(First Published Idaho Family Magazine 2015, revised 2022)
Just like that. You change your “status”. In a blink, your label spins into “single” or “in a relationship” or the announcement of, “it’s complicated”. This is social media. Our measurement of our social status. The platform definer of our existence. And as long as mankind has deemed partnership and marriage an important status symbol, relationships are a major way we’ve defined our value.
We shuffle in the jumble. We mesh into the hype of appearance, posting happy notes of upbeat advice, seeming like we have our sh*t together. Or worse, we might be normal.
A few years ago, though single and happy, I updated my status to “in a relationship.” My phone exploded with question marks and tell-me-more texts. My status doesn’t fit the status quo or the labels offered on social media, or any other box I’ve checked on applications and medical screenings. I was not married. Or single. I was happy in self-partnership. This should be a viable option.
Single-hood, today, should not be a death sentence. It’s a choice. A very satisfying way of life. When I tell someone I’m single, the most frequent response is, “Why?”
I’ve learned to respond with, “Why not?”
Though single means different things to different people, pending on the angle. To some, single equals an inability to attach. To others, it’s defined as an uncommitted relationship. And still others, view singleness as brokenness.
Our cultural pulse persuades us. Who we are with (in relationship) is an extension of who we are. I don’t disagree. We are influenced by the company we keep. That’s a different essay for a different day. But this line of thinking is limiting. If you’re not with another, then you must carry a lack or a vacancy. A space to fill. Remember the old dating advice: leave empty space in your closet for your soulmate?
We should ask, instead, “Who am I when I am with another? Who do I become? Am I enhanced in this relationship?” We often shape-shift to maintain relationships. We often lose ourselves. Or at least, I have. When I finally gather the courage and interrogate myself, I find I’m better single. In fact, I’m fabulous when single.
At one time, unrelationship meant I lived in transition. I existed in a void of wait. Wait until the next one comes along. And there’s always a next one if you’re waiting. My singleness, left me in a state of numb-limbo – someplace between relationships and marriages. When I entered grad school in 2017, I told myself I was too busy, too quirky, too analytical, and, well, too much. Too much me. I arrived at a state of acceptance. Not of myself, but of my circumstance.
I found business helped me avoid loneliness. Busy insured I had little room in my schedule for anyone else. Yet, in the in-between hours, I somehow still managed to date, still sought a partner. I ended up with less-than-ideal men. The last man advised me to parent differently, to quit my second masters degree, to stop wearing make-up, to quit writing the way I wrote, and, more. The effort of dating drained me. I felt cluttered, lost in someone else’s debris.
In my youth, I remember jotting a Dream Guy List. You know this checklist. Most have a mental list of their “ideal” human. The traits we track, the characteristics we were taught mattered in potential partners.
At one point, I journaled, “Do I meet my own standards?” I spent a year, give or take, testing myself. Would I qualify as a partner to myself? My list grew shorter, condensing from short-circuit satisfaction to advice I recently heard from a friend:
- Believes the best about me
- Wants the best for me
- Refer to 1 & 2
I had work to do. Okay. I still do. I don’t always believe the best about myself. But every day I’m more date-able. To me.
I’m closer than I’ve ever been.
Valentine’s Day feels like a day when singles feel like outcasts, as if, instead of red hearts, we’re marked with scarlet letters. We forget, singleness is also a gift. There are benefits. Many of us sleep better when single. Many quit worrying about appearance and become more of who they were designed to be. Many live their passions fully. Many spend their time doing exactly what they want, cooking the meals they love, listening to the music they enjoy.
I’m not discarding relationships. They carry value. They teach us about ourselves, providing mirrors, reflections of areas we might need to compromise, adjust, shift. But teaching-relationships can happen with platonic friends or through family. Not every lesson requires intimacy.
Valentine’s Day is a day I celebrate. I cook heart-shaped pancakes for my sons and write myself a love letter. I listen to my favorite music and dance until my neck hurts. I wear something I love, something soft and kind to my body. I embrace myself. My quirks. My edginess. My analytics and flaws.
I’ll sleep on a pillowcase where I’ve written notes to myself in fabric markers, resting in self-acceptance, realizing, I’ve never really been single or alone. I’ve rejected me, neglected me. I am with the one, singular human who can love me unconditionally. Me. I lost sight of partner-me along my journey of measuring up and fitting in.
My heart is full. My closet is full, stocked with clothes I love. There are no empty hangers dangling in wait. I’m the love of my own life. Status complete.
One thought on “Relationship Status”
I really like this.
The assumed standard of “its official” through electronic social media, without the content.
Sometimes seeking approval of others, without approval of one’s self.
Great writting & perspective!
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