There’s that expression “You just don’t know when to be quiet!” … It’s an expression which often applies to me. I’ll always fill a silence, and the delay from a thought entering my brain, to coming out of my mouth is often nowhere near long enough.
And yet no one ever questions whether someone knows when to be single or not.
When I met up with TOWTS last month for the one year anniversary of the start of the blog, he used a phrase which has stuck in my mind ever since. He described friends as ‘relationship monkeys’ – swinging from one relationship to the next. The image, of a person with a hand on one branch, reaching straight to the next branch, could be used to describe the way a number of my friends have approached relationships over the years.
At Tom Craine’s ‘Thoughts on Love‘, which I watched the other day at Edinburgh Fringe, he elaborated on that lifestyle, explaining that a lot of people in relationships are genuinely scared by the idea of being single. Often it’s been so long since they experienced it, that in the demise of one relationship, a new one is the ideal comforter. The art of the rebound, over and over and over again.
But like it or lump it, sometimes in life you have to be single.
The best thing you can do, is start to appreciate when you need to be single. So that single life is a choice, and not a burden.
On the one hand, I make a rubbish singleton. I know that sounds ironic, coming from a girl who spends most days talking so positively about single life. But from a relationship stand-point, I’m programmed to be someone’s girlfriend. Yes, I’ve had one night stands before, but I’ve never really slept around in the celebrated single way. And whilst sex is something which I see as really important to a relationship, when I think about having a boyfriend, it’s always the simple stuff that my mind wanders to. To snuggling up next to someone on the sofa in the evening. Or waking up with an arm protectively around my waist. I like being in a relationship. Yes, I’m independent, and my own person, but I like the companionship of a relationship. The idea of having someone to text random rubbish to throughout the day, without over-analysing how long it takes him to reply, or how many kisses finish off the text message!
But while I really enjoy being in a relationship, as I’ve said before several times, I’d much rather be single than in the wrong relationship. And as I unfortunately realised at the start of the year, I’d also rather be single than in the right relationship at the wrong time.
And that’s where knowing when to be single comes in.
There are certain times when deep down we all know we should be single. Those times when you are still reeling from a break-up. Where everywhere you look you see your ex, and you wake up in the morning and for a second everything’s great, before you remember you broke up, and it’s like someone kicked you in the stomach. Rubbish as those times are, those aren’t the times to find comfort in someone else’s arms for more than a night or two.
But there are other times in your life, when you’re not on the rebound, but when being single is equally important.
Relationships are time-consuming. And if you want something to work, you have to make time for it. And often in the early stages of a relationship, that means putting the relationship first, before almost everything else in your life. Now, that’s great. One of the reasons everyone wants to be in a relationship, is to be the most important person in someone else’s life. It’s an incredible feeling, to feel like you belong somewhere. But that takes time. And we don’t always have time.
Sometimes in life there are other things we need to concentrate on. Our careers, our family, travelling, ourselves ….
It’s a shame that we still live in a world where being single is viewed as a failure. Where anyone who is single and over a certain age is assumed automatically to be in the process of searching for ‘The One’. Yes, a lot of us are, but that doesn’t mean we deserve or require pity! A lot of the single people I know, are also the most successful and incredible people I know, and they just prioritised other stuff before settling down. And they know the difference between settling down, and settling.
But I think it’s because of this cultural reaction to ‘the singleton’ that people don’t take a proper step back and recognise when they just need to be single! Take the last six months I’ve had, for example. Thanks to you guys, 30 Dates has gone from strength to strength. I’ve been interviewed by TV shows and newspapers. I’ve spoken at singles events, and was headhunted by the Guardian to run the Soulmates blog. I started writing for the Huffington Post, and set up my own company – moving out of a reliable banking job, and into the unreliable territory of freelance journalism and entrepreneurship. I’ve had an incredible six months in a lot of different ways.
I know I would never have done those things if I’d ended up in a relationship with Mr SC. And whilst I was gutted at the time, and still look back on January with a certain amount of nostalgia – because to this day I’ve never met someone who excited me and interested me so much – I’ve always been a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. That right now, I’m meant to be single … because I don’t have the time at the moment to properly give to a relationship.
It’s funny, because back in February the reason I ended things with Mr SC, was because I could see that while he trained to be an officer at Sandhurst, and focussed on his new Army career, he didn’t have time for a relationship. And yet it took me far longer to appreciate that I myself don’t have time for a relationship right now. No, I don’t only get four hours sleep a night, or have my phone taken away from me for days on end … but I have a hundred and one other things to do in a day. Things which are important, but which I know … because I am a relationship kind of girl … that I would happily neglect if the right person came into my world. I guess it’s often easier to see the symptoms in someone else, rather than in yourself!
So next time someone gives you that pitying stare at a wedding. Or someone recites a patronising cliche about finding love, shrug it off, and remember why you’re single.
“Do you know why you’re single?” isn’t an insulting question, if the sensible answer is “Because I need to be right now!”.
Miss Twenty-Nine xxx