One of the biggest pressures for getting into a relationship can be being the single friend amongst other taken or occupied homies. I was having a conversation with one of my friends a few weeks ago, who said she thought she was ready for a relationship, and was missing all of the cute gestures and romance that came with it. These particular thoughts were quite pressing in her mind especially because, at the time, she happened to be the only single friend among the four of us. In light of Single’s Awareness Day (also affectionately referred to as Valentine’s Day), I decided to write a post dedicated to this topic and to her.
I always try to give tempered responses to my friends when they express ideas like the one above, because I understand how easy it can be to be in a relationship and tell someone to enjoy being single when what they actually want is to be with someone. Being in a relationship with someone who loves and respects you is one of the most prime feelings in the world, and I think every human (even the most evil, or unemotional of beings) strives for the inexplicable phenomenon of being loved, not necessarily by a partner, but loved in one way or another. However, for me, the principle of timing in love is so so important.
I just celebrated my first ever one year anniversary a few weeks ago (so this makes me the furthest from being a relationship expert, lol) but I do enjoy occasionally reflecting on where I was at before getting into my relationship. Prior to that, I had only ever been in what you could call “high school love”, and a couple of “situationships” as my generation would refer to it. When I moved to Canada for uni, I decided to end that because well, long distance is not my cup of tea (but that’s a topic for another Wednesday).
The dating scene at uni was so different than what I had known it to be at home. I found that, in contrast to the boys back home, the ones here were far more laid back and wouldn’t ever take the initiative to speak to you unless you approached them first. Now if you’re a Zim girl, you know this just isn’t the way we do it! We will get run over twice first before we go up to any mans talking about “I’m into you”. Hazviite (it’s impossible). So of course, I started quickly losing hope of ever being boo’d up, and got comfortable going on my merry single way.
It was two years before I met my man. A very fruitful and important two years of my life. I strongly believe that that period of being single, no matter how short or how long, is imperative to your individual growth. One day I read through this passage in Genesis where the Bible describes how God created Adam and Eve. Whether or not you believe in the Bible, I think there are always some valuable takeaways that we can ponder on and apply to our lives. The passage states that God first created Adam, and while Adam was occupied with working in the garden and naming all the animals and plants, God saw, after a while, that Adam was lonely and needed companionship. That’s when Eve was sent to him to be his wife. Timing.
It’s so easy when you are single, to occupy yourself with thoughts and dreams of being in love and in a relationship. It can quickly start to take over your lifestyle, habits, and choices. I remember when I would have conversations with cute guys and all that would be in the back of my mind was “I wonder if he would be a good partner”, and “could he be the one?” Lol. As you can imagine, it would turn out to be a big build up to nothing but disappointment when that person said or did something stupid, or later on turned out to be in a relationship. That expectant mindset essentially took away from my being able to build authentic friendships that had no underlying ideas or agendas, and simply letting things flow into what they were supposed to be.
“Your single phase is your growth phase.”
I will cheekily suggest at this point that your single phase is your growth phase. It’s obviously very possible to grow while in a relationship, but this is not the same type of growth you experience when you are intentionally, selfishly, working on your own self-development and self-efficacy. When you are single (and unmarried) you essentially answer to no one. The only person you can blame for your stunted growth or stagnancy is yourself.
What you do in this time, therefore, is your choice. I’ve had friends who could not stand the thought of not being in a relationship; they always needed to be with someone because the mere thought of singleness was probably the equivalent of disease, in their minds. I have to bluntly state that this is toxic behaviour. Expecting another person to complete you and make up for what you are personally lacking is expecting a whole lot from a mere mortal.
A very wise lady told me a story about how, at one point in her life, it seemed that everyone around her was getting married. All her friends were starting their lives and having kids, and there she was, single and not getting any younger (and probably being a loyal bridesmaid to many). You don’t think it, but being surrounded by so many happy couples when you’re single can add invisible pressure to be with someone, anyone, just to be able to fit in.
Especially as you get older, the standards you have for the type of partner you want can quickly start to diminish as you feel less hopeful of finding them in time to beat the biological clock. She, however, refused to give in to the pressure around her and continued playing hard to get, sifting through the bad seeds until she got married just last year at 38. The best part of the story was when she told me how much her man compliments her joy. She spent time building her own happy haven and now he simply adds to what is already there, rather than supplying what is not. Important.
My biggest takeaway from the passage in Genesis was, Adam wasn’t indolently sitting around the garden of Eden thinking about and wallowing in the misery of his loneliness. He was not wasting away his time conjuring up images of what it would be like to have a partner by his side; instead, he kept himself busy and worked on what he needed to productively. And God supplied his wife. In the same way, your life must keep going even while you wait on your prince or princess. Pursue your goals, work on yourself, enjoy doing the things you like to do, without the influence of someone else. Build your haven and let it be a strong reflection of you. There’s a lot to be said for truly being ready to be in a relationship or marriage, without paying mind to all of the little romantic fancies that come with it.
Relationships and marriages are not to be taken at face value. It’s all a lot of work to be able to include the feelings of another person in many of the actions which you will take for yourself. So if you start to feel like what your life is lacking right now is somebody to cuddle up with, buy you Valentine’s day gifts, and spoil you like all of your other friends, I’d encourage you to really question the reasons you want to be in a relationship, and whether or not you are fully whole yet as an individual. Whether you have invested in yourself enough and whether that safe haven you have or should create for yourself is strong enough to catch you, should you fall into disappointment from your partner. That should come first before anything else. Wholeness of self is the best Valentine’s Day gift you can ever give to yourself.