave rings fits

The list goes on.

So, how do we all start to put this in action?

If you're single and feeling frustrated and fed up with trying to meet someone, ask yourself:

Why am I so focused on just that one piece of my massive life? What do I think finding someone will add to my life that I can't generate for myself right now? Go through your nice long list of delayed joys, pick something, and go do it. Best case scenario, you're happy and then someone comes along for the ride. Worst case scenario, you're happy. It's win win!

If you’re in a relationship or you have single women in your life, don’t proactively ask about them about their love lives again without first asking yourself:

What do I believe deep down about what it means to be single? How do these beliefs inform my responses to whatever their answer is? Xxx hasn’t mentioned her dating life so why am I bringing it up to her? Am I equipped to have a conversation with my friend that does not perpetuate the patriarchal narratives we’ve already decided belong in the bin? Without the platitudes I listed above, what can I add to the topic? When in doubt, let her bring it up.

The journey to dismantling old beliefs is not easy but I know deep down the journey will be worth it. I truly love this very whole single life of mine and I hope that one day, someone great will come along for the ride.

Who's with me?

No pressure, no commitment.

Just 20 minutes to share what’s on your mind

I sat down about an hour ago to write this week’s post on motivation (LOL) and in that hour, I’ve customised a PAX wardrobe on the IKEA website.

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