“So, why are you still single?” Recreating Your Own Narrative on Love.

Single. I am single for the first time (more-or-less), since I was 18 and started dating my first boyfriend.

I have, for better or worse, gone from one long-term relationship to another with only short respites in between. My longest being 5 1/2 years, and my most recent being 3.

I am lucky because the majority of my times in these relationships, has been with good men, and they have been mostly happy times. But the other day someone asked me a question that threw me.

“So, why are you still single?” — Immediately I felt a twinge of consternation. My monkey brain started questioning ‘Is there something wrong with me?’, and the floodgates of insecurity opened. I felt the need to cobble together an excuse about why I wasn’t currently in a relationship for this stranger.

That night it hit me—without realizing it I had bought into the “You’re nobody until somebody loves you” narrative.

As an entrepreneur I have always chosen to create my own narrative — it’s one reason my blog of eight years is called Escaping the 9 to 5. At a career and personal growth level I truly believe that “I am the master of my fate, the captain of my soul” (bonus points if you know what poem thats from).

But when it comes to relationships, I’ve unwittingly let societies’ narrative influence me… more deeply than I ever realized.

I never gave myself time to breath in between relationships. I secretly chalked this up to me being “girlfriend material” … but in reality, I was motivated by fear of being alone, fear of being “less than” if someone else didn’t “chose me”.

Only in retrospect am I aware of giving sideways glances to single friends, always wanting to play match-maker for them, because personally I couldn’t fathom being truly happy without being tied to another person.

In his most recent book, Tim Ferriss said that to write from a place of vulnerability he first asks himself the question “What am I embarrassed to be struggling with? And what am I doing about it”.

The fact that I’ve spent the majority of my adult life, subconsciously thinking that without a partner I am less than, is something (in hindsight)I am deeply embarrassed by.

More embarrassing still, is admitting that even though I’ve isolated the sentiment, I will probably continue to struggle with this for a while.

Changing a lifetime of societal and personal views about a subject isn’t easy. It takes time. But observing the behavior and quietly, without self judgment, letting the mistaken ideas go—that is what will eventually free me.

So what am I doing about it?

First, I apologize to my partners over the years. Being burdened with someone else’s happiness and with the constant need for you to be their anchor; it’s exhausting.

Second, I also apologize to myself for buying into a narrative that isn’t me. I love being in love and having a great partner. Being with someone who motivates you to grow, who is kind, strong and supportive—it’s amazing.

But there isn’t any rush, and the best relationships come from a place where both partners are solidly grounded in their own identities and where their happiness and sense of purpose comes from inside.

Additional reading:

The Way to Love: The Last Meditations of Anthony de Mello