A couple of days ago, I wrote a post about feeling blue and weepy, despite having a full life and doing all the things that a modern, single mother should do to be happy on her own. The particular source of my blues was centered on a fractured faith that my Mr. Right would eventually appear in my life at some point. But I received a comment on my post that took my thinking back around to a common (and tired) theme that is revisited frequently for single people (and especially women). It is the idea that somehow, some way, we must each find a way to perfectly happy and content alone before we can ever be such in a truly fulfilling, healthy relationship.
Well, I don’t think so.
I’m an only child who was raised by a single mom and a lot of babysitters. I have traveled through and relocated to foreign countries alone, lived alone for most of my single life, spent holidays alone, taken short vacations alone, and I often go to the movies or out to eat alone. Trust me, suggesting that I need to spend any more time with just myself is nothing short of insulting. And frankly, I think that’s true for a lot of women, whether they have the passport stamps or other tangible evidence of their aloneness or not.
To a large extent, it seems that women have been convinced that if we desire a partner in this life, there is something inherently insecure or lacking or insufficient in us. I would (and frequently do) argue loudly to the contrary. Since when did the desire to make a heartfelt soul connection with a romantic partner become a weakness or a liability? Why is it not evidence of an open and generous nature seeking the same?
Certainly there are many people out there (and I would argue that at least half of them are men) who simply pinball from one bad or mediocre relationship to another just to avoid any time with their own company. We all know who they are; their discomfort with themselves doesn’t take a clinical psychology degree to recognize. And yes, I would definitely agree that those folks would benefit from some serious alone time — to figure themselves out and how they fit in the world and what they really want from a relationship and this life they’re a part of.
But most of the women I know are not those people. Most of the women I know are quite capable of being alone, they would simply prefer not to be.
Psychologists and psychiatrists have long understood that we need to be comfortable with ourselves and possess a love for ourselves and what we have to offer before we can successfully offer it to someone else, but pop psychology has lately mutated that into some kind of rationale that we should first be completely happy and fulfilled alone. That’s jacked up, if you ask me. People who don’t need or seek deep emotional connections are what we call “emotionally unavailable”; indeed, at the furthest end of that spectrum, we label it autism. Needing a deep emotional connection is not abnormal; it is, in fact, the very definition of normal. I don’t think anyone should feel bad about admitting that they want a partner in this life. There is nothing noble in being alone and not caring that you don’t have a heart full of love for someone. To be truthful, the people that I have known who have most loudly proclaimed their comfort with being alone were also the most emotionally walled-off people I’ve met, without exception.
I think it all amounts to the difference between being happy with yourself and being happy by yourself.
It seems to me that the psychology researchers and professionals have been trying to encourage us to figure out how to be happy with yourself before trying to be happy with someone else. But that is not the same as being happy by yourself. Being happy with yourself focuses on how you feel about who you are and what you have to offer, whether you like yourself and your company, whether you know who you really are. Being happy by yourself suggests that other people aren’t really necessary in your life to bring you happiness and fulfillment. And let’s be honest, unless you’re an extremely devoted religious observer (like a Catholic nun or Buddhist monk), that probably isn’t a healthy — or reasonable — road to happiness for most of us.
Speaking of spirituality, I have friends who strongly believe that our souls come into this realm seeking to experience different things in different lifetimes. For some people, that means seeking to experience solitude or peace. For others, it might mean seeking to experience financial security or professional success. And for others — possibly most — it is seeking to experience and learn from a heart connection with other humans. They believe that our souls come to Earth to have a human experience; something they can’t have in the other realm that you might call heaven or the beyond or whatever. For most of these souls, a huge part of that human experience is human connection. To this way of thinking, seeking that connection is not a weakness, but the fulfillment of a divine destiny. How beautiful is that?
So maybe we should all let ourselves off the hook for hoping that somehow, someday, somewhere we will have someone magical to share our lives with. Perhaps that desire is simply evidence of a healthy, beating heart. Perhaps it is just part of being a perfectly normal human. Perhaps it is nothing more than the pursuit of a divine destiny….