If you’re single, and especially if you’ve been single for a while or for a lifetime, chances are you’re going to be asked, “Why are you single?” But you’re not just going to be asked it by family, friends, and countless Joe Schmoe’s who really should mind their own business. You’re going to ask yourself that question too from time to time, and probably more than you should.
Nobody ever stops to think that maybe you want to be single or whether you’re choosing it because of particular circumstances. Because the assumption is that you want to be in a loving, committed relationship of sorts. Let’s face it: That’s a pretty good assumption to make. But if you are one of those rare folks who wants to stay single at least for some time, what I’m going to say next is probably not going to interest you. If you are in the majority of people who are single and somewhat looking, well, read on.
Now back to the question, “Why are you single?” The question is annoying. The question leads to self-doubt and worry. But maybe even worse than either of these, is that the question leads to overthinking. Because truly, there are a million and one reasons why you could be single. You don’t “put yourself out there” or whatever the hell people mean by that. You always seem to fall for the “wrong” kinds of people. Beats me what that means too. Like and love seems to be part choice and part chance and part chemistry, and all the rest. No matter how much science wants to explain love, it’ll never be able to do so in its entirety. (Sorry science!) Perhaps you suck at going after what you want. Perhaps you’re not vulnerable enough for the people that you attract. Perhaps you’re just a really shitty person. Perhaps, perhaps perhaps. The possibilities are endless!
Recently, I was asked that question, “Why are you single?” And rather than give my usual sarcastic or self-deprecating responses (or tell the person to bugger off), I gave a rare sincere answer, “I think the most honest answer I can give you is that I have not been able to really find someone who likes me as much as I like them. It’s usually one or the other, and it’s just never been right.” When I gave that answer, it was an accidental “aha” moment. A moment that gave me a lot of clarity about singleness, romance, and love.
Now there are a lot of ways I have psychoanalyzed myself and have allowed others to do so. I have been told I’m not vulnerable enough, I don’t put myself out there enough, and I come from a complex cultural upbringing, so connecting with me on an intellectual level is not particularly easy. I’ve been told I come off as disinterested, I have ugly duckling syndrome, and probably more than anything else, that I’m too picky. Now there might actually be truth to some of these things but I can point out people who have these “issues,” and still have been or are in romantic relationships. So are these the real reasons?
When you are single in a world where you are “supposed” to fall in love and that you want to fall in love (at least I do), it’s easy to forget that everybody is imperfect and your relationship status has nothing to do with that. Even if I have flaws in great numbers, like everyone else, I can say with absolute confidence that I have positive qualities too – qualities that I think many people would be attracted to. And I think that is true for almost all single people. You have flaws but you also have wonderful things that make you, you. And believe it or not, you will probably find that your perceived imperfections are sometimes the things that make you most attractive to people. Life is weird, isn’t it?
So you’re probably thinking at this point, “Yes, all of this is true but I’m still single.” And maybe add to that, “…and I don’t want to be.” Well the thing is you can do and be all the right things in this world, and still be single anyway. That’s just how life is. I can’t help you with that. If I could I would but I just can’t. Life is unfair that way. But maybe instead of beating yourself up and wondering what’s wrong with you, maybe try and look at your situation as objectively as possible. Are you really single because of your imperfections? Because have you met people in relationships? They have those imperfections too. Think about it.
It will get harder as you get older to put a smile on your face when you don’t feel like smiling. You will have days where being happy for others feels forced and inauthentic. You will have days where you cry because you feel a particular loneliness at your lack of romantic love. You will have days where all you feel is tired. Please don’t let those days define you. You are human. You want love. And that’s okay. It’s okay to want that and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But regardless of what the future holds for you and your relationship status, don’t be so unkind to yourself and think that you alone bear deficiencies that make you undesirable or unloveable. Maybe at this time or in your lifetime so far, chance and choice and chemistry have just not come together for you in the beautiful, spectacular way they do. Maybe you honestly just haven’t met someone who likes you as much as you like them. Maybe there’s just nothing to overthink beyond that.
But if you must think about something, I hope you’ll remember this Warshan Shire quote – it’s helped me see the light after every lonely night, failed almost relationship, and unrequited love: “And you tried to change, didn’t you? Closed your mouth more. Tried to be softer, prettier, less volatile, less awake… You can’t make homes out of human beings. Someone should have already told you that. And if he wants to leave, then let him leave. You are terrifying, and strange, and beautiful. Something not everyone knows how to love.” Especially that last part, never forget that last part, “You are terrifying, and strange, and beautiful.”
So try to be happy. Try to carry around a heart that is full and open, and one with no room for bitterness or resentment. Try to keep your sense of humor and your childlike wonder. Try to take chances and risks, and enjoy the adventures without worrying too much about the ending. Try to stay grounded and try to stay hopeful. Try being the you, you love. And keep trying. I can’t promise that you’ll get the guy or girl, or that you’ll have a lifetime of romantic love and commitment. But I do believe that when you do these things, you’ll find yourself always in a loving and healthy relationship with someone you have to be with every day anyway – you.