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Being Single, a Chance to Learn About Yourself

Publication: York Region's Liberal Newspaper
Date: October 2002

In a world where we base so much value on being in a love relationship, where does that leave all of those who are single?

Being single serves an important purpose in our life. Most importantly, it allows us to learn more about our self and, as a result of doing so, to feel good about who we are. In fact, it is when we have not spent enough time on our own, that we are more likely to lose our sense of self when we are in a relationship.

Our accomplishments as a single person reminds us of our ability to be self-reliant and independent. As a result, we build our self-confidence and develop a greater sense of personal worth. We do not need to fear being alone - now, or at some future time in our life, if we know from experience that, no matter what, we can survive and be happy being on our own.

When we are single, we have the freedom to spend time giving thought to what it is that we want and need from our lives before venturing into a relationship. It also gives us an opportunity to do the things that 'feed our soul' - things that we may have missed out on while focusing on our studies, being buried in our busy work life, or being in previous relationships.

If you are currently single, and continue to ask yourself the timeless question, "What's wrong with me? Why can't I just find someone to spend my life with?" perhaps you're missing the bigger picture.

Single hood is an expression of being with the self. There is possibly no greater opportunity for someone to develop their self-esteem - their sense of personal identity and self-efficacy, than to spend quality time in pursuit of self-discovery and growth.

It is in accepting our status as a single person and enjoying what our life 'is' at this moment rather than what we think it 'isn't', that we begin to fully appreciate things as they are - instead of feeling discontented. Getting in the habit of asking our self questions like: "What do I want to do today?" or "What would make me happy right now?" are important when we are single, since we easily tend to forget about our own needs when we are in the midst of being in a relationship with another.

I have worked with several 'single' clients who have come to therapy in the hopes of learning what (in their words) is wrong with them. These clients have decided that if they can just "fix" whatever is wrong with who they are, then they can find that special someone to have a relationship with. But of course, it doesn't work that way.

I explain that being single is an opportunity to figure out who you are - and not about 'fixing' yourself to please the next potential relationship that might cross your path. Interestingly, in exploring 'who they are,' clients almost always discover that they (whether consciously or unconsciously) have a fair bit to do with why they are currently not in a healthy relationship with someone. Taking an honest look at one's self often means growth and positive change in the preferred direction. Sometimes it can be difficult to take a close look at our behavior from the inside - and so in this way, therapy can be a positive and supportive means of taking an honest look at how we think about particular situations, and the way in which we interact with others.

In my work with couples, I can easily discern if one partner has spent a sufficiently greater amount of time being single, than the other. The biggest difference? Development of one's sense of self. Clients who have already accomplished a fair bit of work on their self, come into their couple relationship with a far greater level of comfort in who they are, what they want out of the relationship, and in their ability to give of their self to their partner without losing who they are in the process. Consequently, the clients who have taken time to be on their own and to work on aspects of their self, often struggle with their partners' lack of self-esteem, level of emotional maturity, and life direction uncertainty.

Remember that single hood has the potential to be the segue to a 'healthy' love relationship. One in which you may feel comfortable in who you are while continuing to grow and develop yourself - and at the same time, allowing your significant-other to do the same.