solitude

What to say when asked why you're single.

Well, here we are.

It’s that time of year when you’re attending parties and stuff and people like to be curious (read: rude) and ask about your relationship status, assuming and asserting in their question that you’re doing something WRONG if you’re still single. Meanwhile they walk into the next room and have a co-dependent cat fight with the person they hate but can’t quit on or leave. And you’re like, “really? I’m supposed to want THAT for myself?”

Mmmm. I know you’re thinking #notallrelationships but, there’s a part of you that knows I’m right. Right? Right.

I’m sort of kidding here. Of course I know there are many people who find the loves their lives and feel really happy. But from conversations in coaching sessions and also with friends or peers, it’s been a real eye-opener for me how many relationships aren’t the wedded/partnered bliss that I once believed from what’s being portrayed. I think it’s important to unpack that and make it more real.

The questioning about relationship status happens whatever age you are but especially in middle and late adulthood, when social expectations about partnership and family are fierce. Being single during these years often has a negative stigma which is hilarious because I believe most people are more miserable than they are happily matched. Don’t let people make you think otherwise.

Is being single lonely? Sure. Sometimes.

Is being single awesome? YES! You get all the time to do all the things!

Is being single some indication of you being broken or weird or some other word because you don’t fit into a widely-regarded yet rarely-explored social norm? NOPE.

Finding a partner you truly love and respect is awesome. If you’re monogamous and that’s your thing, of course. Finding a happy partnership could, and should(?), really add benefit for your life. But being single has its merits and there’s no need to keep struggling and suffering about your status for yet another holiday season—and beyond.

Unlike what people may try to insinuate, being single may indicate you have one of three things:

1) taste- you don’t settle. It’s just not how you’re built. You have standards and you stick to them and don’t really feel inclined to deviate. Rigorously high standards? What IS too high, really? People don’t come with return receipts without some fallout so…you peruse the merchandise more carefully before choosing.

2) self-confidence- sure, being single can be weird sometimes when you’re hanging around a bunch of people who partnered up from fear of being alone (OFTEN) or because they actually love the person they’re with (RARE) but only if you think about it from the lens of lack. BE CONFIDENT and you will soon see things for how they really are. Hint: listen carefully when couples interact with each other. It reveals a lot.

3) patience- I mean, what’s the rush? Finding someone to be with just so you can fit in or feel “normal”? So you can spend your best years playing games or struggling in power dynamics that leave you exhausted? What if you waited until you’re more mature and got yourself figured out well and then find someone who has also done that work. EUREKA! Sounds like heaven to me. People used to get hitched so young because they had livestock to care for and needed bodies to tend the critters. These people also died by the age of 40. We aren’t there anymore. We can do things differently. Take your time.

***NOW. If you are single from fear of commitment or because you seem to have some behaviors that limit your emotional availability or…something else a coach or therapist can help you with, I suggest you look into getting some support. It IS worth exploring why you’re single if you feel fear or discomfort about your status.***

After being single for so many years (I’ve lost count now), someone asked me the other day if I wanted to be partnered again. It was interesting to be asked that and I wondered if it’s because it’s SUCH a cultural expectation even if you, like I, feel pretty content with your single-hood. While I grieved the person or the loss of my past relationships, I never really had baggage around being a single person. I see people strugging around it probably because they’re concerned with what people think of them. I do worry about this, for other reasons, but not because I feel insecure about being single. Being selectively single for this many years has allowed me time and space to witness other peoples’ relationships and reflect on my own over the years. All this introspection helps me be really clear and intentional about who I’d like to be and what I’d really want in my next relationship. And that’s exactly what I told the person who asked me.

I hope this is helpful if you’ve been feeling badly about being single or unsure what to say when asked about it. You may find even more peace if you consider how much the culture is obsessed with partnering up even when it doesn’t serve people or make them satisfied. And it’s amusing how people project their expectations onto you. People may even feel envious or, in some cases, even threatened by someone being single, often because they are unsatisfied in whatever arrangement they have and desperately crave the freedom that comes with single-hood. When they ask you, remember this, and you might inspire them with your empowered answer!!

If people come at you with their weirdness about your life choices, you can use one of these cleverly-crafted replies below. If you want to quote me, GO FOR IT. Share the love. ;)

Just do whatever you need to do to feel good about your status as a single person and take action to change it, only if you WANT to.

If people ask why you're still single, you can reply:

1) because I'm not insecure and don't need to fit into societal expectations

2) because I'm waiting to find an emotionally mature partner and haven't met that person yet

3) because I'm working on my own personal development until I feel confident and mature enough to make a good partner

4) I feel confident I will find the right person when the time is right, and I don't need to force anything

5) I'm content living by myself and enjoy my solitude

6) I'd rather invest in myself and my friends and not chase people around just to look "normal" 

7) I don't feel incomplete without a partner, so I can be patient to find the right one

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Surviving another Solo Christmas

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  Last Christmas, I shared a blog post about waking up alone on Christmas and it was pretty popular. I heard from friends, colleagues and even complete strangers and it felt great to write something that helped so many people.

