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Not the marrying kind

John R. Ballew, M.S., L.P.C.

Have you ever noticed how many people assume that being single is supposed to be a temporary state?  With all of the focus on the right of gay folks to marry, sometimes it seems like gay men and women now have an obligation to marry – and quickly.  But what if being single is a choice, not a problem?  For some men, settling down feels like settling for less than they want.  They find themselves less interested in housekeeping and more interested in the independent single life.

Society pushes the idea that there is one way for an adult to live; sooner or later, we’re expected to spend our lives with our significant other.  That may be the best option for most people, but is it the choice for everyone?  Consider these guys:

  • Jim is 45 and has a wide circle of friends.  He’s devoted to his job right now, and doing very well for himself.  He’s single.
  • Walter is 30 and has been in and out of romantic relationships over the years.  He’s not ruling anything out, but he’s more interested in figuring himself out right now than he is in chasing down another boyfriend.  He’s enjoying the club scene and often dances the weekend away with friends.
  • Joseph is 75 and widowed, having lost his lover to cancer several years ago, but he’s far from a sad and lonely old man.  He has friends, including some friendships “with benefits,” he says with a smile.  He’s involved with several groups in his community and enjoys his independence.

Sure, many single men dream about finding Mr. Right and settling down.  But many men in relationships that have gone stale dream about cutting lose and being single again.  The grass, it seems, really does look greener on the other side of the fence.

Is it possible to be single and happy?  Social pressure can cause singles to doubt their choice or even feel guilty for enjoying their singleness.  They wonder:  Am I just deluding myself into thinking I’m happy?  Would I be doing the “right thing” if I put aside single life and hooked up with someone for the long haul?

A better question might be, “Am I enjoying my life?”  A little loneliness from time to time doesn’t mean it’s time to set up house with someone; it is very possible to be lonely in a relationship.  Getting involved with someone primarily to avoid loneliness is not the way to find a partner.  If you are enjoying your independence and also managing to get your needs met, what’s the rush to find a spouse?

Happy humans live in networks of relationships, regardless of whether they are single or coupled.  We need connection and intimacy of various sorts if we are going to thrive.  Lonely people may look to committed relationships the way a drowning man looks for a life raft, but healthy relationships rarely come to people who don’t already have it together enough to have friends.  Happy people have friendships, regardless of whether they are coupled or single.

Friendships can meet many of the needs of single people, provided those friendships are genuine and strong.  Having close friends you can count on when needed, men and women who can be counted on for company and mutual support, is infinitely preferable to being in a relationship you don’t really want.

And then there’s sex.  While there are studies that suggest married heterosexual couples have more sexual fulfillment than their single counterparts, it’s an open question whether the same is true for gay men.  Sexual pleasure is something many gay men take very seriously, and most single guys certainly know how to get their needs met.

Sometimes it is hard to know exactly what we want.  We drift along hoping someone else will give us the answer to life’s questions.   Four things to think about:

  • Does your life feel balanced and fulfilling, or does something feel like it’s missing?  If something’s missing, don’t expect a boyfriend to magically fill up any empty spaces.  How varied is your social life?  If you only socialize in one place (clubs and bars, for instance), you are more likely to become bored with your circle.
  • Is there room in your life for a partner, or are you pursuing other aspects of life right now?  No problem there – as long as you’re not hiding from intimacy by becoming a workaholic.  If you’ve got compulsive patterns in your life regarding booze, drugs, sex or work, you may be avoiding intimacy, not choosing the single life.
  • Are your needs for intimacy getting met?  We’re not only talking about sex here.  Are there people in your life you can count on, share the ups and downs of life – people who really know you?
  • What do you see down the road 5 or 10 years from now?  Can you imagine being satisfied with how you’ve spent your time, or do you imagine having regrets?

Having a successful life doesn’t come from finding the perfect mate.  A successful life comes from living your life exactly the way you choose to.