A couple notes on being single

First: A friend linked to this blog post a while back: “Five things singles wish married couples knew.”  I like that this is true to its title. It isn’t “five things you can do for your single friends”, it’s just information. And it’s true. I think a lot of my married friends already know this stuff (having been single themselves and all) but it’s a good reminder.

Second: Alastair Roberts has been answering questions on CuriousCat. The questions may vary widely, but Roberts’ thoughtfulness and respect do not. One of his answers (to a question about prolonged or permanent bachelorhood) struck me as perhaps one of the most encouragingly frank statements about single life I have ever read.

While we should always focus on our own agency, responsibility, and capacity in whatever situation we find ourselves in, there are a great many situations in which it won’t be enough to change matters in the ways that we desire.

What it can do, however, is save us from acting and thinking as the abject victims of circumstance. It can make us aware of the ways in which, by giving other people such as a spouse such an elevated place in our imagined happiness, we are engaged in fairly delusional thinking, pinning expectations on them that they could never possibly fulfill. Once we recognize this and act accordingly, we can be a lot happier, whether in or out of a relationship.

In our society, it is easy to believe that it is only possible to be fulfilled and live a meaningful life if you are in a relationship or married. But marriage really isn’t the only way to satisfy our basic human needs for purpose, belonging, stewardship, dignity, and meaning. And when marriage is unlikely, it is incredibly important to reject the notion that its impossibility means that we must learn to live without all of these other things. We shouldn’t surrender ourselves to unfulfilment. While there are certain things that we will lack (a sexual union and biological children, for instance), if we take responsibility for pursuing these things in other ways, we can be fulfilled. This doesn’t mean that it won’t be difficult and painful, but we can rise to our full stature through difficulty and pain: we can’t do so without the satisfaction of our basic human existential needs.

A lack of discomfort can inure us to deep existential lack in our lives. The unhappily unmarried person, who may well have to learn to live in their unchosen state is pushed to learn lessons to which others never truly awake, never developing the wisdom to recognize and escape stunted aspects of their lives.

 

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