LifeDating

Why ‘Self-Partnered’ Is The Term We’ve Always Needed

British Vogue interviewed Emma Watson for their latest issue in which she discussed her life as an activist and living in the spotlight after her portrayal of the frizzy-haired Hermione.

With Emma’s impending 30th birthday coming nearer, she brought up the prying questions she gets about her private life. Because apparently being a successful actress and UN Women Global Goodwill Ambassador isn’t enough.

They’re insecurities for a lot of us. Milestones in our lives that Aunt Barbara passive-aggressively asks about at the Thanksgiving table.

“Why aren’t you married yet?”

“You need to have kids before you dry up.”

“By your age, I already bought a home!”

I grew up in Central Florida. The city is known for Disney, but there’s a whole lot more that exists beyond the amusement park gates. Beyond Mickey and Pluto, there’s a whole lot of suburbia.

That’s where I grew up. Aside from hitting up the local mall on the weekend, there wasn’t much else to do. So my friends and I created things to do, in the form of house parties and drinking beers while rafting down rivers. And that carried on until I moved away to Los Angeles.

Had I not left, I know my life would’ve been different. I see the updates from people I knew in high school: the beautiful wedding or announcement of their third child.

That could’ve been me. In fact, that would’ve been me. Before I left for Los Angeles, I had the set notion that I’d be married by the time I’m 26 and having kids by 28.

Oh, how tiny my bubble was.

I’m now 27 and have neither a husband nor mini carbon copies of me.

But I felt the same pressure as Emma discussed in her interview; I was a failure because I wasn’t hitting life-milestones when everyone else did. People are getting married, and I can’t even commit to fostering a cat. There must be something wrong with me, I thought.

Those pressures built up and, for a long time, drove the decisions I made in life. I took on careers I thought would impress people back home. I dated good-looking guys and held onto relationships that weren’t healthy, solely for the sake of finding someone to lockdown.

I did all of this until one day, my depression barreled in, tornado-style and tore everything down inside me. I didn’t see why at first, but there was so much unhappiness in my life I chose to ignore that my body finally decided to shut everything down, including my emotions.

I spent that following year doing two things: staying single and figuring out what would genuinely made me happy in terms of career and everyday life.

I accomplished both, which I’m pretty fucking proud of.

And while I’m stoked to have found writing for my career, I want to talk about the former aspect of what I did. Choosing to forgo relationships.

The word “single” carries quite the stigma with it. Single people are seen as sad, lonely, and sometimes desperate, even more so if you’re a woman.

Everyone single wants not to be. Love is the ultimate quest in life. With it carries all the answers.

That’s bullshit, though. And it’s completely disregarding the beauty that comes from choosing to be single.

During my one-year dating hiatus, I discovered a lot of things about me. Not just in terms of my shitty choices in men, but in terms of my self-identity too.

I wasn’t really single during that time; I dated myself. That’s why I love that Emma used the term “self-partnered” when she described her status. Being single is one thing; learning to love yourself while you’re not in a relationship is a whole other.

And the movement isn’t just in the words of the Harry Potter actress; Lizzo resonates with millions through her anthems on how much it rocks to be single. Selena Gomez even released an album on the importance of accepting one’s self outside of a relationship.

Self-partnership isn’t a new concept, but it’s putting a term to something people need to embrace more.

During my time being self-partnered, many changes happened that wouldn’t have occurred if I were in a relationship.

Since my time was mine to allocate, I focused on creating goals I wanted to pursue. I dabbled in what I thought could get me to those goals. I spent my free time being alone, figuring out what made me happy. I re-discovered my love for drawing while realizing football is actually really boring.

I watched The Holiday for several nights in a row with no one to judge. I dyed my hair pink sans any fucks given for someone else’s opinion. I ate my food without a looming fork, waiting to steal a bite.

I learn the difference between loneliness and solitude. I learned to cherish my time. I spent more of it reading books, sprawled out on my bed because it didn’t have to share it with another body.

I raised my standards for who I chose to get into a future relationship. I decided that I needed to maintain healthy boundaries in my love life. I needed to find someone that I could still do all the things I loved while I was self-partnered.

But I needed that time alone to love myself to get to these realizations.

We’re fed fairytales as soon as we’re born: a princess will be saved by her prince and live happily ever after. But that isn’t the case, it’s not healthy and why would it make sense that everyone’s fairytale look the same?

There’s no set timeline on when we should be married or having kids. That’s all a self-constructed notion created by people in a time when things were much different than they are today. There’s no rule-book for life; we have to just live it in whatever way makes us happy.

If that’s getting married to your high-school sweetheart at 24, then congrats to you.

If you prefer to chase a career you love instead of love, then have at it.

But let’s not shame people for not being in a relationship by a certain age. There’s no need to feel like you need to rush to a finish line when it comes to something as important as a life-partner.

Instead, let’s celebrate the glorious aspects that can come with not being in a relationship. Let’s shift our mindset from “single” to “self-partnered.”

Because in the end, our soulmates are really just ourselves.

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Writer and advice columnist for relationships Follow Kirstie on Instagram or read more articles from Kirstie on Thought Catalog.

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