When people say “I don’t need a man / I don’t need a woman”, are they saying what they really mean?
Well, ladies and gents, it’s that time again. Time to look at another one of those often used statements that we all know and love, and have a look at what we really mean when we say it. Today’s statement:
“I don’t need a man / I don’t need a woman”
Brought to you today by our modern society, our emphasis on independence… and maybe some other factors affecting us in life.
We live in a society with a substantially decreased marriage rate. In fact, one statistic I was really surprised at is the number of married 20-somethings. The age when most people were tying the knot at a fairly high 68% of the age group in 1960 in the United States, the percentage fell drastically to 26% by 2008 (citation needed, here you go). It seems, though, that the talk about relationships and people’s desires haven’t really changed. All our TV shows and movies, especially the ones that make dollars, have some sort of presence or emphasis on romantic relationships. Whenever I talk to most people, marriage is definitely something that is important to them and a big part of who they want to be. You ask most people when they want to be married by, and a lot of people will still cite between 25 and 30. Some earlier, some later, but most people don’t see themselves getting married “much later than that”. Everyone’s reality is different, but just to point out that our desires seem to still be similar to our parents’ generations, even if it hasn’t worked out that way statistically. Similar statistics follow us around the globe.
So, what happened?
Well, “I don’t need a man/woman to make me happy”. “I don’t need a man/woman to live a fulfilled life”. “It’s not the only thing in my life”. All statements we will frequently use around the topic of relationships and marriage.
But what do we really mean? Here are a few different meanings for the statement. Now I’m not saying that people who use this statement believe all these things to be true. I’d just like us to consider whether or not the statement in and of itself is what we really mean, and point out that sometimes we actually mean one of these other things.
I actually am happy where I am
You know, there are actually people who use this statement in life who really do mean it. They legitimately give no thought to the world of relationships. It’s not even on their radar. They don’t mind other people getting involved, they actually enjoy celebrating the world of love that others enter into, but for them, it’s never been something they’ve even considered.
And not needing someone else in your life in order to feel like you have meaning and purpose? That’s good. There are a lot of people who enter into relationships who are still very unhappy people. Obviously our joy in life can transcend our relationship status.
But the more people I talk to, the more I’m convinced this group of people is very, very small, in the sense that marriage is still something that they would like to venture into at some point in life, or to venture into again. Not that they aren’t completely unsatisfied or hate their lives, but that there is a part of them that yearns for partnership and companionship. To enter into an existence where they don’t have to do all the road trips, meals, house moves or look after the kids by themselves.
So for all the people in that category who still use this sentence… why do we use it?
I don’t need a man or woman like the last one in my life
More often than not, this sentence is used immediately following a bad breakup, or a bad relationship experience. He didn’t text you back, she didn’t turn up on time or was distracted the whole time, he’s flirting with someone else, she shot you down, he promised the world but didn’t deliver, she promised to stay but didn’t… whatever it may be.
Louie Giglio in the series, “My Really Bad Date”, talks about why our dating experience is so difficult. He talks about all the baggage we bring into our relationships, and simulated our situations by pulling out these massive suitcases and putting them at the coffee table between two people talking. One of the suitcases he then opens, and pulls out a card saying “Him / Her”. After a pause, he looked at the audience and asked, “Do you know who this guy is? Do you know who this girl is? Who is it that instantly comes to your mind when I bring this one up? Who is that you still bring with you on all your dates”
Unfortunately our last experience is usually our most memorable one, and if it was a bad experience, it’s a bit more understandable why we might react by saying we’d be better off alone than with anyone remotely like that last one.
Double unfortunately, it means anyone who enters our lives who is actually worthwhile and would be a great blessing to us gets filtered out by our past experience.
I still have time to think about it
One of the great lies we tell ourselves in life – I still have time. We say this about a lot of things – time to say sorry, time to set things right, time to help people, time to do this that and the other. One of my friends really made me laugh when she was talking about her very culturally-aware mother and she was asking about the area of dating in her life. She told her mother that she was only 21 at the time and she still had time to work it out. Her mother came down on her as most family members do, and said “you don’t actually”. She pointed out that if she started dating at that age, or at least keeping her options and eyes open, that she may meet a few different people, have a few relationships that didn’t work out, and then need time to grow and develop with the right one, which is a process that could take a few years.
Family and married friends are especially notorious for reminding us that we should look alive and get to it.
When we think of our relationships in the scope of years, maybe we don’t have as much time as we think to play with.
