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As a species, we are conditioned both biologically and socially to partner up. We are told in many ways that to be complete, we must be with another. Romance stories tell beautiful tales of happily-ever-afters. And indeed, some do find this. Though rarely. Claps and fireworks to those who have found that special one and only to share a life with. Claps and fireworks to those who worked hard to create a fulfilling life with a partner. It does indeed require work, self-reflection, patience, empathy, compromise, and collaboration to create lasting and rewarding relationships.

However, the reality of modern life is a little more complicated. Approaching equal pay for women, financial independence, social tolerance, speed of life, travel, and complicated career paths expose us to multiple deep and meaningful experiences with others. We connect with many people, live in a variety of places, transition jobs and change careers, and travel the world. Our modern lives are saturated with new opportunities and experiences, and as a result, our connections to things become more transient. Gone are the days of living and dying in the same town you were born. In between our multiple loves, partnerships, and friendships, in between our jobs and relocations, the one and only permanent partner in crime we all have to contend with is ourself. 

In truth, living in this saturated and expansive world, we are alone a lot of the time. Hence, it’s important that we learn how to have satisfying and fulfilling relationships with ourselves. Often, we look outside of ourselves to find entertainment, distractions, and purpose. When working with clients, especially female clients, I frequently hear, “I’m not good with taking care of myself,” “It’s hard for me to make time for me and justify doing things that I want,” or “I feel guilty when I’m not working.” The outcome of life dedicated to meeting other people’s expectations of who we are supposed to be is a crisis every time we find ourselves single and alone. We frantically begin to look for someone to pour our anxieties into. We find relationships that don’t truly serve us and become distracted away from ourselves in the drama of managing dysfunctions in others. When all is said and done, we are still alone, and often our escape becomes an addiction. If we do not create a meaningful relationship with ourselves, no matter how many partners we find, or even if we are with that one and only, we are alone. A cure for loneliness is not another person; a cure for loneliness is a gratifying relationship with the self. 

Being happily single is not a statement that undermines love relationships or family units. It is a statement about our existential health. We are conditioned to feel bad about being single. We are told we are not enough, that if we are not in a committed relationship with another, we are broken. Yet, most of us are alone during big portions of our lives. Hence, we owe it to ourselves to reprogram this narrative and find joy in being alone. Being alone does not have to mean being lonely. It can mean being free, being inspired, being engaged. Only if we could attempt to track our thoughts and take control of the internal processes we commit to. When watching a beautiful sunset, do you notice your mind drifting to a thought about how much better it would be if someone else was sharing this moment with you? Stop! Recognize that you just took yourself out of the moment; you just robbed yourself of enjoying the beauty and magic unfolding in front of you. Dare to ask yourself why? Did your unconscious conditioning kick in? Is it telling you that you can’t possibly enjoy life alone? Or that you are not worthy? That you must have another to validate your existence for you? Isn’t it also true that you could be watching the same sunset with someone you love and be annoyed? Let’s say they are droning on about their work problems to you, and you are secretly wishing you were alone. 

Take a deep breath, silence the chatter, and make friends with your eyes that see the colors. Try and notice how many gradients of pink you can discern on the horizon. Make friends with your skin that feels the breeze, with your nose that smells the ocean. Isn’t it wonderful that we have a body that can feel the world in this way? Smile, not only with your mouth; smile with all of you. Let your cells, your heart, your liver smile, because you are happily single at any given moment if you so choose. spt

Sophie Schoenfeld, MFT

Sophie Schoenfeld, MFT is a local marriage and family therapist. For more info, visit sophiemft.com.

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