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Now if you’re like most people, you’ve been raised with a very simple, ingrained belief that you barely ever question:
“It’s better to be in a relationship than it is to be single.”
Some of you have since changed this belief to the opposite: that it’s better to be single than to be trapped in a relationship. Today, I’m going to be challenging both of those beliefs.
2 basic assumptions
For you to have either of these beliefs, you first need to make two basic assumptions. One, that being in a relationship is different to being single. And two, that one is better than the other.
Today, we’re going to have a look at both of those assumptions, but particularly the first one. I’d like you to open your mind for a second. Right now, you’re certain that it’s different to be in a relationship than it is to be single. And I’d like to ask you to open your mind to the possibility that it’s not.
Single v Relationship
Take a moment to think: what is the difference between being in a relationship and being single? What factor can you point to, to say that’s what makes it different?
No matter who it is, no matter where they are or what situation they’re in, they will always have this difference if they’re single, and this difference if they’re in a relationship. Take a second to figure out what those differences are.
We can start by having a look at the factors that are involved in socializing:
- loneliness versus connection,
- boredom versus fun,
- being unloved versus feeling loved,
- feeling stuck versus feeling free,
and so on.
The interesting thing about all these factors is that you can be either single or in a relationship and experience the whole range. You can be lonely while in a relationship. You can feel connected while being single, and vice versa. Of course, you can be with someone who loves you and yet feel unloved. You can feel free in a relationship and stuck being single, or you can feel stuck in a relationship at free being single.
You’ll notice that none of these things are exclusively aligned to being single or being in a relationship; you can be any of them at any time. So again, I ask the question, What is the difference?
What makes you say that is definitely being in a relationship, and that is definitely being single?
Duh… you’re with someone?
Now a lot of you at this point will be frustrated. You’ll be thinking, “Well, it’s obvious: you’re with someone! They are your boyfriend or your girlfriend or your wife or your partner or whatever you call them.”
But how do you know you’re ‘with’ someone?
It all comes down to this key difference. The only way you can say you’re “in a relationship” is because:
You expect the person will come back to you.
Just take that in for a second. The only consistence difference between being ‘single’ and being ‘in a relationship’ is that you expect a person will be coming back to you.
When you’re single and you interact with someone, you generally don’t expect them to come back to you. They have no obligation or commitment to you. When you’re in a relationship and your partner goes out to the shop, you expect that they will return. When they go talk to someone else, you expect that they’ll come back to talk to you again at some point.
There’s an expectation of return that you might have in relationship that you don’t have being single. And yet, when you’re single, you can still expect people to come back to you! And when you’re in a relationship, you can still worry that they won’t!
But let’s just – for the sake of argument – say that being in a relationship means that you are entitled to somebody coming back to you. You can expect them to come back to you in a relationship, in a way that you can’t when you’re officially single.
Really, what it comes down to, if you want to say that there is a difference between being in a relationship and being single, is you have to prove that you are able to expect someone to come back to you. Because the problem with this claim is fairly obvious:
You aren’t entitled to shit
Your partner could leave the house and never return, and that day is definitely going to happen at some point in the relationship. At some point, one of you is not coming back.
Whether it’s being dumped, or leaving, or cheating, or being in an accident, or dying of age – at some point, the relationship will end because one of you didn’t come back to the other. So how can you expect that when the only certainty is that one day it’s not going to happen?
You think there’s a commitment when you’re in a relationship; that the person has basically implied that they are never going to leave you permanently, that they’re always going to come back. Except this is a promise they cannot make. It’s a promise that you cannot hope to keep forever.
To say, “I will never change my mind about you. I will never lose interest in you. You will never leave me. I will never die.” You can’t make that kind of promise, can you?
So if you can’t make that kind of promise, then you can’t expect that promise to be delivered. This means you cannot expect someone will come back to you; it is irrational to do so. So if we remove this expectation, then what? How is a relationship different to being single now?