I think with this one, we especially feel the pressures of time as we get older and older. The body wears on, the number of single people we know starts to dwindle, and we start to doubt if we’ll ever find anyone or get to start a family. I think we shouldn’t feel bad about it if we’re giving things a go and actively pursuing, or at least remaining open to, this area in our lives in our romantic ventures. But if our door is closed and we’re planning to open it later, I wonder if we may be unhealthily leaving things too late… and not for the right reasons, either.
Or maybe we’re not. Maybe appropriate partners still wait for us in the area of our future. It’s just interesting to see how long we’re willing to put it off sometimes.
I don’t know how to go about it
Meeting people can be hard. Sometimes when we’re telling others we don’t need a man or a woman in our lives, maybe we’re secretly frustrated that we really don’t know how to go about initiating that in our lives.
I think this would be a more healthy sentence to say if it’s the truth, and you know, sometimes even admitting that with the interested member of the opposite sex may be sufficient enough to start a conversation that leads towards togetherness. It’s amazing what happens when you tell people exactly what you tell everyone else.
It’s not a priority in my life
The Economist is one of the many major groups to investigate the phenomenon of decreasing marriage rates, and in one particular instance, focused on the implications and sources for this in South East Asia. In their analysis, they cited an increase in education as a driver for higher standards and expectations, as well as an increased priority on career.
Building a career can take time. Developing your education can take time. It can take a lot of effort. But strangely we may give it a higher priority than the relationships we develop in our lives. When it comes down to it though, it’s not that the roles of lover and industry professional are incompatible – perhaps it’s that we don’t know how to give them even priority or equal focus. Sometimes we feel that one is detrimental to the other. Can you date and study at the same time? Can you have a lasting marriage and a strong career at the same time?
Maybe we say we don’t need a man or a woman because we don’t know how to fit it in with all the other things we want to accomplish in life. A few of my friends cite a much more accommodating mantra when it comes to these apparently divergent priorities: date a boss, be a boss, build an empire. Sounds like a winning strategy to me.
I don’t really know how my life would work with someone else’s
On that note, one common line I hear following this statement is, “I don’t want anyone slowing me down”. All of us can be quite ambitious, and we all have dreams and ideas and achievements we’d love to see happen in our lives. Travel here, change the world there, be running our own Fortune 500 company by lunch time.
I guess this really shows maybe we don’t know how to do relationships in a way where we use them for their intended purpose – where two are better than one. Where instead of traveling to change the world alone, you do it with a team mate. Where instead of just running the company alone, we also have a smiling face that we’re doing it for.
The old ball and chain isn’t a ball and chain at all.
I’m sick of people reminding me how I feel about it
You know, behind this statement is often a heart that is actually really feeling defeated in the area of relationships. Too many heartbreaks, too deep a turmoil, too uncertain a future. We begin to write ourselves off before someone else has the chance to.
And we hold ourselves in so much bondage. We become so fearful of the relationships in our lives, or even the potential relationships in our lives. We yearn for love and companionship, and yet it continually seems to slip through our grasp. And more often than not, we’re the ones driving it away.
So yes, maybe we don’t need a man or a woman in our lives, but a lot of us really, really want that. And I don’t think that’s anything to be ashamed of.
I was talking to a friend recently, and in truth a number of people in the same category over the last few years, who had a number of people in their lives move the conversation on or get annoyed when they brought this desire of theirs up. “Oh, you can’t just want a relationship as the only thing in your life”. “Oh, it’s not enough to just want to be a mum/dad”. “Don’t let that be the only thing in your life”.
And I understand the sentiment of the statements their friends brought into their lives. But I don’t think we should be dismissing what is one of the truest and most noble of desires the human heart can experience. Not in the lives of others, and especially not in our own lives, constantly belittling and dismissing our desire by telling ourselves and others we don’t need anybody.
We were made for each other. Not for isolation. Not for solitary confinement. Together, and forever… or at least, until death do us part.
I was really moved recently when I was asked to help speak at a ministry run by some friends, in which one of the questions we were asked was about relationships. One of my friends who was sharing with me on that night cited something I had told them years ago that really helped them negotiate those difficult thoughts and feelings – “if God has put that desire in your life, then it’s there for a reason”. Years later they are now living in the reality of what they desired.
So don’t give up on love. Don’t give up on what God has for you in your life. And let’s not give up on men, or women. We all fall short, and we all hurt each other. But for the moments of partnership and strength we get to share together… doesn’t that make it all worth it in the end?
How about you? What are some reasons you think people say “I don’t need a woman” or “I don’t need a man”?