The first reader is from Australia and wrote that she is looking for an online community of single female friends through an email group. Of course an email group has no geographical boundaries but can offer a great deal of support and more intimate friendship to folks the world over. Friends are IMPORTANT to Singlutionaries so I am all for the idea of people starting email groups especially when not everyone lives in a wonderful vibrant city and might *need* to connect beyond their neighborhood to find some single kindred spirits. As I hear more details about this email group, I will be sure to blog about it.
The second reader found me by doing an internet search for Susan Boyle. How did THAT happen? I was going to post something about Susan Boyle but haven't yet. Anyways, this reader asked that I write about two things: newly coupled people ditching their single friends only to come crawling back after-the-fact and choosing singleness over ickypoo relationships. Here is what I have to say about each of those issues:
Newly Coupled People Ditching Their Single Friends
Ew. Gross. There is nothing more rude or heartbreaking than having a BFF one day and no BFF the next. This is really really hurtful and I know because I have been through it. Our friends are essential pillars in our support networks and are sometimes more capable of being "there" for us than family. Sometimes friends ARE family especially if family is absent or dysfunctional or can't relate to a certain aspect of your life. Unfortunately, I don't think that our culture reveres friendship very much. Friends are something for childhood before the "real" stuff like marriage and children comes into play. There is this perception that when we grow up we don't "need" our friends anymore. Unfortunately, this assumption lies on the premise that every one "grows up" when they get married and that everyone gets married at exactly the same time as all their other friends so that nobody is left out. And that is a faulty concept because married people still need friends, and good ones too!
So, why do people ditch their friends when they get into a relationship? Sigh. I think this is partly due to culture and this concept that romantic love "sweeps you off your feet". There are people who want to feel so wrapped up in their partner that they can not see or hear anyone else. Also, as a practical matter, people only have a certain number of social hours and when a new person comes on the scene, they have to balance out those hours with the time they usually spend with friends. Part of the Singlutionary mindset is to have a full satisfying life with our without a partner. If your life is full and satisfying and you're not wah-wah-waiting for Mr./Mrs. Right all day long, the chances that you're going to run off in the sunset (never to be seen again) with him/her are more slim. Still, while I hope to contribute to the singles movement where singledom and friendship are honored and revered just as much as romantic relationships, I can't just cast a magical Singlutionary spell on the world so that everyone behaves the way I want no matter how much I want to.
What I can do is offer up what I have learned from my own hard knocks with friends:
1. Seek out friends who are happy, satisfied singles (or coupled Singlutionaries). A big red flag for me when making a new friend is if she only wants to do men-seeking activities like go to bars to talk to meet guys, etc. Our interests must be beyond finding a man together.
2. Learn to enjoy at least a little bit of solitude. I know that this is super hard for people with the opposite personality type of me. I love alone time but some people feel antsy and anxious when alone. Might I be a little cliche and suggest taking a yoga or meditation class? There, in the company of others, you'll clear out your mind and be alone in there and see that its not so scary after all. Its just . . . peaceful. If you learn how to be your own best friend, you'll realize that you're never totally alone.
3. Get good at making new friends because no matter how awesome your current friends are, there are times in life where they won't (for whatever valid reasons) be able to be there for you. They might be sick or overwhelmed or getting a divorce and simply unable to be a friend because they are struggling so hard just to keep their own life together. Its easy to feel angry and abandoned anytime someone you count on goes missing from your life but sometimes you just have to let them be. This is a great time to make new friends. Meetup.com is a great resource but if you don't live in a major city, try an online community for singles or take classes, join a group that interests you, hang out at the coffee shop or any place where people gather. Practice spotting people who look like they might have something in common with you. Finding new friends is like dating so try not to feel rejected when it doesn't work out at first. Most of the time, its just a timing thing: you need a new friend and the potential new friend is trying to juggle too many other commitments at the moment.
4. Explore your interests. I think a lot of people have things they really want to do (mine is: take a day trip out to that one little town and explore) but they are waiting to be in a relationship to do it. Do it yourself. If you can afford to, take surfing classes instead of waiting for a hunky surfer to walk into your life, take you in his/her strong arms and show you how its done. I know its scary to join up in things all on your own and ideally you'd have a friend to go with you but if you just buck up and do it anyways, chances are you'll meet a new friend doing the very thing you sat around for three months wishing you had a friend to it with. And even if you don't make a new friend, this is another opportunity to get to know yourself better!
The same reader also asked about accepting being single after a series of really bad relationships. This is what I have to offer up on THAT one:
I have so been there. I too felt like I was behind since the time I was 13! Yes! 13! I know, I am a total nutcase. When I was 13, I felt like it was too late for me, that I would never catch up and that I would never be happy in a relationship. Of course my adolescent despair proved to be somewhat correct because for the next 15 years I would continue to feel like I was behind, like I would never be in a good relationship and that there was something inherently and essentially wrong with me which made all this the case. And my thinking played out in real life creating a vicious cycle.
All of my relationships were lacking. Some were better than others. Some even bordered on being good but for the most part the suffering I experienced far outweighed the pleasure.
I was desperate. I took up with anyone who could put two sentences together. I didn't even ask if maybe they could do a third sentence just to be sure they were competent. If a guy liked me and wasn't too annoying, I liked him. That was the way it worked.
And that is why I now love being single! I think that the very first thing in finding a partner who isn't going to use and abuse you is to know your own worth. How could I know my own worth if I was running around with idiots who wanted the world from me in exchange for a cheese cracker? I needed some time and space to get to know myself. Now I am learning about myself and every day I am impressed by how amazing I am. I guess you could say that I am falling in love with myself but that is super cheesy and the fact that I wrote that kinda makes me want to barf. Anyways, I am wonderful! I value myself and the things I can do with my life more and more every day. More than that, I value, for the first time, the life that I have built for myself. Because of this, I would never let some idiot guy come in and smash up my awesome little life with his sledgehammer of idiocy.
One thing I've noticed about myself in the past months is that I am way more picky about who I let into my life. This goes for men and for women, for guys I meet on match.com and people I meet in my community. Because I have taken the time to get to know myself and realize all that I have to offer, I want to be around people who also have a lot to offer and know how to share it.
I used to live my life like a love free-for-all. I was that girl on the parade float throwing out candy to the crowd. I just gave myself away. I worked for far less money than I was worth, I gave away my time to anyone who asked for it, I supported freeloaders, etc. Now I am still riding in the parade but I am just sitting there satisfied basking in my own joyfulness and hanging out with the other folks on my float and smelling the zillions of flowers all around me (in this fantasy I have no allergies).
I guess what I am trying to say is that being single is not sad or lonely or depressing. It can be one of the best opportunities of your life. And being single does not mean giving up on love. In fact, I think that choosing to be single is exactly the opposite!