While you hold that thought in your head – How is a relationship exactly different being single if you can’t reasonably expect someone to return to you? – we look at the second assumption: that not only is being single different to being a relationship, it’s worse.
Single is “bad”
Many of us live in cultures where it’s generally assumed that being in a relationship is better than being single. There’s this constant pressure, both indirect and very direct, to find somebody to be with. It’s in every movie; always a love story, someone seeking someone. It’s in the way somebody goes, “Oh, have you found anyone yet? Should I set you up on a date?”
Essentially, it’s ongoing insult. If you’re single, you’re somehow in transition, you’re not finished yet. Get on with it. People are always asking or implying, always checking in to see if you found someone yet. All the media is pushing you towards finding a partner and satisfying that partner and keeping that partner.
Basically, we just constantly made to feel bad about not having somebody.
But what about bad relationships?
Do you really think that all relationships are nothing but good times and pleasure? What about the ones that are mostly not good times? Is that better than being single? Or worse?
Is it better to be by yourself doing whatever you want, or to be in an abusive relationship? Is it better to be lonely, or to actually hate your partner, or be constantlyscared of your partner?
If all relationships are always better than being single, then you have to say that being in an abusive, toxic and narcissistic relationship is better than being single. And if you can’t say that, then why are you saying it’s better to be with someone in general?
It must be more specific than that, right? If it’s not okay to be in any type of relationship, then you can’t say any type of relationship is better than being single. You now have to start qualifying what type of relationship is better than being single, exactly. (Still bearing in mind that you have yet to prove that being in a relationship is actually measurably different to being single.)
John vs Tim
What about this scenario: John, a single guy, goes out on a date with a girl. She’s not his girlfriend, they’re not partners in any recognized committed way, and yet they have an amazing connection. They see eye to eye and their values are really aligned. They have a great time together, they feel like they can really just be themselves.
Compare that to Tim, who’s in a marriage that’s gone cold. They sleep in separate beds. They only have the most basic logistical and transactional conversations. They no longer know each other like they once did. They don’t feel safe to share with each other. Their interaction is superficial at best. They’re basically strangers living together.
How can you say that John is more single than Tim? Yes, technically, Tim and his wife are ‘in a relationship’ while John is ‘single’, yet John feels connected and Tim does not. So what exactly is the improvement on Tim’s side? What exactly is the advantage of being in the loveless marriage over being able to connect with someone in a meaningful way while on a date?
Am I single or married?
Right now, as I make this post, my wife is not in the house. She’s left to go shopping and whatever it is that she’s doing today. And I know that I can’t expect her to return. There’s bad weather, there are vehicles, there are all sorts of things that could kill her out there. And one day they might.
As depressing as it is, I believe in facing the truth. The truth is that one day she’s not coming home. Maybe she just decides she doesn’t want to. Maybe she just decides she no longer loves me, and she runs away. That’s possible. It could happen.
So as I sit here alone writing this post, how can I say I’m definitely in a relationship? In reality, I am all by myself here in this room. And what is the difference between that and being single?
If you are right now sitting next to someone that you’re deeply connected with and reading this post with them (thanks for sharing by the way), how can I say I’m more in a relationship than you right now? You might not technically be in a partnership with the person that you’re sharing this moment with, but you’re more with someone than I am right now. And the only moment that exists is the present moment.
So at this point in time, only one of us is really with someone, and it’s not me, yet I’m technically ‘married’. So again, I ask you: what is the key difference between being in a relationship versus being single, besides the delusion of expecting someone to return to you?
It’s now or never
The present moment is all that matters. You either feel connected in general, or you don’t. Other people actually have very little to do with that.
I might feel connected to my wife while I’m talking to her. But I also feel connected right now. This will sound weird, but I feel connected to you, even though at the time of this writing I’m all by myself and I don’t know who you are.
