Being in my mid-twenties, my peers are starting to get a little more serious about their lives. Instead of Facebook photos of binge drinking at frat parties, my newsfeed is flooded with articles about life and love and relationships. My friends are starting to marry, and with the concept of matrimony being realized in our lives, everyone has something to say about it. Articles like I’m Dating Someone Even Though I’m Married, 10 Habits of Healthy Couples, and 10 Things I Learned Before I Got Married are constantly at the top of my newsfeed. In fact, I just scrolled through Facebook for less than three minutes to find those examples.
While I wholeheartedly agree with the sentiments (relationships are constant work, you need to have realistic expectations from the stat, you shouldn’t stop trying just because you’ve gotten comfortable, etc), I feel like no one is covering the other side. For a lot of people, all of the work you have to put into relationships is exhausting and intimidating. Truly, in some ways it’s easier to be alone, at least while you’re young and figuring out your life and career. And the truth of the matter is – that’s fucking hard, too.
I’m a single parent of an awesome, vivacious, terribly messy three year old, and I work 40-45 hours a week. When I read articles about how much work it is to keep a relationship up, I chuckle to myself. Yeah – it definitely is – but being alone is just as much work. I don’t have a husband to divvy up chores with or to help pay the bills or to ask for help with dinner after a shitty day. When you’re alone, instead of working on a relationship with someone else, you have to work on your relationship with yourself. Instead of having little arguments about who will do what, you have to learn to balance your time and do shit on your own without stretching yourself too thin, but also without letting housework and self care fall to the wayside.
You have to learn to love yourself. To be okay with your own company when no one else is around. Instead of keeping a romantic spark alive, you have to keep your own spark alive. Do things that make you happy. Take up yoga. Start painting. Find things to entertain you. Strengthen your friendships. Call your mom. Read. Whatever. It’s way easier to sit on the couch with a bag of popcorn, a bottle of wine, and a remote control all day (and trust me, I do that once in a while too), but if you do that all the time, your relationship with you will suffer.
All the articles I’ve read lately are about how tough successful marriages are, but my point is that it’s not just long term monogamy that’s hard – life is hard. You still have to work to find balance and peace no matter what your relationship status is. You’ll have times of conflict and times of immense joy whether you’re flying solo or riding shotgun, and happiness in general is something you’ll always have to be consciously working towards and maintaining. Most importantly, whether you’re dating someone else or yourself, don’t half-ass it. If you want a fulfilling, healthy, happy life, give whatever relationship you’re working on one hundred and ten percent. Life’s hard sometimes no matter who you’re with, but living and enjoying it is the most important thing you’ll ever do. Make the best of it, be prepared to work no matter which path you find yourself on, and try not to take it too seriously.