If you read the book Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding years ago, you may have, like me, laughed out loud when Bridget recounts her reluctant attendance at dinner parties hosted by the dreaded Smug Marrieds. Yes, the Smug Marrieds with their multi-colored pasta in jars lining the kitchen countertop and their merciless interrogation of the Singletons about all sorts of things that should be off limits. Are you seeing anyone? When do you plan to get married? Don’t you want to have a baby? Tick-tock, tick-tock!
More and more, when I talk with people about my love for cooking and gardening and just plain old decadence at home, I sometimes get a surprising reaction from my single friends. They will say, “Yeah, that’s cool for you, but I’m single. It’s just me, so why do all that?” My eyebrows raise. What? What do you mean it’s just you? Aren’t you the very best reason to live exactly how you want? While I happen to enjoy some hobbies that may seem traditional for women, and I pursued them long before I was married, this isn’t necessarily a manifesto for the domestic arts. When you’re single, you have a unique opportunity to select the life you want and go after it, but you have to avoid these potential pitfalls.
Pitfall #1: Waiting. One of the hidden dangers to being single is that you wait. You wait to settle into a home, whether that means buying or renting the place of your dreams right now. That means you could spend years living somewhere that feels temporary. When something feels temporary, you’re less likely to invest fully in it. When it’s the place you live, you might not want to get too comfortable, paint the walls, decorate to suit your style, stock your kitchen, plant flowers, or eat dinners at home. It can also mean that you don’t live up to your potential in other areas of life.
Pitfall #2: Settling for Less. You could spend years living with ugly furniture from your college days, eating junky food, ignoring exciting opportunities, and otherwise not living for now. I’m not making this up. I hear it all the time, and especially from women. Too often, we’re willing to settle for less in our single lives so that if and when we meet “someone”, the transition to a relationship is easier for them. If we have no ties to our communities, no home to sell or mortgage payments, and no commitments to pursuing our own dreams, it will be easier, we think, to settle seamlessly into the established lifestyle of a potential partner. But, the right partner should find you even more attractive if you’ve set higher standards forr your life, and they'll encourage you to go even further.
What I’m about to say may sound harsh, but it’s possible that it could take years to find the right partner for you. It’s also possible that you may never find them. But, when you do meet the “one”, you’ll actually be a better partner and have a stronger relationship if you’ve been living a full life on your own.
Pitfall #3: Not Seeing the World Alone. For a long time, I considered myself to be a Smug Singleton, happily husband-free, and relatively carefree. While I was focused on my career, I also enjoyed the heck out of my life. When I look back on those days, I am very grateful
that I didn’t waste a single moment waiting to get married so I could start living the way I wanted. If I wanted to try a great restaurant, I went alone, confidently requesting either a table for one or hoisting myself up at the bar for dinner and drinks. I spent a couple of vacations traveling alone to places I’d always wanted to see. I didn’t wait for someone other than myself to cook for or decorate my home with.
Don’t shy away from experiencing whatever is you want, even if you must go it alone. Learning to just be with yourself can be very rewarding and empowering. You’ll be amazed at what you can do and the interesting people you could meet along the way. Seeing the world through just your lens is a special opportunity that shouldn’t be wasted.
I got very comfortable being alone, and I firmly believe that those years prepared me to be a better wife. Once, after we had been married for a few months, my husband told me that I was the only woman he’d ever been with that he knew didn’t need him. Of course, I love and respect him in the deepest way I can, enjoy our life together immensely, totally believe he is the best person I will ever meet, and wouldn’t want to be without him. But, I don’t need him for survival.
The single life is great. In many ways, it’s the only chance you’ll have to make life all about you, to the greatest extent possible. Only by avoiding these pitfalls can you live in the moment. By doing so, you’ll create some lasting memories that will only enhance those you create if and when you find the right partner for you.
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