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I Enjoy the Single Life. Does That Mean I'm Destined to Be Alone?

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Welcome to ¡Hola Papi!, the advice column where John Paul Brammer helps people work through their anxieties, fears, and life's queerest questions. If you need advice, send him a question at [email protected]


¡Hola Papi!

One of my biggest fears is that I’ll never find a good guy because I'm not worthy of having one. 

I'm more or less okay with my body. It’s nothing to write home about, but I'm used to it, and it feels like it's me. I suffer from depression and anxiety, and am extremely introverted most days. Finding a therapist in a small Texas town that won't, at best, steer around the gay thing is challenging, and finding one I can afford is even harder. 

I'm currently five months into self imposed exile from the dating world. I'm trying to learn how to be single. In the past I would pretty much jump from one relationship to the next, and they usually ended pretty badly. This new adventure into singledom is actually going pretty well so far. I really like that I'm not beholden to anyone.

But I’m starting to wonder: am I meant to be alone? What if I end up never finding a good guy? I don’t think I’m a bad person. I’m just not a particularly great one. What do I do to change that, or is it about changing the way I think?

Signed,
Woefully Unworthy

 

Oh, WU. 

First, let me disabuse you of the myth that relationships happen when you “deserve” them. Relationships happen to all sorts of people all the time. They’ve even happened to me, and I’m … well, myself. I think our culture tends to associate being single with some kind of moral shortcoming. Why haven’t you found someone? Why are you still single? Etc. But we’re all works in progress, WU. If we waited to be perfect before jumping into anything, we’d never jump into anything at all.

I think the word “deserve” also illustrates some unhealthy thinking on relationships we’ve accepted as a culture. On some level, we think of them in terms of possession. Either we “have” someone or we don’t. When we don’t have someone, we tend to define our lives in terms of that absence: we are single, looking, available, etc. It can make the idea of not being in a romantic relationship and not actively looking for one feel unconventional, as you illustrate here. Things are going well for you, being single is yielding some positive results, and yet you’re still worried you’re doing something wrong.

I’ve been where you are with this. I was single for a very, very long time. I felt utterly incomplete without a relationship, and every day I wondered what was wrong with me. I wanted someone to validate me by being with me. That would be a datapoint, I thought, that would tell me I was fine and worthy of love. I was so certain it was the one thing I was missing in life. And then, WU, shock of all shocks, it actually happened: I met a handsome, funny guy I started seeing pretty regularly. We cooked together, hooked up, went on nice dates, and the whole time I was incredibly struck by just how boring this whole “relationship” stuff was after all.

Don’t get me wrong! He wasn’t boring. But being with him wasn’t the life-affirming, magically validating, explosive experience I’d imagined it to be. It just felt like a regular life thing. I scheduled time around him and we texted a lot. There were good times and times when it felt more like I was doing chores, but my baggage never went away. I just had another person in my life. “Oh,” I thought to myself at several points. “So this is what it’s like. Sure.”

I think your issue, my issue, most people’s issue, is that they have a bad relationship with themselves and project that onto their interactions with others. When me and the guy mentioned above stopped seeing each other, for example, I swore, swore it was because I wasn’t physically attractive enough for him. That’s an issue I have with myself. Whether it was true or not is immaterial — its source was undeniably rooted in the toxic dialogue I run in my head.

For me, it’s been helpful to recognize that I do in fact have a relationship with myself and to broaden my definition of relationships beyond “romantic partners,” and even beyond platonic friendships. I think relationships are how we relate to the world and how we move through it, WU. You wake up as yourself. You think about yourself a certain way. There are probably days where you like yourself and days where you don’t. You can show yourself kindness or cruelty. That’s a relationship. You can’t nurture that relationship by entering one with another person. That’s like watering a fake plant and hoping it starts sprouting tomatoes. 

It’s not about having to “love yourself” before you’re able to commit to someone (sorry, RuPaul). I think it’s about learning a language to speak to yourself with, one that will help you understand your needs, identify your emotional turbulence, and manage how you navigate those things. These are skills that will help you through many kinds of relationships, and cultivating them takes time, reflection, and honesty. It sounds like you’ve got an opportunity to do that right now.

My advice to you would be to acknowledge the positives that being single is giving you. It’s a great thing to take some time to work on yourself, and to work with yourself. Try to get yourself to a place where you feel open to a relationship, but not empty for one. If you think of a relationship in terms of what you don’t have, it makes you more susceptible to accepting one just to be in it, which isn’t a great reason. You can nurture your non-romantic relationships in the meanwhile.

I hope things end up going your way, WU! And don’t feel bad if you stumble or if you feel lonely sometimes. That’s perfectly normal. But remember, we’re rarely as alone as we think.

Con mucho amor,
Papi

 

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