"Why are you still single?" isn't the right question
On relationships, pillow-biting, and refusing to settle. Or: Wanting a relationship like River Song and The Doctor. (Granted, she did dedicate her life to killing him, but it all worked out in the end, so shush.)
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I was flirting with a guy the other day, and he was talking about how he’d pretty much been in one relationship or another for the past ten years. Which probably should have rung alarm bells, to be honest, but he was cute, and I liked his hair, so we were chatting away. Anyway. I mentioned that I’d been single for at least the same amount of time.
“Oh my god!” He said, “How come you’ve been single that long?” Which, if anything, isn’t really the question. Part of me wanted to ask him why he’d not been single for that long. What was he afraid of? Instead, I tried to make a joke of it, and said “Oh, I’m just fundamentally broken emotionally…” But he didn’t laugh. He just looked at me for an uncomfortably long time and said “yeeeaahh…”
I tried to explain that I was joking, and really, I’m just picky. But everything I said after that point just seemed like I was trying too hard to play it down. Like someone suddenly saying, “I don’t think about your Nan when I’m wanking!” And it might be true - god, I hope it’s true - but the more you say it, the less believable it sounds...
It’s not that I’ve always wanted to be single. I like the idea of a relationship, in fact, for a while in my early twenties, I really wanted a relationship, just not with anyone who wanted a relationship with me. There’s something much more attractive about the ones you can’t have. The grass is always greener, and all that. Besides, I was a hot mess in my early twenties, so the guys who were willing to be with me weren’t the choosiest. I remember one particularly irritating fuckstick who literally clung on to me as I tried to get out of his bed and go home because he was annoying me. He just held on to me limply, a dead weight refusing to let me get out of his bed. He was incredibly needy, that one. He used to text me four or five times every day, and sometimes the message would just be “Hey, text me back?”. I think once I replied with “Why?” and I never heard from him again.
I remember back in the days when I worked in a coffee shop in Doncaster, working with a lovely, very pretty girl who’d been with her boyfriend for three years, or something like that. Then they broke up and she decided she was going to be single for a while, deciding it was time to “get to know myself, and find out what it is I really want.” The following week when we had a shift together, she announced she was dating some guy called Tim. “Turns out what I really want is a boyfriend.”
Like I say, I’m not against a relationship, but the idea that if you’re not in a relationship you’re somehow failing at life is one I reject entirely. I’d say the opposite could even be true – if you’ve not spent a fair amount of time by yourself, learning to enjoy your own company and generally get by as a whole person in and of yourself, then I’d see that as worse.
All that guff about finding it romantic to say “You complete me” to someone. Fuck off, I complete myself. That’s not romance, that’s co-dependency.
Going back to that original question, the reason I’m still single is because I don’t hate myself enough to settle. I’d rather be by myself than in a relationship with someone just for the sake of it.
I think it’s a good idea to ask yourself “Why am I in a relationship with this person?” If the answer is “Because I genuinely enjoy their company, I find them interesting and we help improve one another in a loving, trusting way” then great. If the answer is closer to “Because it’s this or being alone, and the thought of being by myself terrifies me” then maybe that’s something you should talk about with your therapist, or your dealer, or whoever.
Besides, I’m already having an amazing relationship with someone: Myself. I’m the man in my life. I’m a whole person, without someone holding my hand. I’m more than happy to spend time and to get romantic with someone else in a similar situation. But it’s a different sort of romance.
Maybe I’ve been single too long. But if I’m going to be in a couple, and I’m not opposed to the idea, I want to be one of those couples that’s always doing things. Although I’d have no idea how you found out about all that stuff. Is there a newsletter? Some sort of email that goes around listing cool ways to spend time with someone that aren’t just drinking heavily and banging? It looks exhausting, but the other option is sitting at home watching Netflix, and I don’t want to be in one of those kinds of relationships. If your idea of a second date is Netflix and chill, then you’re either lazy or very unimaginative. How is that a couples thing? Sitting in silence watching TV is something I do by myself. If I’m supposed to be spending time with someone else, then I want to be out and doing and exploring with them.
