March 12, 2014 | 0 Comments
A Belated Valentine’s Message
Last summer I ran into my friend PH. I hadn’t seen him in a while and he was recently out of a relationship. He looked great. He had attended a Me So Far event two years prior, and while it didn’t result in a relationship, he did remark on how much the experience opened him up to both being single AND being in a relationship. And from there a very important conversation ensued.
As the founder of a singles event, I observe more than my fair share of human truths and have a lot of conversations with people on the topics of relationships, dating, and the latest hookup app. But my instinct is to discuss them with close friends, not necessarily share them with a broader audience. There is so much complaining and advice-giving in the dating world, that I sometimes feel out of place in its rule-making, do-this-not-that, make-it-simple approach. And I don’t have answers, just observations, I’ve made along the way.
At Me So Far, we’ve always kept pretty quiet around Valentine’s Day. In part, because there’s just too much noise, and in part because there’s such a stark divide between the presumed “haves” (couples) and the “have-nots” (singles) that it’s the only way people have come to understand the day—a day that is nothing more than a reminder of what some of us don’t “have.”
PH. didn’t just look great. He was doing great and feeling great. Maybe not every day, but on that day he was. And I venture he’s doing great on many days. Here’s where our conversation landed: When it comes to Singles and Couples, there are four broad quadrants of existence (and there are states in between but bear with me).
The problem is that we only tend to acknowledge B&D. Rarely do we hear from A&C. This doesn’t just create an incomplete story; it skews everyone’s perception about the seemingly massive mounds of happiness experienced by couples and the relative unhappiness and misery of those who are single.
But the probable cause of this is the most interesting part to me, and it illuminates something that is uniquely positive about people. The reason we don’t hear as much from C. (not so happy in relationship) is because there’s a person on the receiving end of the complaint. It’s not just easier, but kinder to talk about what’s working: the flowers you received, the cooking class you took together, or the trip to Door County. It’s harder to talk about the fact that the flowers were born of an argument, the cooking class was because you were running out of things to talk about, or that the trip to Door County was a compromise. And just so we’re clear, these are not signs of a flawed relationship, these are often signs of a real relationship. What’s not working is extremely personal, as it probably should be. It’s not meant for Facebook.
Now think about the complaints of Singles (quadrant D). Who is on the receiving end? Mostly the faceless “dating world”. Another person’s feelings are not in the direct line of fire. The point is, there’s so much more space to complain when you’re single because it’s basically without consequences. And when we see and hear so much complaining, we forget that being single can and is awesome, much of the time. (Hopefully, among the pluses is the chance to attend Me So Far events:)
Sure, there are times when being single can feel lonely in the same way that a relationship can feel suffocating. But I’d argue that the reason why it feels lonely is because we incorrectly think that everyone in a relationship is SO much happier. It’s easy for singles to tell their couple friends what they might envy; it might be harder for couples to share what they might envy about the single life, because they don’t want to be an asshole to their partner and that’s a good thing.
I remember a friend jokingly asking his coupled friends on Facebook to post just a few of the miserable moments in their relationships. He wasn’t trying to expunge the good, but was merely asking for a glimpse of balance.
We’ve all likely circled around all four quadrants and everything in between. For all that we’re hearing, we have to consider what we might not be hearing.