"Do you think in order to have a fulfilling life you need to be in a relationship or will you be satisfied with being single? And by single, they don’t mean temporarily, but long-term--possibly for the rest of one’s life." This was the theme of a conversation that Kim and Jessie had recently and they decided to run with it. They have different outcomes from the question but have overall similar opinions from different experiences, Jessie being in a long-term relationship and Kim being single with a few short previous romantic relationships.
Their perspectives are very much limited to their own experiences, and they understand that it appears very heteronormative. With that being said, they do proceed to discuss their own experiences and views.
Jessie: Ha, I have had lots of relationships (but like, half or more don’t count? Because I don’t count anything my mom had to drive me to.) Upon self reflection after hard breakup I realized that I do have the need to share life with another human being in that romantic sense for the sake of intimacy and connection, because there are those aspects within romantic relationships that are a different dynamic from platonic love (not more important though!) that then satisfies a lot of those needs.
Kim: I’ve been in three relationships, the longest one lasting almost two months. Now, I’ve been single for over a year. Although I want a relationship, I’m considering being content with being single for the rest of my life.
What about being in a romantic relationship has made your life fulfilling?
J: I think it all boils down to my current relationship: my life is made more fulfilling because I have a partner who everything fell together quite naturally and effortlessly (for the most part!). My partner and I both have the goal in mind to share our lives and to live “co-independently” with one another.
K: I’m not gonna lie. I like cuddling, kissing, giving and receiving gifts, and all the other stuff that is exclusive to being in a romantic relationship. What can I say, I like feeling special and making someone else feel the same.
What parts of being single have made your life fulfilling?
J: Not having to navigate someone else’s idea of me is really nice. Finding the time to just do things alone is really wonderful, like “I wanna see this movie but none of my friends are who I want to see this with, I’m going on my own.” Overall I think I found the most satisfaction out of being single from situations of self-reflection and the ability to just do things without having to think constantly of how my actions affect a partner.
K: I feel like most people commonly answer this question with saving money, not worrying about impressing another person, etc. Funny enough, I still do the things I found fulfilling in a relationship in my single life, minus the kissing and other explicit business (This made Jessie giggle). I like giving gifts, genuine and heartfelt compliments, and even loving hugs. Basically, I love making someone feel special, and I love it when a friend does that for me.
Are romantic relationships a requirement for you?
J: Yup. I have very specific desires and needs that come from a place of a romantic partner. This isn’t to say my platonic relationships don’t satisfy anything, they really do, I have plenty of things that only my best friend and my fraternity Brothers and other people can fulfill, but there are those things that they can’t. They both are extremely important to me and give me lots of happiness, but they are separate and different things.
K: You know, the strong independent male in me who needs no love from another person wants to say no, but there’s some part of me that’s holding me back from giving a full answer. Maybe it’s because I haven’t lived a full life and haven’t met “the right person yet.” But then it begs the question, “Will I ever meet such a person?” When considering this question, I ask myself, “Can I be happy even if I’m single for the rest of my life.”
This might sound extreme, but could I be happy with no more romance for the rest of my life? As time goes, I become a little more comfortable with saying yes to that question. I mean, I’ve already had and kissed a few girlfriends, so it’s not like I’m missing out on many experiences. But then again, I haven’t lived a full life, so I can’t 100% say yes to my question because there’s still that possibility that I still might meet “the right person.” Sounds complicated, right? Cause it is.
How do you feel about the idea that it's possible to be single for the rest of someone's life, regardless of choice?
J: I think a lot of times some people don’t actively find these realizations, they passively allow the choice to happen. It takes self-reflection and self-awareness to reach these as final decisions. A lot of times we feel pushed into making decisions but quite honestly finding comfort in our lives isn’t as simple as picking out which color of that new shirt we want, nor is it that active. I can actively say I want creamer in my coffee, but I had to passively realize my needs and desires that need to be fulfilled in order to maintain my happiness healthily, and others have to passively realize that maybe those romantic relationships aren’t something that they do need for the same happiness. Actively finding these realizations can end up problematic because we allow ourselves to talk us into a corner we might not be as happy in. We talk ourselves into situations that could be the opposite of making us happy, like “I don’t need a relationship!” but then we are miserable for being lonely.
K: This is probably a harsh truth for people, the possibility that even despite wanting a relationship and going through countless attempts at being in some, people still live the rest of their lives being single. If you look at several subreddits, there are countless of threads filled with people who never had a girlfriend--never had their first kiss.
It was certainly a scary truth for me to consider because I hear countless stories about the person who is single by choice during the present who later meets the right person, but we hardly hear stories about the person who actually stays single for the rest of their life regardless of choice
Do you think this is a bad thing?
