What If The Secret To A Good Relationship Is To Stop Being Scared Of Being Single?

I mean am I crazy or…?

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Photo by Alisa Anton on Unsplash

Look, it’s a longer headline than I’d typically recommend, but just go with it. I was standing at my kitchen counter this morning, gathering ingredients and having fake arguments in my head with people who don’t exist, and a thought came to me: If we were less scared to be single, would bad relationships even exist? If we weren’t afraid of being alone, wouldn’t we just…leave? (This argument, of course, excludes relationships that involve abuse and dangerous situations were leaving is unsafe or extremely difficult.) I was thinking to myself that after two years of writing and podcasting about how much being single doesn’t have to suck, I’m going to be absolutely outstanding at walking away from genuine bullshit. I’m not afraid to be single, therefore I’ll never stay in a bad relationship in order to avoid it. In other words, am I a golden god? Let’s explore.

How do we shed the fear of singlehood? Until we do, it’s more likely that we’ll rationalize away things we don’t like about our partners, slowly building up tiny resentments like a collection of human teeth we keep in a drawer, and eventually exploding into some unfortunate behavior like throwing all of their belongings off a balcony, 90s movie style. I think it’s done in two ways:

  1. Acknowledging that being single has had really bad PR
  2. Having self worth so that you don’t settle for less than what you want

It isn’t complicated per se, but it can be challenging when all you’ve ever known is that “ending up” (ps-when the fuck does “end up” start? Forty? Fifty? Tuesday?) single is to be avoided like a puddle of curb water festering in the August sun. If all you’ve ever been fed are cautionary tales and warning signs coupled (purposeful pun) with outlandish wedding celebrations for people who accomplish the Nobel-level task that is…wait for it…agreeing to continue to sleep with the person they’re currently sleeping with, but now with jewelry, you’re bound to hold a view that singlehood is pretty shit. This, darlings, is a lie.

It is my belief that being single isn’t a bad, wrong, or shameful thing. A miracle, when you consider that I was born in the early 80s and fed a steady diet of Chicken McNuggets and Disney films. Above all else, I should fear becoming the crazy old spinster down the street that lets her lawn grow over and is certain the government implanted a chip in her brain. Where I grew up, she literally existed, her name was Agnes. But at some point in my mid 30s I decided I could either keep clawing away at Tinder, convinced by hope and myth that my husband was hiding in there somewhere instead of acknowledging the truth of the fact that in ten years of online dating, he hadn’t been, OR, I could take a look around at single life and ask myself what was actually so bad. As it turns out, not much.

Freedom’s just another word for never sharing the remote control. Honestly when you stop looking around at how much boyfriend you don’t have and start recognizing how much freedom you do have, it’s unfathomable to me that anyone still puts up with partners who expect to be taken care of refuse to talk about feelings belittle you in public and let your ass sink into cold toilet water in the middle of the night because they can’t be bothered to flip down a fucking seat. If you think being single sounds worse than that, come here and let me hug you. A whole bed to myself will always be preferable to being with someone I have to bitch at and painstakingly negotiate with more often than I simply exist with in peace. We fear the idea of being single so much that we’ll put up with the reality of a relationship that makes us unhappy. Y’all, that’s fucked.

Being single is as free, fun, and full as you decide you’re going to make it. This is hard when you have your head down in a dating app all the goddamned time, because you’re constantly swiping through reminders that you’re alone, and you don’t like it. Of course you don’t, when your life revolves around dating, which fucking sucks. You’re missing out on opportunities to show yourself how much more there is to singlehood than searching for partnership. Maybe stop?

The second part is not settling for less than you deserve, which is much easier when you’ve accomplished task #1: identifying all the good parts about single life like freedom, potential, possibility, and never sharing snacks. It is a discussion of self worth. How high is yours? Is yours walk-away-from-bullshit-you-don’t-deserve high? Or stick-around-because-this-is-better-than-nothing low? I guarantee you that you deserve better than better than nothing. Me telling you isn’t going to do much though, you have to know it for yourself. If it helps, you were born. You exist on earth, and as such you are just as worthy and deserving as any other person on the planet. Nothing about you makes you inherently less valuable than anyone else, and certainly not less valuable than someone who makes you feel like shit.

When you have low self worth, you settle for less than what you want, because you don’t think you deserve it, and you don’t think you’ll find it. Deservingness has to come from inside you, but I think I can help with making you feel better about the finding part. I can’t tell you how to meet your partner (and if anyone tries to sign you up for some bullshit online course telling you that they can, keep your money). But I can show you proof that meeting someone is possible. Even better, you can show yourself.

Think of every couple you know, every couple you’re related to, every famous couple that’s never in the tabloids. They all met. In endlessly different ways. It happens. People connect, people find each other. All around you is living proof. Stop seeing that proof as evidence of what you don’t have, and start thinking of it as proof of what’s possible. Don’t just see to believe. See to relax. See to take comfort and confidence in the fact that there’s nothing more special or better about all the people currently in couples. They’re people, imperfect and human, just like you. Couplehood was just something that’s happened to happen to them by chance, fate, and luck. There’s nothing they did or orchestrated to be in a place at a time that was exactly perfect for the purpose of meeting someone. They were living their lives, and it happened. Just live yours. And if you’re not scared of being single, and you know you’re worth more than the bare relationship minimum, my guess is that you’ll live a lot easier.

Being single isn’t the worst thing you can be. Far from it. Societal judgements and the negativity of singlehood are lying to you, because someone lied to them first. And anyway, are those judgements doing anything to help? Is someone who judges you for being single also ready and able to introduce you to your partner? No? Then they don’t have a dog in your fight, and their judgment doesn’t matter. When you’re happy single, it’s less likely that you’ll be in a miserable relationship. Because being single won’t be something you fear, and mistreatment will be less than you know you’re worth. Never fear, never settle. Yahtzee.

This is just something that occurred to me on a Saturday morning, it seemed suitable to share. I’m going to go make a breakfast taco now. Have a great day.

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Shani Silver is a humor essayist and podcaster based in Brooklyn who writes on Medium, a lot.

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NPR once called me a humor essayist, let’s go with that. Host of A Single Serving Podcast. shanisilver[at]gmail

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