We live in a society that places high value and expectation on being in a coupled relationship and singles are often stigmatized for their single-status. Gay men, in particular, are often labeled as being unable to develop and maintain long-lasting intimate relationships, adding yet another layer to this stigma. This can lead to feelings of low self-worth and inferiority, a sense that there's something wrong with you if you don't have a boyfriend, an excessive focus and preoccupation with your discontent with being single, and sometimes a compulsive drive to find a relationship just to satisfy that nagging need (which can be a dangerous and sabotaging maneuver if one's dating practices are conducted out of desperation rather than conscious intention).
For those who have not chosen singlehood as a lifestyle and do long to be in a relationship, this can be a painfully difficult experience. Special occasions, holidays, weddings, times of loneliness, and just witnessing other couples can be very triggering events for singles that serve to magnify their restlessness and unfulfillment with being solo. What these types of single gay men need most is a reassurance and recognition that this phase of life can be one of the most enjoyable and transformational times of their lives if they choose it to be. This article will validate the positive values of being single and will offer some suggestions for making the most of your single life.
THE BENEFITS OF BEING SINGLE
Singlehood is the time in your life where you have the greatest degree of flexibility and freedom to do whatever you want. You can be more spontaneous, independent, selfish, and adventurous because there can be less commitments and more time to pursue the things you want to do; you can make your life into anything that you want it to be as you're completely in "the driver's seat." You have the ability to enter in and out of situations with relative ease and to meet a variety of new people. You are responsible only for yourself and can make choices and major decisions without having to take another into account or to have to answer to anyone. You don't have to deal with another's annoying habits or nuances and don't have to compromise. Other aspects of your identity (career, family, friends, etc.) can have more emphasis as there's less competition for your focus and attentions.
More importantly, though, being single puts you in the ideal position for cultivating yourself to reach your fullest potential as an individual. It's an opportunity for self-exploration and investing in your own personal growth and development. It's also an ideal time to learn what's needed to be fully prepared for love when you find it, to experiment safely with your sexuality, and to explore different types of relationships. It's fertile ground for learning about who you are and what your needs are. Harville Hendrix, Ph.D. says it best in his book "Keeping the Love You Find":"Singleness would be recognized as a vital stage of the journey to maturation, a time to learn about who we are, to learn responsibility and self-sufficiency, to identify our true desires, and to confront our inner strengths and demons, a time to make changes in the things that stymie our pleasure and progress in life, to learn how to connect and communicate on alllevels. It would be sorely needed relationship training." (1)
ACTION STEPS FOR NAVIGATING YOUR SINGLE LIFE
The following are some practical tips and suggestions for managing your singlehood to promote a positive acceptance and enjoyment of this special time in your life.
1. Create a checklist of the opportunities that being single affords you and start living them!
2. Start a journal about your single-status and what it means to you. Answer the following questions:
* Why am I single? How do I feel about that?
* What do I want from being single?
* What thoughts, feelings, and behaviors hold me back from being able to embrace this time of my life?
* How do I contribute to my own unfulfillment with being single? How do I sabotage myself?
Don't deny your feelings or ignore your desire for a relationship. Process these feelings in your journal and write about ways you can create more meaning and purpose in your life.
3. Identify the biggest challenges you face with being single and develop goals to defeat them.
4. Develop affirmation cards. Grab some index cards and write positive thoughts, motivational statements, advantages and opportunities of being single, and self-improvement goals onto the cards. Read them to yourself daily to begin internalizing the messages. Alternatively, stick the cards in a jar and during times of loneliness or depressive funks, refer to the cards for a quick pick-me-up.
5. Identify things you've always been meaning to do or try but never made the time to pursue or learn. Take action.
6. Build your support system, join a class, volunteer for a cause that's meaningful to you, commit yourself to health and wellness.Be active. Live your life to the max! Make it count!
As you can see, being single provides you with many opportunities for self-growth, fun, and preparing yourself for your life partner when you eventually meet him. Take advantage of this crucial time in your life to accomplish your life goals, improve your self-esteem, work through any internalized homophobia you may be struggling with, and build your interpersonal skills. It's important to avoid glamorizing relationships because "the grass is not always greener on the other side" and to realize that having a boyfriend does not take away problems that you may already have in your life. Appreciate this time of your life and don't measure your happiness or worth as a person on your relationship status.
The Law of Attraction states that we attract situations, people, and experiences in our lives that reflect who we are and what we focus on. Negativity about being single will only mirror, magnify, and attract more negativity. Counter this by taking charge of your single life and crafting it into being the most meaningful and fulfilling time of your life with its alignment to your life vision and purpose. Cheers to your becoming a successful single!
(1) Hendrix, H. (1992). Keeping the Love You Find. New York: Pocket Books/Simon & Schuster, Inc.
© Dr. Brian L. Rzepczynski, The Gay Love Coach