Why I Can Accept Being Single
At my school, we have terms for the different phases of college life as they relate to romance. There's the Freshman Frenzy, the Senior Scramble, the Mrs. Degree, and the Ring by Spring. The Freshman Frenzy refers to freshman students looking for a boyfriend/girlfriend as soon as they start college. Senior Scramble is similar to the Freshman Frenzy, but it refers to Seniors. The Mrs. Degree is the expectation that girls would start college single and graduate with a husband. And the Ring by Spring is exactly that—getting engaged just in time for graduation. It's funny, it's weird, and it's irritating beyond all reason.
Celibacy, on the other hand, is almost out of the question for a lot of people. I've never been in a relationship, and while I don't get a lot of comments about that, I still feel the pressure. A few Thanksgivings ago, my sister-in-law suggested that I bring a boyfriend for the next one, which I didn't. Last summer, my uncle checked my ring finger to see if I was engaged. When he didn't find one, he asked me why I wasn't in a relationship. That was when it hit me: Being single is almost taboo, isn't it?
From such a young age, little girls fantasize about getting married like the heroines in most of our stories. Online, we see article after article talking about how to be good enough for people of the opposite gender to notice us. Teenagers question what's wrong with them when they aren't in a relationship. I haven't met guys who fantasize about getting married, but in high school and in college, I met guys who at least wanted to be in a relationship. One guy actually stole a beaker from the science lab, put some wildflowers in it, and gave it to a friend of mine in the hopes that she would be his girlfriend. I find it fascinating that people are willing to risk so much just for the sake of either being in a relationship or being married, even if it won't work out the way they hope.
Don't get me wrong; some relationships work out just fine.
I will say that I have seen successful marriages in real life as well as in fairy tales. My grandparents have been married for fifty years, and my parents are about to celebrate their twenty-fifth anniversary. But just because some couples are doing well, doesn't mean everyone else is. Here in America, the wedding industry makes about $60 billion a year (1). In 2011, the average wedding budget was over $27 thousand (2). According to statistics found on www.divorcerate.org (yes, there's a website for that now), the average divorce rate in America for first, second, and third marriages are all either 50% or higher. The average amount of money it costs to get a divorce? $15 thousand.
With information like that, I wonder why society insists on advertising marriage while leaving celibacy in the shadows?
I'm not saying that marriage is terrible. When it's handled maturely, it can be a really beautiful thing. When a couple has been happily married for fifty years, you can see how much they enjoy being around each other, even when they do some of the most mundane things. For example, I stand by the first ten minutes of Pixar's Up as one of the greatest examples of a cinematic love story. It's not a story of two people falling in love and facing the over-dramatic obstacles that prevent them from being together. It's a story of two people living their life together and facing the everyday occurrences in marriages: remodeling the house, watching the clouds, working together, fixing things that break, etc. They didn't do anything particularly exciting. The greatest adventure in their marriage was their marriage.
We don't focus enough on what's important for us, especially when it comes to relationships.
We focus on what we want, not on what we need or what we already have. A lot of us believe that getting married will result in a fairy tale ending, even though most of the time we don't get it. And yet people are willing to pay thousands of dollars in the hopes that they'll get that happy ending. And when they don't, they spend more just to get away from the unhappy ending they might be moving toward.
Why don't people want to be single? Is it the insecurity/myth that an unmarried or single woman is an ugly woman? Is it that our friends are in committed relationships and we feel left out of the circle?
According to people I've talked to on the subject, it seems as though the biggest reason for getting married is the fear of being alone. Human beings were created to feed off of each other, to give and take. Being alone means facing your insecurities on your own and having to provide for yourself. I can accept the fear of being alone thing; I've had that 'what if I live alone?' thought come up again and again. But we're forgetting that a spouse is not the only form of company we can ever have. What keeps me satisfied with being single is the fact that I have friends and family who know me better now than any future boyfriend or husband I'll have ever will. Why? Because they've known me longer. For my entire life, my parents were the first two people that ever loved me. Even if I were to start a relationship with one of my guy friends today, it wouldn't change that.
Here's the thing: Being single is not terrible.
As easy as it is to make fun of The Bachelor franchise, one of the contestants put it perfectly when she said that “It's better to be home and alone than to be home and wish you were alone.” When you're single you have more independence, more time on your hands, more control over your emotions, and a stronger sense of self-identity. If you want to travel or move, you don't have to worry about taking a spouse with you. When you make important decisions, you don't have to worry about how it affects your significant other. More time alone means more time to think things through and more time to learn who you are. It means more time with your best friends or more time working on hobbies, careers, etc.
If you are married or in a committed relationship and you're satisfied with where things are going, then I'm happy for you. But we need to stop drawing the conclusion that people who are single are less likely to lead healthy, happy lives. We need to start advertising the benefits of being single as much as we do the benefits of being married. We need to start teaching people that while getting married can be great, it's not necessarily the best thing that can ever happen in life.
Nation Mail Order Association: Bride Market Overview
Divorce Pad: Divorce Rate
Happy News: Advantages of Being a Single Woman