We get it. You can live a good life while you’re single. But I really think the point is hammered to the point of being obsessive, to the point that we worship being single.
It feels like every day I see at least 10 articles or memes about how awesome it is being single, including and not limited to clickbait-y GIF loaded posts like on HuffPost, those that are more inspirational and reflective in nature, and even posts by faith based Relevant Magazine. All of them labour the same points – you get to work on yourself, you don’t have to hate your life just because of your relationship status, you can do all the things you want alone before involving someone else, it’s a good chance for self discovery, and that there are some great people throughout history who dominated the single life. From Mother Teresa to Jesus to Joan Of Arc, you’re in good company, so you do you girl (or boy… you get the point).
These articles number in the tens of thousands. Seriously.
And comparatively, the attached life does not get as thorough a set of advertising. Getting hitched or tied down is not really in most company’s marketing strategies. Most relationship writing is there to tell you how to deal with your partner, and not necessarily the benefits of such a relationship (if any).
As I’ve read more and more, I have really seen that the “being single is the best thing until the second coming of Christ” message is one of the most repeated messages on the Internet, and often one of the most popular.
But see, I just really don’t like the way this message has been glamourized to the point of, well… worship.
Most media outlets, well meaning bloggers and big companies worship being single in their marketing and writing. I’ve seen few other things online that have received such treatment (although Harambe gave it a run for its money at one stage).
Do I think it’s bad to be single? Not at all. But I think it’s gone too far the other way. Here’s a few reasons why I have a problem with how we worship being single.
#1: Because being single isn’t the only time you can work on yourself
I think one of my absolute pet hates with much of the writing on the topic of singleness is this one line. You would have heard it many times before. Say it with me, class – “Being single is a time for you to work on yourself”.
My problem with this is that it’s being inferred that if you were in a relationship with someone, you are unable to work on yourself.
Many people in our generation are now struggling between work and love. In previous generations, and indeed as I have discovered with many of my European friends in their cultures who laugh at the difficulties experienced by people in the West, there is no struggle between work and love. Can you date and go to university at the same time? Of course! Can you study theology, philosophy, and psychology whilst studying up on the life of a potential partner? Go right ahead. Do you have enough hours in the week to progress your career and deepen your love life? Absolutely.
And yet there is this overarching theme that once you’re locked in with a partner, that’s it, you’re just stuck the way you are. You’ll never improve. You’ll never change. You won’t ever again be able to pursue the things you want or better yourself.
I really loved an article on LinkedIn that got a lot of traction by Tim Denning entitled 16 Things Your Successful Friends Have Given Up. Click that link – seriously well thought out. In the post, Tim states that successful people have given up on being single: “Their partner is the one who supports them through all of the challenging times, and reinforces their successful nature. Your successful friends know that they need a good man or woman to come home to.”
Further to this point, in a room of people who were discussing the benefits of being single, one of my friends who noted the overwhelming tone of the conversation suggesting the superiority of the solo life bravely said, “Hang on a minute guys, there’s no way your life is better than mine. You were just complaining about who you would hang out with later. I know who I’ll hang out with later – my wife. I know who I’ll have dinner with. I know who I can share my dreams with. I know who I’m going home to later. You don’t have that. There’s no way what you’re suggesting could be better”.
All that said, do I disagree with the sentiment that being single is a good time to work on yourself? Not at all, it is a good time. But so is when you’re dating. So is when you’re engaged. So is when you’re married.
Success and relationship status aren’t two mutually exclusive things, people. And often a partner will help you become more than you are.
#2: Most reasons for adoring singleness actually glorify isolation
I’ve noticed a dangerous recurrence in the “single is the closest thing you can get to being in heaven” articles in that they continually tell us that we can do so much by ourselves. Go build an empire, go travel the world, go make a difference by yourself.
Hey, it’s cool, we get it, you don’t have to wait for a partner before you start living your life. Regardless of your relationship status (see above), you can achieve great things!
But why are you now telling me that it’s all about doing it alone?
Anxiety and depression are two of the biggest killers in our world today, and they are exacerbated by loneliness. By making ourselves islands, attempting to carry everything ourselves, being self made, we are being unmade and destroyed.
We need other people. I know you want to tell me singleness is awesome, but careful how you say it. Don’t repeat to me that I can do it all by myself, because I can’t. Sure, you may not have a partner right now, but you still need friends, family, colleagues. As John Maxwell says so aptly, “Teamwork makes the dream work”.
#3: Sexual addiction and pornography are at an all time high
Can we talk about this one?
Do you know how popular pornography is in the 21st century? It’s always been an industry throughout human history, but thanks to technology and a sexually unfulfilled populous, is now currently estimated to be $97 billion in size.
Why is this relevant to the issue of singleness? Because many single people have replaced real, healthy human relationships with the images they consume via their browsers. Men and women alike are bewildered and enchanted by the fantasy escape that porn provides.
Many people are single, but because of porn, many are still in a sexual relationship… just with something that isn’t real.
Porn can’t reject you like people can. And while we keep hammering on about how great it is to be by yourself, millions of people every second are searching online for a fix they would have found by progressing their relationship from dating into the stages of marriage and physical intimacy.
Why would you have a real man who can go for less than 10 minutes (if that) when the injected dude in the video can go for 45? Why pick a real woman when she doesn’t know all the perfect angles like the team of 20 who worked on your favourite naughty flick?
A really great, well researched and well supported group called Fight The New Drug have some great articles and resources to this point. I would highly recommend going through their material.
And yes, your relationship status doesn’t stop you being a porn consumer. Marrieds and singles alike are consumers. But the danger for singles (and really any person) is that we lose our ability to relate with the opposite sex because “being single is the best thing ever” and I can get my sexual fix online without human interaction.
What a horribly lonely state of affairs. If you love sex, and most people do, and most people have strong sexual desires, you really should be moving towards relationship in your actions, and not watching unrealistic fantasy that is masking the true fulfillment of your needs.
Sexuality is a massive dimension of our humanity. Neglect through “singleness is awesome” campaigns is just making people more sexually frustrated than they already are.
#4: Because it makes the bar impossible for anyone to attain love
The truth about people is that we are entirely flawed. We don’t have it all happening, we make mistakes, we’re still trying to find our path.
And yet the stigma behind many articles and books that worship being single is how awesome someone will have to be to change that.
I’m all for having standards, but I think in our pursuit to make ourselves feel better about being single, we have raised the bar beyond the realms of human possibility. And so you have many people into their old age not having any real dealings with the opposite sex because “you have to be this tall to ride the ride”, to the point where no man or woman could ever compete with the expectations you’ve built up idolising your singleness.
I think we just need to take a chill pill and not be so completely extreme in our views on relationships. Singleness can be a great gift, and it is an important season in life, but if we continue to worship being single based on the views put forward to us so emphatically, we won’t transition as we need to.
Do I think being single is awful? No. I just think let’s stop holding it on a pedestal to the expense of our own progress, our relationships, our sexuality and our ability to love.
What do you think? What has been your experience with views on being single?