April 21, 2014

How to Be in Relationship When You’re Single.

holding cat pet love fur

It is oh so easy to fall into the trap of believing yourself to be lacking, or your life to be lacking, when you’re single.

And maybe this is true.

Maybe you are lacking. Maybe your life is lacking. But you don’t need a romantic relationship to fill that hole inside of yourself or in your life.

Indeed, if you wait for a romantic relationship to fill the hole you may inadvertently build your relationship on a foundation of neediness—something that rarely ends well.

Instead, if you yearn for romantic relationship, better to identify what it is that you are truly yearning for—what is it that you feel you lack, what is it that you need in your life?

Identify that lack, identify that need, and then meet your lack and your needs yourself, from the power of your singledom.

Here are a few pointers:

1. Recognise that your deep desire for romantic relationship is a natural occurring phenomenon—it’s part of what it means to be human. It’s natural and it’s healthy and it’s ok.You don’t need fixing.

2. Identify what you believe a romantic relationship will give you—whether it be companionship, connection, children, economic stability, lifestyle development, resources, sexual fulfilment, fun, safety, a sense of place, someone to love or acceptance.

3. Once you’ve identified the core aspects that you believe relationship will bring into your life, find creative and innovative ways to meet those needs through your community.

4. Take action to cultivate those core aspects in your life every single day.

For example, I’ve noticed that when I’m in relationship, I allow myself downtime to hang out and be, enjoying the companionship of my partner. When I’m single, I allow myself much less down time, and I’m usually involved in doing far more—whether it’s looking after my child or working, working, working. I realised I was yearning for relationship so I could take a break and just be.

Once I’d identified that need, I set up a weekend away with a close girlfriend where we could hang out, do yoga, meditate, read, walk along the beach, enjoy food, music and great conversation—all of the things I love to do in relationship but somehow thought I couldn’t find by myself.

Here’s another example. A girlfriend of mine was looking for connection and acceptance through one person —her romantic partner—and so felt a sense of lack in herself because she didn’t have one. Over time she realised that she was surrounded by a community of people that she wasn’t valuing enough. There was already the opportunity for that connection and acceptance if she was willing to bring more of herself to those relationships instead of waiting for one man to reveal herself too. As a result, her relationships within her community deepened and grew as well as her acceptance of herself.

Or perhaps, you feel a lack of resources or economic stability because you’re a single person.

Maybe you’re waiting to meet the right person before you commit to a career path, a town or the purchase of a large asset like a house. In essence, your life is on hold until you find the perfect partner to accompany you on this big life step.

Ask yourself, how can I take a step forward now just as I am? The answer will depend entirely on your circumstances, but there are many creative ways to arrange your life. You may choose to buy a house with a family member or a friend, or buy a house by yourself and get in flatmates.

If you’re scared to commit to a particular career path or location because a part of you is saying ‘But I don’t know what my partner will want or where she’ll want to live ‘ and there is no partner in sight…ask yourself, why am I scared to do this by myself? What’s really stopping me?

We may dream of taking a long overseas trip or climbing Mount Everest or kayaking down the Amazon but we’re waiting for that right person to do it with.

It’s the same thing all over again. It’s scary to step forward by yourself, to grab life by the horns—your life—and just live it. But it’s your life—if these are your dreams, don’t wait to be handheld by another, dive right in. Take a family member or a friend or just strike out on your own. Lean into that fear.

If you have a strong desire for children and you’re single, it can be heart-breaking—especially as you age. Yet there are ways to accept your life as it is and move forward. For example, I knew a woman once who dearly wished to have children. She realised her options were looking slim so decided that she would make a conscious effort to satisfy that need in other ways.

She became an active godparent and aunt, and started up a kid’s art class. She worked at cultivating stronger and deeper relationships with the children already within her community. I have no doubt that the parents of those children were grateful! Parenting is a difficult job, and we could all do with more hands on deck.

I’ve always loved deep, intimate conversations and once felt like I needed to be in romantic relationship to experience them.

However, over the last five years, I’ve cultivated extraordinary relationships with family members and close friends and now I have at least ten people I can call in a heartbeat for a deep and meaningful conversation. This breadth and depth of intimate connection with my immediate community is a gift I am grateful for. It means that when I move into romantic relationship, my partner won’t have to take the full weight of meeting my need for intimate and engaging conversation!

Sometimes we yearn for relationship because we want to have someone to love. Yet we don’t need a romantic partner in order to love. Our love can spill out in every aspect of our lives – it’s the way we tend to our families, it’s the way we listen to our friends, it’s the way we cultivate our vegetable gardens and the way we delight in our pets.

Loving doesn’t require any object at all—it’s an outflow of presence available to us in every moment.

The most important person we can practice our loving on is ourselves. Learn to treat yourself the way you would a lover. Feed yourself with love, dress yourself with love, smile at yourself in the mirror with love, talk to yourself with love. Be the lover you wish you had. Sounds all light and fluffy, but this is one of the hardest practices of all. If you can do this with sincerity you will never feel a lack of love in your life ever again.

Finally, the hardest thing of all—how can one find sexual fulfillment without romantic relationship? Ignore the concept of friends with benefits, as this still buys into the illusion that the Other is always required to meet our needs. Instead, commit to cultivating a sexually intimate relationship with yourself – whatever that looks like.

If the thought of opening sexually to yourself brings up contraction and fear, then you can see where your work lies. If you’re not comfortable bringing yourself to a deep satisfying sense of sexual fulfillment then how can you expect the Other to do so? Identify what your sexual needs are—or are not—and then meet them in a way that is comfortable for you.

These are some suggestions for ways you can explore whatever it is you feel like you’re lacking or needing in your life, and you expect a romantic relationship to deliver.

It’s about being compassionate towards yourself, understanding and accepting where you are and then being creative and innovative in how you design your life to meet those needs.

It is a process, that happens in time, as you slowly untangle from the illusion and delusion of the Other. It comes as you recognise the multitude of ways that you are already in relationship within your community. It comes as you understand that love is not a thing that lives out there, nor a thing that arrives on cupid’s arrow, but a way of being that lives deep inside, available to you in every moment.

And fittingly, this article too was written in relationship, as my dear friend Sarah baked us an apple and feijoa crumble and we listened to music, my hands flying over the keyboard taking down the learnings we’ve each had in our singledom.

May you be as blessed as we are.


Happy & Alone 

10 Reasons Why Being Single(ish) Rocks 

11 Quotes to Inspire Self Love 


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Editor: Renée Picard

Photo: Pixoto

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