I shared that story from five years ago because I couldn’t post what was actually happening last year. I was spending Christmas solo, despite the fact that I was in a long-term relationship, and it was just too painful to write about.

This year, because I know people are solo for so many reasons and could use some help, I'll share what happened last year. We can’t help people if we merely allude to it but aren’t actually sharing from our lives, I've really learned that this past year.

And so, I’m sharing what a difference a year made in my life. It began with surviving another solo Christmas last year. If you’re in a similar situation this year, see if anything I did helps you, too.

 

“Where are you Christmas

Why can't I find you

Why have you gone away

Where is the laughter

You used to bring me

Why can't I hear music play…”

 

This time last year, it was clear that the relationship I was in for the past five years wasn’t working, despite my best efforts. Granted, the start of my business and then my transition and the loss of my family led to many stressful times, but all couples experience stress. It's called life. The person I had chosen was ambivalent about committing to a partnership from the day we met ten years prior and I just refused to accept it and move on. Without safety and security, love cannot thrive and by last Christmas, things had deteriorated so badly that I chose to spend the week alone and house-sit for a friend.

I packed a bag and drove across the city. Even though it wasn’t the first time I’d be doing this, it was certainly more difficult. I went from anger to sadness to pure and total confusion and back again. Was I doing the right thing? Was I just spiting myself or was this really a good call? How would I feel waking up alone again, only this time in a stranger’s house?

I sat with those questions and eventually the feeling that I was doing something incredibly right for myself, claiming some self-respect where I had lost it so many times over the past few years, overrode most everything else. I’d drawn a boundary and claimed much-needed space for the holiday experience I wanted to create for myself.

 

“My world is changing

I'm rearranging

Does that mean Christmas changes too…?”

 

Christmas eve at three in the afternoon found me standing in the aisle of Whole Foods completely numb. The little green basket dangled from my hand as people passed all around me. I gradually made my way around, feeling grateful for the many years I spent working and shopping in health food stores; it felt like the home I needed. As I picked up the essentials of what I’d need for the week, I muttered to myself about the excess of food sitting back at my “home”. I bought a few cookies as a treat. This wasn’t a time for deprivation. It was Christmas, after all.

As I began to cook, my mood instantly lifted and the knot in my stomach loosened. I played Christmas music and sang along. The therapeutic process of self-care began to work its magic. When my confidence faltered, some writing and phone calls to my best friends helped restore it.

With each hour that passed, I realized my own strength and resilience. It takes tremendous courage to powerfully choose solitude and consciously embrace loneliness any day but especially around the holidays. I was doing it for the second time in my life. There is so much hype telling us that we need someone or something, either the perfect family or the perfect partner or perfectly-wrapped material items to feel included in “the spirit of the season” or make our lives complete. It isn’t true. I witness so many people talking about rushing around and being stressed out, it seems to miss the point of things.

I think that all we need is ourselves and whatever makes us happy.

I went to bed and slept well but when I woke up Christmas morning alone, I cried. I cried for my childhood that had been filled with stockings and piles of presents. I cried for a family I never see or hear from. And then, I cried for the time and energy I’d invested in a relationship that wasn’t working. I cried because I couldn’t understand and it wasn’t fair. I got it all out.

And then I made coffee and a couple of eggs and I might have had some chocolate, too. I got to make the rules that morning.

And then I realized that I got to make the rules for the rest of my life. I was done settling or feasting on scraps in any way. That decision led to many more I've made this year and, as a result, my life is rich and full of everything I want and need.

A year later, I am celebrating this Christmas as a triumph over last year. It was a rock bottom for me, as I hid out in a friend’s house and published an article that wasn’t telling the whole story of what I was enduring. I no longer feel like a fraud for posting pictures or mincing words to belie the reality of my life.

 

There's no tree this year.

No stocking.

Few presents to give or receive.

But I don't feel alone or deprived in any way. Actually, learning to adjust my expectations has allowed greater freedom and appreciation for what I do receive. I have an invitation to Christmas dinner. Two friends made me homemade goodies.

I feel happy and content with everything I've been given in the past and will receive in the future.

 

“I feel you Christmas

I know I've found you

You never fade away

The joy of Christmas

Stays here inside us

Fills each and every heart with love”

 

Whether you’re dealing with loss of family from death or estrangement, an unworkable relationship or something else, surviving a solo Christmas isn’t about surviving at all. It’s about finding strength in being alone or embracing the pain we feel from a loss somewhere in our lives. It's about remembering that things aren’t always what they appear in the lives of others. It’s about sitting with things as they are. It's about cherishing old memories and dreaming of ones you'll make in years to come and finding tremendous freedom and power in that future!

 

*lyrics to Christmas, Why Can’t I Find You? co-written by James Horner and Will Jennings and sung by Faith Hill