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Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dear Singlutionary!

I know that I gush a lot about the fantastic sense of support and community that I get from the singles blogging community and from writing Singlutionary. Well, that sense expanded even more this week when I received emails seeking advice/support from two readers:

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!


Megs said...

This is a great post. It is exactly what I'm trying to do. I don't think you can ever really be happy in a relationship if you are not happy by yourself. If you are just out seeking a guy then you also have little to offer said guy because you don't have any other interest. It is so important to be your own person and not get caught up in the idea of an us will make everything better. If you were having trouble with your life chances are it is not because you are single.

Everyone always says to me you will meet someone when you are not looking. I think there is more to this. I have not been looking for a longtime. The thing I never got is that you also have to be happy with the not looking. Once you are happy with your life and who you are and who is in it then you are much more open to adding people.

bobbyboy said...

"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 an extremely good point, yet hard for us to get.

"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."

Actually, I find this outstanding! Way to go :)

Taking the time to get to know ourselves is so important, yet vastly underused. You may have come across my "Bobby's basics for all relationships":
Know who you are and what you want
Know who they are and what they want
communicate with each other.

Ok, it's just a start, but knowing ourselves has to happen or we can't really put ourselves in a relationship.

Great post and an absolute must read for individuals that want to figure out relationships...it starts with them :)

Monique said...

My series of bad relationships really helped me become who I am today too. I would have never learned to accept myself and be happy on my own had I not had those terrible boyfriends who wanted to take advantage of me. After a while I realized that they coulnd't give me what I was looking for, which is happiness and feeling fulfilled. I'm actually grateful for them. And now, like you, I'm kinda picky about who I let into my life. Which brings me to my second point: friends. I've also been ditched by my BFF. And she's not married but in a committed relationship and thinking about moving in with her beau. But then, such is life. At least that will prevent me from having to hear the question 'when are you getting a man' over and over and over.

As for the single email group, I'm all for it. I can't wait for that post.

Lucy Lopez said...

Hi! I came here via Dazzlingly Single and in response to your comment about my 'I expect' comment :-).

What a wonderful, bright, full-of-life blog you have! It's hard not to smile just looking into that rich splash of colour! But more than that, it's great that you offer a place where people can feel comfortable about something that society has seeded with discomfort!

Great stuff!

The Singlutionary said...

Megs! Yes yes yes! It not just about NOT looking but about being joyful and so full in your own life that you're not even thinking about lacking anything. I never thought that I could be full and joyous on my own before. It took all those bad relationships for me to figure that out.

Bobby: Yes and thank you! I see so many relationships where one person knows what they want and the other person follows that person. It seems to work for a lot of people but it doesn't work for me so getting to know myself and living the life I want (instead of living another person's life in the name of love) is my only option!

Monique: Isn't it great to finally feel gratitude for people who really really screwed you over. I felt so free when I was able to see what a blessing all those assholes were to me. I'm not letting them back into my life but I can be grateful that they showed me the error of my ways and I can actually love them again in a love-peace-and-understanding kind of way. Email community update is forthcoming!

Lucy: Welcome! And Thank you! I'm so glad you're here and that you're enjoying Singlutionary! Here is to eliminating singlism through out the world! (lofty goals are my favorite!)

Susan Walsh said...

"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?"

Singlutionary, you are SUCH a good writer and SUCH a funny woman! I loved this post. Your contentment with your life is inspiring.

Constance Burris said...

"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!"

My bf used to hate being single. I would tell her all the time, have fun with where you are because you might miss it when you're finally married. Well, she's married now and she tells me how right I was. Being partnered can be a whole new different type of hell. LOL!
It's a shame that i'm just now fully following my own advice.

Clever Elsie said...

A resounding "yes" to every single word of this post! I also just have to add:

2. We live in an extrovert's world. Introverts like myself are expected to just adapt. Even extroverts can spend a little time in our world once in a while! ;)

3. Meetup.com was a little hit-or-miss for me. This will probably sound lame, but when I first moved to a new city, I posted an ad for friends on Craigslist. Believe it or not, it worked! I met a wonderful new friend who has made my life so much richer.

4. Thumbs up to this one! I used to cower inside at the thought of going out alone. I remember that one of the most empowering moments came for me when I wanted to participate in a self-guided walking tour of artists' studios in NYC. I looked and looked for someone to go with me, but no one was available. At the time, I was fairly new to the city and still intimidated by the distinctly un-gridlike downtown streets. But I mustered the nerve to go anyway, and it turned out to be one of the most enjoyable afternoons I'd had in the city. And you know what? I think that was in large part because I was on my own, making my own decisions about where to go and what to see next, able to lose myself in the art instead of picking it apart with a companion. It was great!