J: I think both sides of this conversation have their own prejudices of the other being a bad thing. So, lots of people who have moved into the category of “I do need a romantic relationship to be fulfilled” get met with criticisms of “you should be able to live life on your own without someone!” and “don’t be so dependent!” and then individuals who want to be single get the judgement of “you’ll change your mind, you haven’t met the right person yet!” or “that must be so lonely!” Like this all has bad feelings involved for me. I do need romantic relationships to lead my life and it’s okay, I can easily do life on my own but I also find that to put me in a neutral spot rather than my happy spot. Same for people who experience life and find contentment without romantic relationships is that they see life and say “yeah, my life is happier in a state without romantic involvement".
So no, I do not think these are bad things in general, but I do think that they can be a bad thing for a person if they aren’t in the spot they want to be in. If people who would be comfier single are forcing themselves into these romantic relationships, that’s bad; if people who would find life more satisfying single are being forced into this mind-game of perpetual needs they don’t have and the concept of loneliness that they don’t feel, that’s bad; if people who are desiring romantic relationships are forcing themselves into bad relationships trying to find that satisfaction, that’s bad; if people who need romantic relationships aren’t finding partners who don’t fit them well, that’s bad.
The overall “bad” here is not allowing individuals to find what is their “good”.
K: Jessie said it better than I could.
I don’t think this is problematic. I’ve read discussions on Reddit started by perpetually single people in their forties and fifties, and quite a few of them stated that they still live happy lives.
I think what’s problematic, like Jessie gracefully put it, is this idea that being single, even by choice, is considered by many as a temporary circumstance instead of a possibly permanent lifestyle. Keep in mind that this is something that many people aren’t intentionally doing. It’s kind of ingrained in many people’s heads that being in a relationship is a need to be fulfilled. It still ingrained in my head even though I’m the one considering be single for the rest of my life. And that’s okay, but what’s not okay is being unaware of this situation because permanent singlehood is implicitly being stigmatized by the idea that we should eventually meet the right person.
All right, now where’s my mic drop?
Do you think the pressure of being in a relationship still exists despite so much support for staying single by choice?
J: People tend to support the idea of staying single by choice when it’s only temporary. They don’t find it as appealing when it is a long-term/lifelong choice. The pressure can even seep into our own psyches and make us force ourselves into uncomfortable positions (I’m referring back to my statement of backing ourselves into corners). Like because of societal pressures I have forced myself to be in unhappy situations because I feel I have to be “the strong independent person who doesn’t need anyone to make them happy”, and other unhappy situations of “I have to stay in this bad relationship because I have to find this love somewhere.” I think a lot of the time the support comes at a cost: Yes, stay single until you find The One. Stay single because it’s fun and you have your entire life ahead of you! But don’t forget to find your soulmate in a romantic partner! Support comes at the cost of an expiration date on how long you’re allowed to pursue yourself and the singularity that might come with it. The pressure to be in relationships is also super heteronormative, we see it on a daily basis in which the movie is based on a woman/man who has been scorned by a man/woman and has sworn them off for good, and then The One comes along and changes that. The pressure is to be in the societal norms of what is a perfect romantic relationship, which really should be “the one where you’re happy.” But, if the relationship is simply with yourself and not another human, that’s wonderful too.
K: Most certainly. Even if we’re not aware of it, the pressure is all around us. My parents are together with their expectation that I’ll get married one day and get them, grandchildren. We see many romcoms that essentially emphasize that romance will eventually occur in our lives, but hardly any stories on romances that never come in a person’s life.
We glorify that being single by choice develops desirable qualities like confidence and independence, but also say that we need to develop these things in order to be in successful relationships. In other words, we kind of contradict ourselves at times, which further maintains this always existing pressure. And as a result, many people are sad that they’re single because they haven’t met the expectations of society that they’ve now adopted for themselves.
What does this boil down to? Is this a problem that should be addressed?
J: I think this boils down to “let people be people” and “sometimes life isn’t the same for everyone”. Everyone finds happiness in different spaces and if we allow them to find that within their own time frame the world would be so much a better place. I also think we need to realize within ourselves that these aren’t things we can force, they sneak up on you. This is a problem that should definitely be addressed, but I personally don’t think it should be on a giant scale of society making it happen, because then it has that forced nature to it. I think we as individuals need to allow these things to be realized and be supportive of others who reach any conclusions about themselves.
K: Addressed? Yes. There’s honestly not a lot we can do to actually fix this problem, but open conversations can help unstigmatized the idea of being single forever-- that it’s not a cruel fate that no one should endure, but instead a possibility where we can still experience happiness and fulfillment.
Don’t get me wrong. I still want to be in an relationship, but the times I think need a girlfriend at some point are the times I’m most unhappy with myself. Being a little more okay with the possibility I’ll be single for the rest of my life has made me happier, and I think others that would be happier with a similar resolve.
Kim and Jessie had a lot of fun discussing this on multiple occasions, especially with this article being written. They wish that others can find peace in their own self-realization the way they have when it comes to the idea of romantic relationships and the long-term goals of their lives.
What do you think? Do you need a romantic relationship or would you be content with being single forever.