Being single is often sold as a cartoonish portrait of independence, empowerment, and self-sufficiency. A place of self-love and a right of passage – like a shiny gold prize. Sometimes it can be enrichingly exactly that but – since May is Mental Health Awareness Month – it’s important to acknowledge the times it is also not.
Single people can carry around a lot of shame simply for existing as a single person. Many people internalize their singleness as a reflection of something they’ve done wrong or a value they lack. Why? Because they’re repeatedly told so.
Single people are often blamed not only for being single but for wanting a relationship in the first place; contradictory advice (criticism) from family and friends about how to meet the “right” person while simultaneously discouraging relationships for the “wrong” reasons. Single people are thought to be too picky or not picky enough. No one gives a single person positive reinforcement for their herculean efforts.
Single people tolerate hearing their partnered friends and family express envy and jealousy of their “freedom.” Or they have to listen to the daily frustrations of partnered life without ever having receiving any acknowledgment for the reality of what it means to live alone.
Single can often not have help with day-to-day tasks from childcare, animal care, and meals. There is no one to receive care from when sick or to be held by when family drama surges.
Dating can be the literal worst. First date interviews, rejection, rejecting, bad sex, confusing messages, ghosting, dating apps (screams!), being vulnerable with strangers and never hearing or seeing them again, late nights, and more. The effort is boundless and unmotivating yet 100% crucial if love is what is sought.
So, I see you. I understand you. And while it can, for some (not all), be torturous at times. It’s so worth it. Keep up the hard work. If you’re lonely at this very moment, know that it won’t last forever.
Here are some words that might sound familiar to a single person:
Do you want a relationship or are you just lonely?
Don’t settle. Wait for the right person – don’t settle.
Love yourself first.
If you’re not happy being single you don’t be happy in a relationship.
These are just some of the toxic quotes that have become overly popularized. It’s inescapable. And here they are translated:
“You have to enjoy being single but also want a relationship. But you know – not too much because if you want a relationship too much that’s wrong and probably means you should love yourself more. BUT also make sure that when you are dating that you don’t settle. And also don’t ignore those red flags you don’t want to end up with a narcissist.”
WHEW. It’s ridiculous out here.
I’m single for the first time in my adult life. Since my break up it took some time for me to get to a place where I truly enjoyed my alone time. And I am a therapist who is constantly working on themselves with a whole arsenal of tools.
What I was most surprised about was – how unacknowledged single people are. No one EVERRRRRR talks about how difficult being single is! No one. Instead there is all this “advice” from “experts” and the result isn’t not more satisfying relationships. It’s shame on top of more shame.
So again – to my single people – I FUCKING SEEEEEE YOU AND YOUR STRUGGLES! All caps bc I can – I’m not yelling. It can be hard and that is okay to say!
Sending love to everyone!
Todd Baratz is a licensed personal and couples psychotherapist, podcast host, and writer who specializes in relationships and sex.
D’bunkedstrips down the myths surrounding gay sex, intimacy, relationships and love and is brought to you by The GLUE.