I have had my share of various types of personal/intimate relationships over the years, and I have at this point in my life made a choice to be single. Being a counselor who primarily works with couples who are having relationship issues, I have come to realize how much work is involved in starting and maintaining a relationship. Take a look at the following list of things to consider when considering a long-term relationship:
Do you share the same values (honesty, loyalty, trust, respect, etc)?
Do you have similar goals with regards to your future?
Do you both want children and are your parenting styles congruent?
Do you have the same socioeconomic background ?
Is your educational level relatively similar?
Do you have the same political views?
Do you have the same religious views?
Do you agree on financial matters?
Are you outgoing or not very social? Which do you prefer in a partner?
Do you and your partner share the same health/fitness values?
Do both parties share the same values regarding the division of labor?
Do both parties agree on sexual matters?
What are the values related to extended family?
Are your personalities compatible?
That is a pretty long list! Many times, people do not figure these things out until they are well into the relationship…then the conflict starts.
I’ve decided that I don’t want to try and figure any of that out with anyone. I want to be emotionally, financially, and socially independent. I want to be responsible for my own happiness, and I don’t want to be responsible for anyone else’s. I want to be able to set boundaries for myself; I want to be able to say ‘no’ without explanation. I want to be able to make decisions on my own without having to consult with someone else. I want to have the freedom to go where I want and do what I want, whenever I want, without having to explain myself to a partner. Sounds very selfish, doesn’t it?
Well, the word ‘selfish’ is usually given a negative definition, like ‘one who only considers his own interests’. It’s usually referring to someone who is being cruel or unkind to someone else.
Let’s further explore the concept of selfish/selfish person. I gathered all the dictionary definitions:
Dog in the manger
Someone who prevents you from enjoying something that they themselves have no need for
A self-centered person with little regard for others
Hog or pig
A person regarded as greedy or pig-like
Someone in love with him/herself
A person who places expediency above principle
Concerned chiefly or only with oneself
Lack of regard for the rights or feelings of others
So, think about all of the single people that you know; do they fit in to the negatively conceptualized definition above? Or are they more accurately described by some of the characteristics listed below?
Positive regard for others
And what about when a person does things to bring about his/her own happiness? What about when one learns to think for him/herself, and make decisions to share happiness with others? Does this make a person an exploiter, or a ‘dog in the manger’? We’ve all heard the saying ‘you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else’. Does that mean you’re a hog, or a pig, or a mercenary, or an opportunist, or a user?
A person who has chosen to live a healthy single lifestyle, is indeed doing things to bring about his/her own happiness, and in turn, share that happiness with others. These folks have learned how to establish healthy boundaries. They have learned to think for themselves, they have learned to make decisions, and to solve problems. They do not have the expectation that someone else will fill any voids in their lives. Healthy single people are confident and they take responsibility in all areas of their lives. They know how to consciously date and they have chosen not to settle. Healthy single people understand that happiness is an on-going life journey that takes effort. They strive for self-actualization (on Maslowe’s hierarchy of needs). They are in a constant state of self-growth to be a whole, healthy person:
Physical body (physical container for our organs, health, chemical reactions)
Mental (the brain, our thoughts, memory, desire, consciousness, intent, intuition)
Emotional (feelings, how we deal with them)
Social (relationships, support systems, setting boundaries,
Spiritual (truth, dignity, faith, hope, love, power greater than human power)
Intellectual (learning, creativity, skill development, hobbies)
Occupational (career options, sense of meaning and purpose)
Based on this, the assumption is that wellness is more than one’s physical health, exercise, and nutrition. It is all of the things listed above. Each of the seven dimensions act and interact in a way that contributes to a person’s overall quality of life (this is based on information from the University of California Wellness Program).
Let’s further explore the seven dimensions.
Social wellness is the ability to relate to and connect with other people in our world. It is the ability to establish and maintain positive relationships with family, friends, and co-workers.
Emotional wellness is the ability to understand ourselves and cope with life’s challenges. It is the ability to acknowledge and share various feelings.
Spiritual wellness is the ability to establish peace and harmony in our lives. It is the ability to develop congruence between actions and values. We are able to see a common purpose that binds creation together.
Occupational wellness is the ability to obtain personal fulfillment from our job or career, while maintaining balance in the rest of our lives. It is the desire for our careers to have a positive impact on society as a whole.
Intellectual wellness is the ability to open your mind to new experiences and new ideas that will help you make decisions. This is a desire to learn new concepts and seek challenges in the pursuit of lifelong learning.
Physical wellness is the ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle that allows us to get through activities of daily living without mush fatigue or stress. It is the ability to recognize that our behaviors have an impact on our overall wellness. It is the knowledge that adopting healthful habits, while avoiding destructive habits, will contribute to feeling good physically.
Mental wellness is more about how we think (the processes and the content). It is having the ability to solve-problems, to think independently, and to be creative. This is where intuition, good insight, and good judgment come into play.
So now that there is a more holistic explanation of “wellness”, it makes more sense for a person to want to strive to become a better person, rather than carrying unhealthy baggage from relationship to relationship. It seems more logical why being single is not selfish (from a negative perspective). It’s about being happy and healthy.
I have decided to facilitate a group for people who want to live a healthy, single lifestyle. There are so many “groups” for people who are divorced, where people join together and commiserate about their divorced state (the custody issues, the child support, the loneliness, the conflicts with the ex-spouse, and yada, yada, yada). Then there are “singles” groups and websites where the focus is on getting into a relationship. The sites include personality profiles that “match” you with people of “compatible” personality profiles, giving you the hope that you can cut through the (natural) chase of dating. It’s like taking a shortcut in a sense. Those entities may be great for certain things, but not for learning to live a healthy single lifestyle. According to the 2006 census data, up to 47.3% of the 114 million US households are single people. The statistics for 2005 showed 50.3%. That is about 97 million people age 18 and over! It is looking like people are embracing the single lifestyle more than ever. The stigma attached to being single is not as prominent as it once was. People are realizing that they do not have to be in a relationship with someone to be happy.
One of the best quotes that I read from an article entitled Free as a Bird and Loving It, was by Leslie Talbot, who wrote the book It’s Better to be Alone Than Wish You Were! “There is nothing lonelier than being with somebody you don’t want to be with.” Ain’t that the truth!!
Ideas for a Group (Teaching People How to be Single in a Healthy Way)
What would some of the topics be for the group?
How to be independent (financially, emotionally, socially)
How to make yourself happy (not depending on others)
Don’t look to change other people
Comparing yourself to others (especially couples)
Maintaining your physical health
Maintaining your spiritual health
Your mental health
Myths about being single, statistics, the stigma attached to being single
What are healthy activities to do alone?
What are healthy activities to do with others (one person or a group)?
How to set boundaries
Developing support systems
Healthy dating techniques
Learning who you are (introspection)
Learning what you want in life
Being able to describe your ideal mate and not settling for less
How to foster independence in children
Transitioning from divorce or from a long-term relationship
Self-esteem, self-image, confidence
Social networking, FaceBook, etc
Having patience after a break-up or after divorce
Knowing your 5 love languages
Using good judgment
Finding new interests, going out of your comfort zone
Redefining yourself as being single by choice
Work on a relationship with yourself
Living a life rich in pleasure (create your own passion, purpose, vision—don’t wait for someone else)
Living life now, not as if rehearsing for a relationship
Hiring a relationship coach
Leaving the past in the past
Alcohol and drugs
Dealing with your family regarding your single status
I know there are probably dozens of other topics that can be discussed and I plan to get ideas from people as time passes. It would also be interesting to have people eventually make comments on my blog about some of the topics.