Foresight Mental Health — Feb. 12, 2021.
The most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you YOU love, well, that’s just fabulous.” —Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) in HBO’s Sex and the City
As if being single hasn’t been hard enough throughout this pandemic, the pink and red heart displays that began to pop up immediately on the heels of the holidays may have added insult to injury. The isolation that many have experienced due to the pandemic-imposed restrictions may be magnified by the socially constructed “holiday” known as Valentine’s Day. This is not anti-couplehood rant. However, learning to be a confident “party of one” can be a healthy prerequisite to being 50% of a “party of two”.
Relationships with others is a core and essential part of life for most people and can, indeed, be the best part of our lives. We learn how to interact with our environment largely via our interactions with others. From the very beginning of life, babies learn what makes their caretakers smile and how crying will garner attention to get their needs met. We can learn about boundary setting and communication through relational experiences. Throughout our lifetimes, we will experience many types of relationships including those with our parents, siblings, friends, teachers, authority figures, children, and, yes, intimate partners.
Though intimate partner relationships are hopefully rewarding experiences, they can also be detrimental to our concept of self-worth. When relationships falter or end, we sometimes blame ourselves when the demise may actually be attributed to a variety of circumstances. Relationships can send us both good and bad messages about ourselves that we may internalize. For those who find themselves single right now without as many opportunities for social distractions because of the pandemic, being open to learning about our single selves can be an invaluable experience. For those that find themselves single due to a recent break-up, it may be frustrating to not be able to rely in the rally cries of our friends to go out and find our next partner or our next temporary partner. Healing from a recent breakup during pandemic times may actually be healthier because the pandemic is forcing more alone time than we might have otherwise experienced – more time to reflect on who we want to be as we move forward, both as a single person and in our next relationship.
In a world where party of two seems to be valued more than singlehood, it can be hard to embrace being a party of one. The pandemic has seemingly forced single people who might have found themselves in a relationship to avoid being alone to actually experience being alone. Though the effects of pandemic-induced isolation imposed on people needs to be paid attention to, the lack of distractions can be the silver lining in really getting to know ourselves outside of an intimate relationship. Being alone doesn’t have to be lonely.
Through learning to truly love ourselves, faults and all, we can discover how we want to be in the context of any given relationship with another person, especially an intimate partner. If we understand and love ourselves as whole individuals, we not only bring more to the table in a relationship, but the relationship will most likely be far more fulfilling because it won’t define us in totality. More importantly, being able to be with ourselves outside the context of an intimate relationship can make us stronger and less likely to end up in an unhealthy relationship. How often have you watched people you know bounce from relationship to relationship because the anxiety of being alone is too great?
For those who are currently a party of one, whether by choice, after a break-up or via circumstances imposed by the pandemic, embrace it. Take this opportunity to learn about yourself. Fall in love with yourself. It’s the most rewarding kind of love!
Deanna Daniels, LMFT at Foresight Mental Health