But I know that I’m going to broadcast this out into the world, and it’s going to resonate with someone. Knowing that, in this moment by myself, makes me feel connected and makes me feel like I’m part of something.
So in a sense, I’d say right now that I have no sensation of being single, but it’s got nothing to do with being married. It has to do with the behavior I’m engaging in right now to connect, as a principal.
I’m connecting with you, and yet I’m by myself. Connection doesn’t require your presence in this moment of time.
But doesn’t a partner mean more connection?
A lot of people would argue that a relationship at least improves your likelihood of feeling connected. Basically, if you think you have a guaranteed partner (that false expectation again), you also believe you’re going to have more opportunities to feel connected. But is that true?
What if your partner is cold? What if your partner is fake? What if your partner has lost interest in you? Do you really think in that kind of relationship you have a better chance of being connected than a single person who can walk out the door and talk freely with anyone they please?
I have to be clear that I’m not saying that being single is better than being in a relationship. What I’m saying is, there isn’t a difference. The difference is imaginary – there is no real measurable factor.
You can’t take someone to a doctor, give them heaps of tests and be able to determine whether or not they’re in a relationship. They will have the same basic biology and science and everything going on as any average single person.
You can be blissfully happy with your life single. You can be blissfully happy in a relationship. You can be miserable single. You can be miserable in a relationship. It all really comes down to how connected you are in general, and that’s got nothing to do with a partner.
Connection is an internal experience
Connection is all about confidence and integrity and living with purpose. A partner can’t guarantee you’ll have that.
Sometimes they can help you with it. My partner certainly helps me live more by my values. But I’ve also been around relationships that steer me away from integrity. I’ve been with people who make me feel less connected and more lonely. So a partner doesn’t have any guarantee of connection, and therefore, there is no difference.
There’s no reason to pursue either being single or being in a relationship because neither of them guarantees you anything. There are no guarantees of increased quality of life in either singledom or being in a relationship.
Note: To learn more about self connection and acceptance. Try out our core values course in BROJO University, it’s totally free. It’ll help you figure out the recipe for feeling connected regardless of your relationship status:
Let’s sum this up
There’s no such thing as being in a relationship. It’s just an illusion; an expectation of someone coming back that you are not entitled to expect. Therefore, the only thing that’s real is connection.
Do you behave and live in a way that makes you feel like you’re part of things? Or do you behave and live in a way that makes you feel separate and detached? A relationship will have almost nothing to do with that. It will all be about your level of integrity.
You can learn to connect with yourself. As esoteric as it sounds, it’s actually a very practical step by step process you can learn. It’s about about choosing certain behaviors. I’m doing it right now as I write this post. I’m living in a way that makes me feel connected to myself by speaking what I think is the truth.
If you can learn how to do that, you will essentially be in a relationship with yourself and that one is guaranteed to last. You always come back to yourself because you can’t leave!
The great thing about getting the relationship with yourself sorted out is that you can now connect with other people from a place of unconditional love and giving. They don’t have anything you need anymore, so there’s nothing you have to take from them, you just give.
You give your relationship with yourself to them, making you the best kind of person to be in a relationship with. As opposed to what most people probably end up with, which is a relationship of codependency where you’re constantly trying to take from each other to fill that internal hole. Those relationships can last over time, but they do not guarantee any of the things that you’ve been seeking like love, connection and quality of life.
How does this change your plan?
So take a moment to think about this. If there is no such thing as ‘being in a relationship’, and there is no objective quality difference between being single and having in a relationship – they both can be good, it depends on you – then what are the implications for you?
How does that change the reasons why you socialize? How does it change your choices of behavior each day? Do you keep seeking love and approval from other people? Or do you change the path and start seeking that from yourself?
Start earning it. Start proving yourself to yourself so that you want to be with you. The choice is yours.
Thank you so much for putting up with my rant. You can comment below: let me know your thoughts, challenge me if you want, tell me I’m wrong. I’m happy to hear it.
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