Being Single Doesn’t Suck. Being Lonely Does.

I’ve been single for most of my life. Which is probably true of a lot of people, but not something I frequently hear framed in those kinds of terms. None of my relationships have lasted very long (usually for good reasons, but not always) and I’ve spent most of my adult life seeking a romantic partner. Pretty passively, if I’m being honest. Partly due to life events and partly due to my distaste for online dating, but mostly due to my preference for a strong personal connection as the foundation for a relationship.

Which I want to stress is a personal preference and just, like, my opinion, man. Different kinds of relationships work well for different kinds of people and no start to a healthy relationship is any less valid than another. I just like getting to know people before doing something like dating. Some people would argue that the first few dates are for getting to know someone, and that’s definitely one way to look at it, sure, but I still prefer getting to know someone a bit before considering if I want to ask them out. A lot of it has to do with communication, emotional investment, and how I personally view and feel about romantic versus non-romantic relationships, of course, but it also really helps my sort of mental organization to do things in steps like this.

There’s a lot of motivations to interogate when it comes to why I feel compelled to find companionship, especially given my personal situation. For instance, I often feel lonely and seek a romantic partner to alleviate my sollitude, but that’s mostly because I was raised with the understanding that an adult either lived alone or with their partner. It was unacceptable to have roommates as an adult, or to live in a close-knit community of friends. In truth, having a friend around or a roommate whose company I enjoy works just as well for alleviating this loneliness as having a partner would.

And then there’s the cultural expectations that adults who live together and are close have a romantic relationship (unless they’re women, apparently, given how common the “auntie and her best friend live together as spinsters” trope is because people wanted to pretend lesbians didn’t exist). There’s a whole lot going on there and it has helped to really pick it apart in order to figure out what I really want. After all, dating someone just because you’re lonely is generally considered a pretty poor reason to be doing it.

There’s a song I’ve had in my daily morning rotation now for a while, “Black Bear” by Black Bear, that includes the lines “The simplicity of solitude is a hard thing to perfect/Stealing happiness from loneliness is not a simple theft” which have been on my mind a lot since the first time I stumbled across the song back in January of 2021. I’ve been alone a lot, literally and figuratively, the past year. The pandemic has been physically isolating since almost all of my friends are “essential” workers who were largely forced to risk their health in order to keep food on the table, which meant I had to keep my distance.

I also started ending unhealthy relationships with people I called “friends” because it was easier to say than “I emotionally support them and let them make increasingly draining demands of me because the only way I know to feel valuable or loved is if I am providing someone with some kind of emotional assistance and sacrificing of myself for someone else’s benefit.” Which, you know, was a healthy, good thing to do but it still kinda sucked because I was enabling a lot of this sort of thing, so about half my friends were that type of relationship. By which I mean it sucked specifically in the “I did the hard work of getting rid of these relationships but I can’t enjoy the opportunity to make new friends because I’m stuck at home in a pandemic” kind of way.

So I’ve spent a lot of time and energy on learning to do what the song says. Not just recently, of course, since learning to be alright with yourself and your solitude is an important step in every life and helps you build strong relationships of every kind, but it has definitely taken on a new aspect in the year of our pandemic, 2021. I’ve learned to exist comfortable as a solitary person, and I’ve been working on finding happiness and joy in that existence. Which is difficult for a lot of unrelated reasons, but that’s just life with depression and PTSD for you.

I’ve been thinking about all of this lately as I consider trying online dating again and trying to find new relationships to build, also mostly online. The pandemic makes it difficult to connect with people since I make frequent use of my ability to self-isolate and keep my social outings to only the essentials (’cause, you know, I don’t want to get sick and I want to help protect people who are medically unable to get vaccinated) and the rising tide of shittiness in social media and fandoms in general makes me want to avoid the internet altogether. Which doesn’t leave me many options other than making work friends and… well, being stuck in the oft-forgotten R&D division that is actually stuck in the corner of the R&D area means I don’t get exposed to many new people at work. And then there’s still the whole pandemic thing.

Why is making friends and meeting new, interesting, and emotionally mature people so difficult to do as an adult! I could, in a single evening, find half a dozen emotionally needy gremlins who wish only to shower me with attention in exchange for being enabled and supported like some kind of emotional vampires, but I can’t seem to find a single healthy person who wants to make new friends to save my life. I also know that I do actually attract those types of people and I need to work on not giving off the “emotional enabler” signals, but I feel like, statistically, I should have met at least one new emotionally healthy person by now.

Anyway, I’m gonna stop complaining now and go take care of some responsibilities like grocery shopping and making myself a nice dinner. Gotta keep life moving forward while I try to make some new friends.

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