Y’know, like a River Song and her Doctor – they’re always off doing stuff, but not always together – they do stuff together, and occasionally have adventures by themselves without feeling the need to be in each other’s pockets the whole time. At least, that’s what I think couples do. To be honest, once it gets past the drinking and shagging a few times, I’m fairly out of my depth. I think I’d be a bit like “Great… Now what? Do we go and take smug photos for Instagram, or something?” That’s what every other couple I’ve sen seems to do...
Speaking of, I can’t stand those people whose Instagram accounts are just full of photos of them with their Other Half (because between them they only make up one whole person) or they post a photo of them looking sad or something on social media with a caption talking about how much they’re missing their boo. Nob off with that shit. Send that pic to them, don’t inflict it on me. “Had a great day with the best boyfriend in the world!!!” No-one cares. It always smacks of overcompensating to me.
Ok, wind it in before I start to sound bitter.
I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the things that irks me about a relationship is this idea of enforced monogamy. Like there’s some kind of ownership here, and once you and I are together, we are neither of us allowed to find anyone else sexually attractive. Which is just weird to me, as after about the 6th date I’ll wake up one morning, roll over and go “Oh. You again. What?”, so the idea of it just being the same guy after that is a weird one.
I get where this is coming from in a heterosexual couple sort of a way, where sex is supposed to be about procreation, and a MAN needs to know that he’s the one who squirted a baby up his legal property, and so the child is his Rightful Heir and all that patriarchy bullshit. Straight sex is weird. It’s like normal sex, but there’s a chance you might accidentally create a person. Weird.
I know things are different in queer relationships, since we only have sex for fun (and occasionally because there’s nothing good on Netflix), and so we get to redefine what onstitutes a loving relationsup based around trust and intimacy and things like that, rather than basing the whole thing on a series of restrictions that make no sense.
It’s quite heartening to see that, of all the long-term couples I know in relationships, very few are entirely exclusive. I’m not saying they run around banging anything that moves, (although some of them do, certainly) but more that they know their relationship to be deeper than that. Deeper than just balls-deep, certainly. And I’m not saying that all couples should be open and shagging around, but that’s a choice that’s up to the people in that relationship and no-one else.
I know when I’ve been quite into a guy I’m dating, I’ll kinda stop wanting to shag anyone else. But that decision is always mine – I think “Yes, I could have sex with a random, but I’m really quite into this person right now, so I think I’ll wait until I see them instead…” rather than “I am seeing this person, therefore we belong to each other and are not allowed to have sex with anyone else.”
As with all things, it’s about trust, and a connection. And relationships that aren’t exclusive need to have that talk where you can say to each other “I care about and trust you enough to know that even if you’re occasionally biting someone else’s pillow, it doesn’t mean that your feelings toward me have lessened in any way.”
So yeah. I’m ok with being single. My mind is open to a relationship, but I watn it to be with someone who makes me go ‘Ooooh! I actively want to spend a lot of time with you!” as opposed to “I’m with you because I don’t want to be by myself.” Maybe as I get older and my options start to slim down, I’ll change my mind. But, for now at least, I’d rather be on the lookout for something spectacular than thinking “Meh. You’ll do.”
One thing I’ve never been able to get my head around is the idea of being so comfortable with someone that I’d be ok with doing a poo in front of them. When I was at university, one of the girls I lived with said that she and her boyf used to keep the bathroom door open, so that they could keep talking while doing their poo. Nothing about that is comfortable for me. I can’t even go if someone is messaging me on my phone. Just that little BING and Nope. It’s gone back in. I was staying with a friend of mine recently in his flat. His bathroom door doesn’t have a lock, which should have been a warning sign really, but I didn’t realise why that was until one morning when I was in the shower and he wandered in, “Said I think we’re good enough friends now…” undid his trousers and sat down. That will never be ok for me.
I don’t know how loudly I said ‘NO!’, but I was out of there and had the TV on loud before the first soft splash of anything hitting the water.