I'm Single On Purpose —And That's Not A Condition That Needs Curing

Photo: Anda B / Shutterstock
I'm Single On Purpose —And That's Not A Condition That Needs Curing

I can't even begin to count the number of times people have said to me, "Dori, you need a boyfriend," after learning that I'm single. What's worse is their reaction when I don't chime in with a disgruntled, "Don't I know it!" 

I easily accept the reality of my relationship status — single — and this seems to perplex people. That my life doesn't revolve around nailing down Mr. Right strikes both friends and strangers as odder than should be allowed, and drives them into frenzied trances of speculation. Between the doubt and the advice they're just dying to give, it only takes but a few moments for them to vault me up on to the platform of their projected pity where they can lavish me with counsel.

I can always see it coming too. The furrowed brow of concern, the gentle hand of commiseration resting cautiously upon my own. Sometimes their solicitude will come in the form of a shy comment; something to the effect of, "I just worry about you. You deserve better."

"Better than what?" I might ask them, knowing full well what their answer will be.

"Better than being alone, of course. Nobody wants to be alone."

But is being alone — whether temporarily or indefinitely — really all that bad? When I explain to those who care that I have come to a place in my life, post-divorce, where I feel more comfortable with detachment rather than attachment, the result of their friendly psychoanalysis is always the same: I'm either kidding myself, in denial, on some kind of head trip where I believe I'm superior to others, or I'm just too lonely to admit that I'm shut down and afraid to fall in love again.

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After all, who could be happy in such a state of non-attachment? The Buddha?

Well, I'm not the Buddha, nor do I aspire to be the Buddha. I'm just me, a woman who's been madly, desperately in love before; a woman who's had many great loves and many great losses. I've felt the all-encompassing warmth of being in love, and I've lived for years and years in full acknowledgement of love's infinite healing qualities.

I have loved love, and have spent a life knowing that by being in love, I was living a full life, a human life. The act of loving someone and being loved in return, without a doubt, allowed me to feel like I was a complete person. Love is what made life worth living.

Until of course, I was pulverized by love.

While the old adage, "once bitten, twice shy," has meaning, the reality of the slogan—for most of us—should read, "85,000,000 times bitten, twice shy." We don't really get the point until we've been squashed, annihilated and eradicated by love—and even then I'm not sure we get it. When we finally ask ourselves, "Hey, I really want more of this love stuff?," ironically, most of the time the answer will be, "Why, yes. Yes I do. In fact, give me another helping. Even though my heart has been charred into cinders, I believe there’s still something inside this old cage of bones that’s worth destroying."

What a bizarre bunch of Buddhas we are, this human race of ours.

So, why do we crave this attachment when we know from experience that it has the potential of delivering so much pain?

I think if we had even the slightest hint of what real, permanent separation from the person we love felt like we’d never venture forth to seek love in the first place. It's like marriage; we don’t marry to get divorced, we marry because we want to achieve the ideal, and that is to stay in love forever. Not only that, but I suspect we also marry because we think we can grab the 'brass ring', that it’s ours for the taking so long as we believe.

Oh sure, at the dawn of a romance, we pretend to be all grand and worldly about the reality of being in love. We tend to shoo away any hints at our own weakness, which, in a way, is like creating a disclaimer that acknowledges failure as an option.

But it's nothing we can't deal with because, well, we're such advanced souls and naturally we can take it should something as silly as failure happen. That's why we glibly say things like, "Yeah, I know it's not going to be perfect." But the truth is, we're not always prepared for it to be anything less than perfect. Because once we're in love, we're sunk.

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As soon as that attachment takes hold, even the slightest variance may be interpreted as a threat to the union.

For those of us whose sensitivity levels are off the charts, we become neurotic, paranoid and possessive. We are so involved and invested in the security of this thing that if for some reason we detect even the slightest breach in the unspoken contract of love, we start to break down, bit by bit.

For every ounce of pleasure that we derive from the coupling, there is now an equal amount of worry and fear. The fear isn't so much about the present state of the affair as it is about what the end will feel like should the worst of all possibilities come to pass.

Breaking up with someone, being left, being lied to or betrayed — it's a shock to the system. The end of a love affair is a pain that somehow rules out all other pain. How is that even possible? Can one compare a broken bone to a bruised ego? And a black-and-blue ego is precisely what we get when we are suddenly faced with the idea that everything we were once plugged into has now abandoned us to float like a satellite in space.

After we've suffered a bad breakup, we mourn the lost attachment like a phantom limb.

We were used to doing things a certain way and now that way is gone, maybe forever. We feel irretrievable. The attachment we once had gave us an identity; we were part of a couple. It felt so good. Losing the attachment also brings up much self-conflict: "How did I ever trust that person? What kind of fool am I?" "

How could they do this to me, and what does that say about my own sense of judgment?" "Can I ever love again?" "Should I ever love again?" "Am I an idiot, or are they?" Once we get past being angry with them, we really start becoming angry with ourselves.

So when people ask me why I'm not dating or why I haven't made express efforts to get a solid relationship going in my life — it's not that I don't adore the idea. I do. And I would never advise any person on Earth not to go for it with all the gusto they can muster up, because on many levels, love really is worth it. Love may equal pain, but thems the breaks, eh?

I'm no Buddha.

I'm just a woman with a little less need than many, a lot less desire for attachment than most, and an open heart for whatever might come my way along the road. The only reason I'm not actively trying again is because, well, Mr. Right hasn't knocked on my door lately with a dozen roses and a note that says, "I promise not to psychoanalyze you for being single." Should that guy happen to materialize, then by all means I'll let him in. After all, I'm fairly sure I can still hear a heartbeat within this old cage of bones.

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Dori Hartley is primarily a portrait artist. As an essayist and a journalist, she can be read in The Huffington Post, ParentDish, YourTango, The Daily Beast, Psychology Today, More Magazine, XOJane, MyDaily and The Stir. Her art books ‘Beauty’, ‘Antler Velvet’, and 'Mads Mikkelsen: Portraits of the Actor' are all available on Amazon.