These past few weeks I've come across those in unsatisfactory relationships or those who've previously been in unsatisfactory relationships.
Current mainstream culture is divided into pointing out how great it is to be part of a couple and how great it is to be single. As someone who has been single the majority of my life, I find myself only seeing the downsides of being single. Those I've met recently are full of the downsides of being in a relationship.
I can't speak to experiences I've never had or experiences I only learn of in passing, but I can imagine the hardships of being or having been in bad relationships. So I can almost predict what would be said about living in a world that praises relationships when one is in or has been in nothing but bad relationships.
Being unhappily single in a world that praises being single presents unique challenges for myself since my romantic relationship experience is EXTREMELY limited whereas other single individuals have been in multiple romantic relationships that lasted for years at a time. My longest romantic relationship was only four months, so skills that others take from their romantic relationship experiences are completely lost on me. Plus, I'm Bisexual and leaning towards pursuing multiple romantic relationships instead of monogamy - so being unhappily single with coupled dreams is one of my biggest unique challenges.
I know romantic relationships can be pretty crappy, however, I also know that despite that possibility, there are things I can gain from gathering romantic relationship experiences that I want to learn.
I want to know how work to solve different conflicts, how to figure out the age-old question couples argue about what to have for dinner, how to adjust to planning one's schedule around other people instead of being spontaneous. Taking vacations together. Combining finances. Working out how to put our lives together. Working out how to keep our lives together when one of us gets a higher paying job. What if they have kids already - or we decide to have kids? Now I have to learn how to parent.
When one of us gets a job that makes us travel or has to stay long distances away, do we stay together? What happens if someone cheats? What if we have a falling out with our family? How do we celebrate holidays? If our friends fall out with us, will our spouses stop talking to them too? Do we marry - and if so, when? Who do we invite to stuff? Do we refer to each other as partners, girlfriend, boyfriend, lover, friends with benefits, spouses, or some other word? What if one of us dies?
I have no experience in figuring out these basic interpersonal skills because I've never been in a long-term romantic relationship.
Also, I want to know what its like to be loved for once. TRULY loved. Unconditionally loved. I want to be valued. To be important to someone. Not just out of respect for our relationship, but because they actually love me.
It is said that being single is beneficial because one is free to do whatever we want. We have limitless income, no attachments, and can sleep around.
The benefits the general public assumes are not actual benefits to me. I'm not free to do whatever I want. I have to work so I can pay my rent, cell phone, and electric bills. I don't have the limitless income to pay bills and partake in leisure pursuits. I don't have children, but that doesn't mean I don't anyone to care for.
I need clothes and shoes. I need intimate apparel and hygiene products. I have a cat, and he needs food and cat litter. I'm not someone who sleeps around casually; I want to be in a committed relationship before anything sexual is introduced; however, if I was one to sleep around, I'm sure that would carry a different set of challenges and assumptions to get over. I wouldn't call having the ability to sleep around or not a perk of being single, just a condition of being single.
I also must account for the criteria I want in future male and female partners standing in my way. Then, even if I'm lucky enough to find those I desire, then navigating all the relationship issues above times how many partners I end up simultaneously. We're not all going to meet at the same time, therefore we all won't be on the same escalator at once.
I wish I could be grateful that I'm not dealing with problems those in troublesome relationships deal with. I don't deal with in-laws or political differences or socioeconomic incompatibilities or parenting young children.
Yet as someone who has NEVER had to deal with these things, I still wish I could say I've experienced them.