Single and Happy
Have you ever noticed how many assumptions we make about relationships and singleness? One of the biggest is that being single is a temporary state and therefore not that important. You’ll only be single until you meet the right man. We tend to think of being single as a transitional time. For some of us that is true; for others, singleness is a long-term way of life. Either way, many of us will spend at least a large part of our lives single.
Thinking of singleness as transitory means that it is easy to spend more time looking for or anticipating our next relationship rather than cultivating life right now. Some people defer plans; they will buy a house, or start saving for retirement, or plan that trip when they meet Mr. Right. Or worse: they have no life goal other than to find a mate! Being single seems too transient to take seriously. But months turn to years; we look back and realize we’ve been deferring plans and missing out in the process.
This life is not “practice,” single or not. It makes no sense to believe you must defer your happiness until you are part of a relationship. Relationships seem to work best with people who are already happy.
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.
Being happy means getting your important needs met. These needs include desires for intimacy, friendship and connection with others. Are there friends you can rely on when you need a helping hand? Men or women with whom you can share the joys or sorrows that are part of the fabric of every life? What about someone you can tell your innermost thoughts to and feel accepted and acknowledged? (Someone once defined a true friend as “someone who knows you as you truly are…and who likes you anyway.”)
Some of us are extroverts by nature. We relish the company of friends, and we are always out doing things with them. We feel energized by being around others. Others of us are introverts. We find that being around other people can be tiring; we recharge our batteries by making time to retreat and be by ourselves. As in the rest of life, finding the balance that works for each of us as individuals is the key.
You are short-changing yourself if you are so focused on finding a boyfriend that you neglect cultivating friendships. A well-rounded life includes having a diverse group of relationships with which support and nourish us. Even if you find a partner in life, it is usually neither healthy nor possible to get all of your social needs met by one person. Friends are the fabric of which life is made.
Even if you have a host of friends, if you find yourself using them to avoid facing the fact that you feel incomplete when you are by yourself, you have some work to do. An important a part of happiness is the ability to enjoy your own company. What do you do when you are by yourself? Can you enjoy a book or doing something like going to the movies by yourself? Or do you find that you are never alone, or that you are bored and restless when you are by yourself?
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 its 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 problems 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 leading your life exactly the way you want to lead it.
I have been licensed by the State of Georgia as a professional counselor for more than 25 years. My areas of specialty are relationships, intimacy, sexuality, anxiety and depression. My passion is helping people build happier lives and stronger relationships.
I know it isn’t always easy to talk about problems. My approach to counseling is nonjudgmental and compassionate. If you have questions, I welcome the opportunity to talk with you about working together.
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Whether you've worked with a therapist before or are exploring counseling for the first time, you probably have questions. It is important to have the information you need to make a good decision when selecting a therapist. I welcome your questions -- about your specific situation, about me or about my approach to therapy. Making things better can start with an email, or you can call me at (404) 874-8536.