The Real Reason I’m Single

by Sarah on September 16, 2013

Lately I’ve started to wonder about my motivations for being single.

I mean, I’m not planning to change that status any time soon (or, most likely, ever) but I always thought it was just a personal preference.

I like being my own primary partner and the focal point of my own life.

But after some interesting conversations last week, I started to wonder if there was more to it.

You see, I don’t really trust myself to be in a relationship.

I have always considered myself a strong, independent woman.

And yet, I struggle hard to maintain my sense of self when I’m romantically involved or even just interested in someone.

It’s something I’m not proud of. In fact, it’s a part of myself that I’ve always hated and is probably why I’ve spent more than my fair share of time being celibate.

But last week I had a few realizations that were really freeing for me.

The first was recognizing that these habits and patterns are a part of me, but they are not me.

At my core, I am the strong, smart, indepdent, badass person that I want to be. And most of the time I show up that way in the world.

And the times when I don’t?

They’re not who I truly am. They’re just some icky patterns and stucknesses that I can probably figure out how to work through given enough time.

That doesn’t entirely solve the problem, but it did give me some distance from it.

So the next step was to ask myself, “Can I find some compassion for these habits and patterns that I don’t really like?”

And the surprising answer was yes.

I thought back to all the experiences in my life that led to this, all the moments in my life where I learned to hold back, to take care of other people first, to be silent, and I realized, hell yes. I can feel compassion for myself.

Considering the laundry list of shit I came up with, I’m actually doing pretty freakin’ well.

Then I saw this video, and was blown away by some of the things the speaker said, which have been haunting me for over a week now, because they speak to my own experience in so many ways.

This one, in particular, plays over and over in my head while I sleep.

“I was taught accomodation. My brother never thinks before he speaks. I was taught to filter.... We come from difference, Jonas. You have been taught to grow out. I have been taught to grow in.”

After hearing the speaker’s story, I realized that not only am I a product of my own personal and familial situation, but I am also a product of being raised a woman in this society.

And despite being raised to believe that there was no longer a problem for women, the truth staring me in the face shows something quite different.

So you’re damn right that I don’t trust myself to be in a relationship.

Because I don’t know yet how to break through all the of socialization I’ve received that says that woman are supposed to be passive and not appear too smart or have too many opinions or have sexual desires or ask for what they need or take care of themselves first.

It’s too easy to want to give things up.

It’s too easy to stay silent.

It’s too easy to lose oneself.

Maybe this isn’t the case for everyone. I would like to hope that there are some women out there who have been able to get out from under this giant heap of societal bullshit – who weren’t taught to shrink or start sentences with sorry or get smaller when men enter their space.

And I know there are many men out there who are great allies, who like strong women, and who try their best to not let these power dynamics play out in their relationships.

That’s nice and all, but it doesn’t necessarily matter. It doesn’t mitigate the privilege that already exists. And right now, the deck feels too stacked against us for me to even try.

So I choose to be single.

And not as in, once-I-figure-out-this-stuff-out-I’ll-change-my-mind kind of way.

But rather as in, this-is-the-most-empowered-way-I-know-how-to-be-in-the-world kind of way.

I’m committed to myself. I’m committed to trying to change the social structures and institutions that tell us we’re only valuable as part of a pair. And I’m committed to trying to help others learn how to be strong, independent, individuals so they can then make the choices that truly work best for them.

And that is why I’m single.


I saw this article after writing this post and was frustrated by #2, in particular. I’m pretty sure it’s never the “duty” of the oppressed to fix the problem, and saying that women just need to “stand up for themselves” more in relationships seems to me to deny the fact that there is so much socialization working against us. Thoughts? Leave ’em in the comments!

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Kaari October 3, 2013 at 7:51 pm

Oh. Oh, YES. That’s definitely part of it for me too. I got some cringing and sadness of recognition, reading this.

I don’t want to dig into it here, but I like myself on my own and I’m perfectly happy without a partner. It’d be nice to have someone to share the load, but I’ve never trusted that to happen and it hasn’t ever anyway. Which means relationships end up just adding to what I carry, not reducing them.

Which is related but maybe not the same thing? I dunno. It certainly is part of why I’m single.

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Rob September 25, 2013 at 10:38 pm

I can relate to what you’re saying about the fear of losing your sense of identity in a relationship. After my first “real” relationship, I was super-devastated for at least 18 months after I was dumped because I’d invested so much of my sense of self into being that particular person’s partner. It took me a while to rebuild my sense of self. Also, when I had my most severe bout of depression ever a couple of months ago, I started losing that sense of self again. It’s really quite unpleasant.

As a man, I don’t often have to think about pressures similar to the ones women are under. I feel very grateful for that. There are still some societal expectations of men. Brene Brown talked about a few of them, for example, “violence” was a core expectation of men (though this was limited to American culture, I’m not sure it applies in the UK where I live).

As I’ve been recovering from depression, I’ve been trying super hard just to completely live my life the way I want to. Fuck anyone else’s opinion (well, almost everyone!). I take great pride in the fact that my LinkedIn profile now is completely unprofessional. I see it as a bonus to include humour and stand out from the crowd. My new blog has lots of swearing and controversial views. But I find I’m really tuning in to my own voice.

The great part of this is that other people simply don’t seem to notice or care that much! That sounds bad, but actually it just means that I don’t need to worry about what anyone else thinks. I’m freeing myself from those mental traps we all put ourselves in. I feel like you’re on a similar journey. I’m thrilled to keep track of your progress!

Hugs

Rob

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Rob September 25, 2013 at 10:41 pm

Oh! I forgot to say! Apparently, according to this book I have about love, that phenomenon of losing your identity in the early stages of a relationship, it;s actually very common. And even better, it;s only temporary (for most people!). Apparently after 6-18 months, that initial intensity dies down again and we find ourselves able to focus on our individual personalities again. Does this hold true for you, I wonder?

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