Dear Raquel — How do I make peace with being single?
Hi girls of the Attic! I need your advice. I feel like I'm going to be single my entire life, and it's such a difficult possibility for me to accept. I can't be content knowing I'll probably never know true love and companionship. I want to have a partner, I want to get married, I want to have a family. The possibility that this might never happen to me crushes me.
But I also ask myself: why do I feel like I need a partner to be complete? Why can't I be happy and love myself on my own? I'm 26, I'm too young to be thinking like this; there's plenty of time to find someone. Plus having a partner isn't life's greatest achievement. But irrationally I can't help but feel I won't find love and happiness. I'm so scared and devastated, and I don't know how to find peace in my single life. I've had 4 boyfriends in all my life, but being overweight I believe I'm not worthy of love and no man will find me attractive and love me. What can I do to be at peace with myself? — Anonymous
Hello! Oh my love I am so sorry. I know exactly what you’re going through and being single myself, I specifically requested to answer this one all on my own. I do apologize for how long it’s taken. But, I am here now, and I feel like what you need here and now may not exactly be advice so much as comfort, or solidarity. It’s all well and good to hear from happily married or coupled friends and otherwise that I will probably find someone someday, but for me what works best is to hear that I am not alone now. So — you’re not alone.
You say you cannot accept the idea that you might be single, and guess what? You don’t have to accept anything you don’t want to. Maybe someday you will, but for now everything you feel is perfectly fine! It is NOT a weakness to want someone in your life. Seven billion people exist on this planet and we aren’t just all here to ignore each other awkwardly on the subway. I think what you could work on is accepting that these people do exist, and maybe try connecting with some just for the hell of it. Companionship and love are not exclusive to romantic relationships. Bond further with friends and family, and if that isn’t possible, find a hobby that requires group interaction (knitting circle, book club, online fandom) and bond with people there. Bond with yourself, too. Anything you can do with another person you can do alone, including going to fancy restaurants or buying you a gift for no reason.
From your own back and forth it seems as though you’re already working on persuading yourself towards acceptance but you falter (which is okay! nobody’s perfect). Letting the negativity seep back in is too easy, much like frowning, even though they say smiling requires less muscles. Deep breath. You said so yourself, you have plenty of time, and anything can happen in that time, whether its finding that love, acceptance, or something even better. So let’s work on now. At any point in your life any feeling of doubt or uncertainty you have feels like it’s going to last forever. Remember high school? Every minute felt like it could be the rest of time when something went wrong, or someone was mean, or someone broke your heart. But you got through it.
You have to confront how you feel and realize it’s only temporary. No, it’s not going to go away instantly either, but we can live with that. To pretend you can magically will bad feelings away is repression, and it’s dangerous. Instead, you kind of have to train them to say hey, and keep walking. Instead of wallowing in my own pain, for example, I think about what may have caused it (familiar song? Instagram? memory trigger?), scream or cry for a minute or the length of a therapy session or text conversation with someone who gets it, and then search for a way to change the situation as soon as possible. A comforting film, a cuddle with a pet, a really good song, book, or something to do.
Are the feelings happening all of the time? Or just when you sit still? Distraction is the best remedy for heartache, and there are so many good distractions out there. Pick one, any one. Mine vary from running away to another city all the way down to picking up a hairbrush and counting the tangles in my hair. These are problems we can solve. A happy place you can get to easily is another option. During one of the most depressed years of my life I lived across the street from an art museum. That membership paid for itself in a week.
As much as it may feel this way, your entire happiness doesn’t rely on whether you find love or not, on whether you make peace with it or not. Any thing, person, or action can make you happy at any given moment, and if the idea of the rest of your life is too much to deal with, then find happiness in this moment, however you can. Happiness is a deep, complicated emotion, but it can also be simple, and there is no shame in finding it in a film, book, or the way a particular flower looks in the sunlight. Because even when (and I’m saying when because I believe in you) you find that person, that home, that family, it will not actually be their job to make you happy. And if you are going to keep them around, you have to accept that for sure.
I think some of us go through life assuming our “complete” state exists somewhere tangible. She’s there! On that tarmac, just waiting for you to board, BUT! you’re only welcome on if your passport is up to date, your boarding pass group is being called forward, and your luggage fits within the carry on dimensions allowed. No. Finding a partner is not the goal because finding a partner isn’t going to make you complete. No matter how perfect or complete they themselves are either. Because we’re all at least a little bit messy, and the beauty in that is realizing you don’t have to be perfect to find love either. I know you are impatient for a safe future, for your real life to begin. I get it. I feel it. We all think love is going to save us, but here’s the truth: nothing in my entire life has ever made me happier than saving myself. That’s love, too.
I’m not saying I did it by myself, or even that I love myself one hundred percent of the time — I am definitely not perfect or complete or whatever. I am content, most of the time these days, and that comes from words, pictures, friends, family, therapy, coffee, music, clothing, laughter, olive green eyeshadow, the light in my room at sunset, pain au chocolat, the things I create, the stretching yawn my pet bunny makes every morning when she sees I’ve gotten out of bed... I could go on. Even the people who have broken my heart. They gave me the benefit of the doubt, showed me what I could have, someday perhaps. When things fail I think we also learn what we are capable of. They didn’t save me, but I can save myself, with the world I created for myself. You can do it, too. I know this because you’ve already taken the first step here and asked for help.
Being single isn’t a curse, as much as I loathe having to answer that question on legal forms in the first place, but at the end of the day we are all individual human beings with potential. You don’t believe you are worthy of love, because of your weight or because it hasn’t worked out in the past, but much like expecting another person to make you happy, you cannot expect finding the love of your life will fix these issues either. Past relationships are not indicative of the future (although if these ended badly, learn the signs and take care of yourself first always). Being overweight does not make you (or anybody) unworthy of love. If it truly makes you unhappy then it is up to you to do something about it, so long as you are doing it for your own health and happiness and not in the hopes that somebody will take notice. Likewise being overweight does not make you unattractive, and any man who tells you otherwise is never going to love you so you may as well run in the opposite direction. The person who loves you will think you are gorgeous, plain and simple. That is the person you want.
If you want to find him now, go wherever you think he is; bumble, the park, the library, your best friend’s family reunion, anywhere. Wear something that makes you feel like you’re already in love (wear more things like that in general, just for the fun of it). If you want him to find you, that’s okay too, but you’ll have to learn patience. Read some love stories, travel, get really invested the history of your favorite cheese. Love exists in countless forms, and one person may provide it in a very specific way someday, but that’s no reason to restrict yourself from it in whatever form you want while you wait. Life is already out there waiting for us, the sparkle, the energy, the madness. Choose what makes you happy now.