Suffering in the Single Life

Suffering in the Single Life article header
Suffering in the Single Life
Why you need to be single to be ready for a relationship.

If you've been single for a while, it's pretty natural to want to change that, to find someone to share a relationship with. What might seem less natural, however, is that really wanting to be in a relationship might just be the one thing that stops you from ever finding one. Let's take a second to think about that properly. I'm talking about when you reach the state when you feel like you need to be in a relationship, or that being in a relationship will fix a lot of other problems in your life. Maybe you've been single for months, or years, or maybe the opposite – you start new relationships as soon as old ones end, never letting yourself stay single for long. Either way, you might be suffering from the same problem: you're not happy being single.

Being unhappy to be single might seem natural and sensible enough to some, but I'm going to try to explain why that's mistaken. I'll also explain how this affects more than just your happiness while you're on your own – it can have a serious detrimental effect on your ability to start relationships, and your ability to make them last once they've started. Long story short: if you hate being single, or think a relationship would be some magical cure-all, then you're just likely to stay single even longer, and will struggle to form meaningful, long-lasting relationships.

So what's wrong with wanting a relationship anyway?

There's nothing in itself wrong with wanting a relationship, especially these days, when the drive to find a partner has been the basis of a major plot point in most films and TV shows over the years. Pop culture constantly sends us the message that it's better to be in a couple than not, that you'll be happier in a couple, and even that you're somehow a failure if you're single. Finding a girlfriend has become a sign of success as a man, another accomplishment along the lines of a well-paid job or a decent apartment. And this is where the problem starts: getting a girlfriend stops being a personal choice, something that might suit different people at different times, or even not at all for some. Instead, those who are single are deficient, they've failed at some task that others have succeeded at.

If you find yourself getting frustrated at yourself for being single, or see yourself as a failure, you might be suffering from this. You might have started to think that beginning a relationship will fix some of the other perceived faults in your life, as the failures in your love life start to seem a lot bigger than they really are. In hunting for an explanation for your continued single status, you might latch onto all sorts of aspects of your personality and lifestyle that you can blame for your failures, leading to pointless and unhelpful self-criticism. Basically, you let the simple fact that you're single be enough to drive you to misery.

Why this is keeping you single

To make things worse, this problem is utterly self-perpetuating, because it obstructs your attempts to find a girlfriend, keeping you single, and thus extending the unhappiness and overly critical mindset. To understand why, think of one simple word: ‘desperation'. When you think finding a girlfriend is one of the most important things in your life, people can tell, because you seem desperate. Suddenly you're that guy who keeps ‘jokingly' asking how many girls there will be at a party. You're the guy who just keeps talking a little too intensely to girls you've just met, or even makes a point of talking to just about every single girl you can find. You might keep making self-deprecating jokes about how single you are, or maybe you avoid the topic of relationships altogether. You might latch onto any friendliness from a girl as a sign of romantic interest and hover around her all night. You might not even be aware you're doing all of this, or if you are aware, you don't think other people have noticed. I'm afraid I have some bad news for you: they have. Worst of all, the very girls you're trying to flirt with have noticed more than anyone else, and they aren't impressed. There aren't many traits less attractive than desperation, and it's almost guaranteed to put girls off.

Article quote text - No one needs a relationship

What about within my relationship?

So maybe you got lucky, or maybe you're a bit better at hiding your desperation than most. Maybe you're just such a great guy that someone was willing to look past your desperation to see the charming heart throb within. But you're not in the clear yet. You've got to keep this relationship going, and that might not be as simple as you think. The main reason for this is that your desperation and your attitudes have made you selfish. You entered the relationship not out of a joy in spending time with your partner, but because you wanted something. And that's going to continue. For you, the relationship is all about what you can get out of it. Your girlfriend will have to be there for you, but you won't always think about being there for her. After all – in your fantasy of a relationship, you probably weren't thinking about all the things you'd have to do for her, all the things you might give up. So you aren't ready for them, but of course you expect them from her.

As you can imagine, there's only so long a relationship can last with this sort of inequality. You can't go into one thinking about yourself, you've got to think about what you can share with your partner, what you can do for each other. If you just want a woman to fit into your life as it currently is, you might have a nasty surprise when it turns out that she has her own life, and she isn't likely to drop everything for you.

So what's the secret?

Unfortunately, the only real solution is to be single, and to stop caring. That isn't to say that you give up on ever having a relationship. Rather, you learn to enjoy being on your own, to enjoy being single. No one needs a relationship, and if you think that you do, then you're not ready for one. The best relationships come from two people who are happy in their own lives, but want to share them with someone else. You should want to be together, not need to.

Now, being happy with yourself doesn't mean you have to love every bit of yourself. Recognising legitimate flaws is an important part of this process, and working to improve them can give you the self-confidence that you need. What matters is that you don't decide to work out to get a girl, but rather you decide to do it because you'd rather be a bit slimmer, or more muscular. Improve yourself for your own sake, not because you think it'll get you a girl. Your poorly defined abs aren't what is keeping you single, most women honestly won't care that much. But if working on them will give you more confidence in yourself, then go for it – just don't hang your relationship prospects on a few gym sessions.

Take the time to build your interests and discover new hobbies. Socialize with your friends, without the pressure to hook up with anyone. You might find that you have more fun, and they have more fun with you, when you're just out to enjoy yourself. And guess what? If you find yourself talking to a cute girl and you're just enjoying talking to her, with no ulterior motive, she's that much more likely to enjoy talking to you too.

It might sound a bit paradoxical: to find a girlfriend, stop caring about finding one. But it really isn't. I'm not saying you have to want to be single, just that you have to be happy being single, to stop thinking that you need a girlfriend. And then you just might find one. So stop worrying about finding the perfect girl, and just think about making yourself a better guy – and try to enjoy doing it.

Dominic Preston

A London-dwelling philosophy graduate with a penchant for films, gaming, and technology, with the occasional bit of tennis thrown in there.