I recently attended a workshop about loneliness, which I often think about in terms of intimate relationships. It’s a topic I often discuss with youth as part of the provincial sexual health education curriculum. As a sex educator I interact with individuals and couples on a regular basis and have come to the conclusion that most people are looking for companionship and intimate connection. What’s more, many people are lonely, even people in intimate relationships. Society puts overwhelming pressure on people to be in a relationship, which makes me wonder whether and how much of peoples’ loneliness is socially constructed.
At work I regularly play an activity with youth that discusses relationships. It often sparks dialogues on remaining in an unhealthy relationship because they simply want to be in a relationship. Experiencing a great deal of peer pressure to be with someone, they feel more socially included when dating.
I have also spoken with adults who admit they just do not want to be alone. They are not happy in their relationship but they are willing to stay. Many adults will settle in an unhappy, unfulfilling or unhealthy relationship because it is preferable to being alone. These are often smart, successful people.
Society has done an excellent job of convincing us that being single is not a desirable permanent state. You should always be on the lookout for “the one.” Single people are often asked whether they are dating anyone, as if being single is not a choice anyone would make. Being single is a choice we can make — and a choice that many people make, for many reasons. We need to stop assuming that because someone is alone they are unhappy.
Don’t get me wrong, relationships can be great and can have many benefits. But I also think that being single can have many benefits. You can get to know yourself without worrying about impressing someone else or making compromises. You have more time to develop close friendships and stay connected to family. You have more time to concentrate on yourself both physically and mentally. You get to make all the decisions about the way you live your life. And just because you are not in a relationship does not mean you cannot have sex, both with yourself and with others.
People have told me they are in a relationship for financial reasons. This makes sense to me, because who can afford a mortgage on their own? Some people want to be in a relationship so they can have regular sex — not always the case. Some people simply don’t have time for a relationship with work and their other interests and passions. And there are always people who simply think the best company is their own.
To answer Bon Jovi’s question, “What do you got, if you ain’t got love?”: yourself, close friends and interests you have time to pursue. That’s pretty darn good.