Hi, single people!
I know you’ve heard the rumors — that being in a relationship is actually all it’s cracked up to be. And I hate to be the bearer of bad news– oh, who am I kidding? I LOVE being the bearer of bad news. Relationships are awesome!
Okay, not all relationships are awesome. Some are boring, some are car crashes, and some are like an acclaimed foreign film that everyone pretends to ‘get’ so that they don’t have to hear any more about how deep/ interesting/ wonderful it is. It’s true that it’s better to be alone than in a bad relationship. But there’s nothing in the world like a good one.
For some of us, nothing feels more urgent than loving another person. Nothing comes more natural, nothing is more fulfilling, and nothing puts a smile on our faces like waking up next to the warmth of another body. Not just any body, either. A body whose curves we know, whose flaws we memorize, whose touch calms and ignites us all at once. The body that walks next to us, envelopes us when we’re cold, and doesn’t shrink away from our feet or our feelings. For people like us, being in a solid relationship is better than any high. And it’s definitely better than a score of horrifying OKCupid dates.
I think the general argument in favor of being single is that you’re 100% autonomous and independent. But that’s not actually true, is it? Because most people have friends. Or a family. You probably have a job. Maybe some debt. You have things and people to whom you’re obliged on some level, unless you’re a total sociopath or the Unabomber. Being a member of society means compromising. Life is about compromising, about picking battles. You can’t escape that, relationship or not.
It seems to me that most people have no problem compromising in their everyday lives and yet! When it comes to romantic relationships, chronically single people pull the independence card. They do the ‘I’m not willing to sacrifice XYZ’ dance. But if you equate relationships with sacrificing what’s important to you, you’re in the wrong relationship. Relationships aren’t about sacrifice. (Even someone who isn’t willing to ‘sacrifice’ their right to sleep around can land themselves a healthy, open relationship). There’s a distinction between the right person and the right relationship — they aren’t the same thing. The right relationship won’t ask you to sacrifice parts of yourself.
No friends, relationships are about compromise. They’re about giving and taking without keeping track, without wanting to keep track. They’re human connections, not a bar tab. This is what makes a good relationship the legitimate best thing in the world. You can’t fake or force a human connection. You can’t travel the world in search of it, you can’t make a call and order it, you can’t take out your checkbook to solve the problem (but that’s probably because no one uses checks anymore). Love is bigger than you.
My point is this: you can always live with yourself. That’s basic. That’s how you came into this world. What you can’t do is make love spring from thin air. What you can’t do is control how someone else feels. All you can do is be yourself, be open, be hopeful. You can fall, you can fail, and you can recover. You can test your strength time and time again, not by hiding under a shroud of independence but by not being afraid to open up and potentially get hurt. Relationships are every bit about testing and reassessing your own character as they are about the bond you have with another person.
Relationships make you a little more selfless, a little more considerate. They introduce you to world views you may have not considered before. Relationships are an invitation to experience life through someone else’s filter on the most intimate level possible. You can be as independent and free as you want, but knowing how and when to compromise is an integral part of being a human being. And there is no better teacher than the relationship.
The right relationship won’t stop you from discovering the world or yourself. It will motivate you. It will challenge you and inspire you. Of course, it’s great to be able to motivate on your own — I would argue that it’s necessary — but when you’re done conquering the world for the day, wouldn’t you rather spend your nights next to someone who loves you?