Singlehood

“You’ve been single your entire life. Does it ever bother you?” I asked a friend one night.

“Not really. I guess I feel lonely sometimes, but I look at the things my friends who are in relationships go through emotionally, and I don’t think I’m any worse off.”

“Are you eager to find someone who is worth going through all that stuff for?”

“Not particularly. I’ve got a lot of other things on my mind; I don’t spend much time thinking about it I guess.”

I had this conversation shortly after writing my entry about SoloPoly and Singlish. Being single was on my mind. You see, I’ve been “involved” with someone in one way or another since about the age of 13, from middle-school “boyfriends” who I would hold hands with and sit next to at lunch, to polyamorous relationships and other forms of ethical nonmonogamy as an adult. Though my Facebook status has read “single” for the last 3+ years, the truth is, I haven’t truly been “alone” in terms of romantic involvement in well over 10 years.

I’ve realized that my perception of “singlehood” is likely very different from others’. My perspective is that of someone who grew up in Los Angeles, where, by the age of 13, having a significant other was a prerequisite to having any social standing above “loner” at school. My perspective is that of someone who moved to St. Thomas at 16 and soon entered a 7-year relationship, which was completely normal in the new cultural context. At the ending of that relationship, I began navigating singlehood without ever straying too far from some kind of romantic connection. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but because of it, I have wondered at my ability to be happy while being completely romantically alone. I have wondered at the ability of others, as well.

There are many studies about whether being married increases a person’s chances of being happy, and a few studies, I believe, about whether just being “in a relationship” does so. A study from MSU published in 2012 actually tracked people’s levels of happiness ten years before and after marriage and compared them to a control group of people who remained unmarried for the length of the study, and found that married people experienced a spike of happiness during their first year of marriage, then declined to pre-marital levels of happiness. Unmarried people’s happiness declined over time, leaving them worse off than married people, except, it appears, in the cases of unmarried people who cohabitate with a long-term partner.

As I search the internet for more of these studies, I can’t help but notice how much of the “happy and single” movement is moved by, and geared towards, women. The friend I had the conversation above with is a woman in her 20’s. She’s happy, if not wishing only for a more challenging career. I somehow expected that, as a woman, she would have experienced some doubts and loneliness about her singleness, if for no other reason than movies and songs and TV shows are constantly telling her that she’s supposed to be in a relationship.

Apparently not. I continue to find evidence that happiness is, ultimately, up to the individual. Perhaps the single people whose happiness declined over time were feeling less happy because they believed that they should have been married by a certain age. Perhaps positive attitudes about singleness could rectify much of this reported unhappiness.

Thoughts from people with perspectives besides my own?

SoloPoly, Singleish, Non-Coupled Polyamory

Aaaaand I’m back!

From one set of woods to another, more Wi-Fi enabled set of woods, I am once again active online.

And loving it.

Let’s skip the polite small talk: today I’d like to write about an oft-bemoaned phenomenon as polyamory has risen in popularity visibility, as well as some terms I came across this week that people are using to describe this phenomenon and those sidelined by it.

Couple-Centric, Couple Centric, Couple Centricity

This topic had been broached by bloggers and conversationalists alike before polyamory became more well-known, because many human cultures are couple-centric. Particularly in the western world, we tend to see one of the steps to life fulfillment being that we ultimately find ourselves paired with some amazing person who “feels like our other half.” People who are single tend to be seen as “unfulfilled” or even “immature,” or even perhaps somehow damaged if they haven’t completed this oh-so-important lifetime achievement of finding “The One.”

Polyamory, for the most part, offers an alternative perspective for consideration. Polyamory’s mere existence has opened up a flood of questions about monogamy and our assumptions about human love, romance, jealousy, and whether or not being paired really is a requirement for a fulfilling life. I think polyamory might have even done worlds of good to help people see that not only is it possible that some people can romantically love more than one partner and be happy, but also entertain the idea on the other end of the spectrum: that some people might be able to be happy without a romantic partner in their life.

Sure, it might not sound pleasant (to you) – it may not make a blockbuster movie (or mightn’t it?), but, hey, with asexual and aromantic people out there, it’s a reality. It also means that, gasp!, single people might just be able to live fulfilling lives!

Couple Centricity in Polyamory

Polyamorists, predictably, groan about the difficulty in booking romantic events for three – romantic packages often are designed for couples – though personally, I find that it’s fairly easy to creatively overcome this issue if you just put your mind to it. The problem that tugs at my heartstrings a little more is actually centered around how polyamorists are being represented in the media, again and again, during this sudden rush of public attention. “Polyamory” flashes across the TV screen, and what do we see? A couple, usually a “primary” or married couple, with a third. Despite the literally infinite ways polyamory can manifest, this is, invariably, all the public ever sees.

And, while quads and clans and W’s and pentagrams choose either to complain or to wave it off, there is what I think might be a growing population of polyamorists who want to be acknowledged: “singleish” and “solopoly” people.

I first saw the terms in the comments section of an entry on Jess’ Love is Infinite blog (we have a lot in common). I was directed to solopoly.net and polysingleish.com, and eventually to the Facebook group Singleish and Solo Polyamory.

I had never quite thought of it this way, but it’s true: ever since my break-up in 2010, I have been both polyamorous and single, and it has seemed to confuse people from time to time. I’ve gotten questions like:

“Wait, can you be polyamorous if you’re not currently in a relationship with more than one person?”

“So, you’re a slut?”

“Don’t you think maybe you’re single because you’re polyamorous?”

(Answers, in order of questions: Yes. Yes, but that’s unrelated. And, no, I don’t.)

What am I taking from all this? I’m still figuring it out, but it’s interesting to meet and read things written by people who identify as “solopoly”, some of whom never intend to be a part of a bonded “pair,” some of whom who always intend to live alone, while still having meaningful, possibly even life-long relationships with, perhaps, more than one partner.

I, for one, really enjoyed my time living with someone I was in a relationship with. That’s not something I’m willing to take off the table, which is funny, since I currently make clear that for me, kids are off the table and marriage is something someone would have to make a really strong argument in favor of to sway me.

If the topic piques your curiosity, as it did mine, by all means take a look around. Let me know if you find something interesting – I’m enjoying having something new to research.