Recently, one of my parents’ friends asked me why I was still single. This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked, not by a long shot, but it’s the first time the person asking was operating from a position of, “I genuinely want to understand this, and whatever answer you give is valid,” instead of, “You would be so much happier in a relationship OMG why are you doing this to yourself.” So rather than give a knee-jerk response, I actually sat down and thought about it. A lot.
Given a choice of being in a less-than-great relationship or being alone, some of my friends will opt for the relationship. I had one friend who we all knew was planning to break up with a boyfriend because she’d start spending A LOT of time with his best friend, always making sure she had something on the line before ending her current relationship. I’ve seen a similar dynamic with several guy friends: when they meet someone new, they’re often technically still in a relationship with their previous girlfriend; they just don’t officially break it off until they have something new worth pursuing.
If that sounds like a criticism, it’s not. Yeah, several of them have stayed with partners who made them miserable, or jumped into bed with people who turned out to be real trainwrecks. But they constantly put themselves out there. They do the work of making themselves look good to catch someone’s eye. And sooner or later, they find someone who makes them happy.
When I’ve been in good relationships, I’ve been happy and kept the relationship going. But given a choice of being in a less-than-great relationship or being alone, I’m happier alone. And let’s face it: the early stages of dating are often pretty bad. So it’s hard to convince myself to go to a singles event or hang out in a bar/club where I’m probably not going to meet anyone I like, when I could be enjoying myself with friends and family, writing, or binge-watching Netflix, all of which are guaranteed to be good experiences. And I go through periods where looking my best to catch someone’s eye is less of a priority than the crisis du jour, so my wardrobe and workout routine aren’t always stunning. If I meet someone I like in a class or at a party, or perusing the shelves at the bookstore, I’m more than happy to pursue the possibility. But those events are few and far between, so there’s less possibility of clicking with someone and I have less practice making things work when a possibility does come along.
Do I sometimes regret that I’m not in a relationship? Sure. And if someone great came along, I’d love to be with them. But here’s the thing: Ask anyone who’s been married for more than a couple of years, and they’ve had moments where they didn’t want to be in that relationship. That doesn’t mean they made a wrong choice or squandered their chance to live their own life. I’m very happy with my life, and the fact that I’m not in a relationship doesn’t mean I made a wrong choice either.