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  • Writer's pictureRichard Hughes

Singled Out

Updated: Jul 8

Lionel Ritchie has a lot to answer for. You see, back in the 80s there was a TV ad for the Halifax bank, and being an impressionable teenager, it set the standard for how I wanted my life to be. The guy in the ad wakes up in his cool loft apartment - by himself - and realises he has no milk in the fridge. His cat gives him a reproachful look, but hey, he has his debit card, which means he can withdraw money at any time. And so, as Lionel Ritchie croons ‘Easy Like Sunday Morning’, we see our protagonist returning home, with the Sunday papers, a coffee on the go, and his cat now contented on his lap. I loved what the ad stood for. The guy didn’t need to share his life with anyone - he was independent, self-sufficent, and had everything he needed, including a fantastic loft apartment and a cat.

As I've gotten older, I’ve come to realise that life does not really work like that. No one is an island, and a loft apartment is not the answer to life's problems. To ‘know thyself’ we need to be surrounded by, and involved with, something other than ourselves. It is through connection that we become human and develop our sense of self. The truth is, we may need more than just a cat, though saying that, I am sure I could make an empirical case for the higher humanity of other sentient beings. 

Of course, when it comes to connection, it is coupledom that maintains social and cultural primacy. 

So where does that leave being single? 

Being single has always been a big part of my life and I am curious why that is. Over the years, I’ve rallied against being single, got political about it, accepted it, enjoyed it, and felt sad about it, often at the same time. Intimate relationships do not come easy to me, maintaining them even more so. I’ve been accused of being picky. I know I think deeply and feel strongly. I continue to do a lot of work myself and I am aware of my attachment wounds and defences. I am also solvent, I go to the dental hygienist every three months, and I enjoy being warm-hearted and hospitable. People with a lot less are in relationships. Being single is one of the main reasons why I started therapy, and became a psychotherapist. 

I’ve come to the conclusion that being single needs to be acknowledged as a state of being that is equal to coupledom. If we had a more honest conversation around this, perhaps people would be less anxious about not having found 'the one'. Maybe they would view ‘loneliness’ in a different way, and be able to take a less ‘me’ focused perspective on being solo.

We live in an age where we are bombarded with subliminal and explicit messages messages about coupledom, and five year plans ... for couples, and ‘life goals’ that suit ... couples. Algorithms tell us we want this, even if we don't, and are yet to work out that for many people singledom is a choice.

If that was not enough, single people are routinely discriminated against - single supplements, cinema seats, taxes - even my spell check discriminates, it won’t acknowledge ‘singledom’ whilst it is quite happy with ‘coupledom’. My response to this: small acts of resistance. Sit in the best spot in the restaurant. On a villa holiday with friends? Do not put up with the twin bedroom, demand the double bed. Never buy a ‘meal for one’ - they’re always more expensive, whereas the regular option gives you two meals or seconds!  

Many people say the hardest part about being single is ‘having never met anyone who is in to me’. In To Me See - Intimacy. A lack of intimacy is the shadow part of all the positives that come with being single. A typical therapist response might be that to counter that, we need to develop supportive networks and meaningful communities to create a alternative forms of intimacy. I agree, and I can certainly see the wisdom in this, but the fact is, for people who being single is their default setting, and therefore getting involved is not always straight forward. 

For this reason alone, whilst it is important to develop all forms of connection, I also believe that to be more contented, we need to change our attitude to being single, and accept that society might not be in step with this just yet.

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