The Single Files

Singled Out

It seems like everywhere you look, people are getting married. Media is inundating us with rom-coms, commercials and television shows: Say Yes to the Dress (should that dress really be white?), Four Weddings (you don’t need to invite three strangers to judge your wedding, the mothers and other wives are already doing it), or good ‘ol  Bridezilla (your makeup is running).

In case you choose not to watch the shows on t.v, there’s always social media where we can see couples who post everything from the day they got engaged to the hairstyle the soon-to-be bride wants. (The Sock Bun Curls are a smash this year.) With Tumblr, Pinterest and Facebook, you don’t even need to be invited to be able to see the wedding pics. And those who aren’t in relationships, whether they choose it or not, watch it all unfold from the front row.

Our culture puts so much emphasis on “coupledom” it overshadows those who are single, as though they just haven’t found their happiness yet. And the sad part is that some people will never get to know how liberating being single really is. It’s the only time they’ll get to experience the world however they wish; without compromise. I have friends who have never gone longer than a few months being alone.They are the most perplexed about my choosing not to be married. I do not judge them, nor do they judge me, we just have different views–or perhaps, different fears.

I learned to appreciate my independence when I was in college. I didn’t want to be single, but I didn’t have a choice. I was forced to be my own companion. (And I’m not talking about Billy Idol’s Dancing With Myself either, get your mind out of the gutter.) I was lonely and I hated it. However, after a while, I learned to become comfortable with my own thoughts and I faced my fears of being alone.

The reason my relationship with Mike has lasted as long as it has is because we both enjoy our independence and we both allow each other to have it. If I had never been single during those years that I had, I would never have realized that I’m okay on my own which adds a little security and removes a certain dependence in my relationship.

“We don’t need stories of how to become couples. They are legion. We need stories about how to be single. We need them whether we are gay or straight. We need them whether we are single by choice, through separation, divorce, or bereavement or because this, for you, is how life has turned out.”- Jim Friel, Is It Really a Sin to be Single?

If you are single, you’ve got company…

All the single ladies.

According to the United States Census Bureau:

In year 2011, there were 102 Million unmarried people in the United States. ‘Unmarried people’ include those who were never married, widowed or divorced.

  • This group comprised 44.1% of all U.S residents 18 years or older.
  • 53% were women, 47% were men.
  • For every 100 unmarried women, there were 89 unmarried men.
  • 62% had never been married, 24% were divorced and 14% were widowed.
  • 55 Million households were maintained by unmarried men and women, 46% of households nation wide.
  • 33 Million people lived alone in 2011, 28% of all households. Up 17% from 1970.

…and my favorite fact:

Single Origin Middle English : via Old French from Latin singulus, related to simplussimple.’

Nothing is more simple than greatness; indeed, to be simple is to be great.~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

The Inevitable Mistake.

They dream in courtship, but in wedlock wake.  ~Alexander Pope, The Wife of Bath, 1713

War of the Roses

Boston Family Therapist, Terrence Real, says “There comes a moment in all relationships when you lie in bed, roll over, look at the person next to you think it’s all a dreadful mistake.” He claims this can happen anywhere from a few months to a few years in. Real says when the initial attraction we once had for our partners has fizzled, it is actually the first day of our marriage. “It’s not a sign that you’ve chosen the wrong partner. It is the signal to grow as an individual.”

I met Mike when I was living in Breckenridge, Colorado. I was only twenty-four-years-old. Every time I return to Breckenridge, I get this feeling of excitement and vulnerability. My mind instantly takes me back and I’m taken over with emotions–a roller coaster of butterflies, angst and fear. It’s as though I were watching a movie that I loved, and hadn’t seen in a while.

The strangest thing is, while I’m still with Mike, I’ll never get to experience him in that way again. It’s all part of the beginning of a relationship: the high, the lust, the sex, the feeling of being the most important and the most insecure person at the same time.

When we meet someone we really like, the intense infatuation is sparked by our brain releasing the chemicals adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin. According to WebMD, The brain can release these love-related chemicals and hormones within one-fifth of a second of first sight.

Adrenaline is why my heart would pound so fast when I’d see it was Mike’s number calling. Or, why all of a sudden I felt like I could go for a six mile run just from making plans to meet up. Adrenaline is the worst if you ask me, it’s clearly obvious when my heart is pounding: my voice cracks, I start to pit out, and I have this lost, scared look on my face.

Dopamine is the reason why I was able to fill Mike in on every detail of my life ’til the sun came up then, without any sleep whatsoever, skip off to work with a permanent smile.  Sleeping next to each other these days, doesn’t have the same effect as it used to. (Now, we actually sleep. And the creepy smile has been replaced with a normal, more subtle one.) The reaction to dopamine on our brain is similar to a reaction to cocaine. I was literally high on love.

And finally, the decreased levels of serotonin explains why I couldn’t get him out of my mind. My brain was fixated and I had no control in the matter. An interesting fact: these levels actually match the same amount of levels in those diagnosed with OCD- Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

According to Christine Meinecke, a clinical psychologist, it’s the building up of the other person that has an overwhelming effect. “It makes partners overestimate their similarities and idealize each other.” Eventually, the facade wears off and we are left with unexpected incompatibilities. This is when we wonder if we’ve chosen the wrong person. Before, we were so focused on what was “perfect” between us, and now we are focused on what isn’t.

The good news is this stage fades too. It takes work, but self-reflection and inner happiness are just a few ways to get through it faster.

While we’ve definitely had our shining moments. I haven’t had the full fledged “I think I chose the wrong person” experience yet, however, I’m not going to rule it out. I imagine it’s more likely to come when we have kids. (That’s when we will want to kill each other, exhausted and up to our ears in shit.)

If you want to read more: Psychology Today’s article, Are You With the Right Mate, by Rebecca Webber.

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