I just think it’s strange how easily we are willing to compromise.
How much do you feel a person’s worth is measured by the presence of a partner? How inadequate do you feel when/if single? How important is it to you to be part of some kind of team?
The very nature of our surroundings thrives upon a person’s lack of sense of self; a constant feeling of insufficiency. It’s what encourages us to buy and want and envy. The ability to exist as an unattached individual feels unattainable to most people, whether they desire it or not. People have a fundamental inability to exist as an individual. The ultimate product is a romantic partner, and there is an inevitability to the idea of partnership. Everyone is supposed to have someone. But what has this become? How has this perspective become warped and poisonous, and where has it come from?
It is completely insane that being happy and single, or even just single, is seen as a poorer lifestyle than being in an actively unhappy and wasteful relationship.
It feels like there is so much importance placed on being in a couple that the actual quality of that couple becomes almost irrelevant – the essence of worth is structurally connected to not being single. Worth is no longer measured in the quality of your relationship, but simply the presence of it. Is this because we deem the very concept of wanting as more important than anything else? In a society that encourages endless, fickle wanting, where desire and craving is at the very root of success (if you get someone to want something in capitalist consumerism, you have essentially won), that the proof that someone wants you (or at least wanted you at some point) is the standard? Is romance the biggest thing we have managed to commodify and sell? Is a romantic partner the most monumental way to make us feel better about ourselves – sometimes it’s those pair of trousers, or that eye serum, or that car, or that house – is it now that person? A thing so necessary because it validates you?
The perceived delicacy of relationships is what feels strange. Why is it so important to be with someone else? Single people are often seen as unfinished, incomplete, actively unhappy, lonely, broken, sad. That speaks directly to what we subliminally see as the opposite – that you are finally complete, finished, happy, fixed when with a partner. If you feel your partner completes you, does that speak to the quality of your relationship or the problems with yourself? Shouldn’t a partner enhance your life rather than constitute a considerable portion of it? Is this not what breeds that dependence? The feeling of need manifesting into a reality of need – I cannot be without you because who am I alone? The eventuality of people staying in problematic relationships because of this exact reason is unsettlingly common. Where there is pressure and a sense of necessity, there are adjustments to the pre-existing in order to make things work. People begin to compromise, change, adapt. But where is the logic in this? So much of our lives is invested in improving who we are – operating on the rudimentary assumption that we are intrinsically inept. But the solutions and answers sold to us are so often corrupted by superficial or harmful motivations, and your innate happiness doesn’t feel like something there should be room to negotiate on.
If they aren’t making you happy, if your agendas don’t match, if you want different things, why on earth would you compromise? There are billions of people on the planet, why are you so determined to stay in this union that clearly doesn’t work for either participant? People seem aggressively reluctant to admit when there are fatal incompatibilities; that the notion of sacking off anyone who isn’t completely right for you is unrealistic, dramatic, harsh, idealistic or simply selfish. This idea that you must work and work, compromise and compromise, sacrifice and sacrifice so that you and this person can finally stop making each other unhappy, by being completely different people, is terrifyingly seen as necessary. I understand that complete, uncompromising rigidity is not the way to live your life, there must always be room and space to consider and evolve – but surely not on certain things, and definitely not as quickly and easily as it appears people feel it should be. Does this occur because we are conditioned to receive external validation as the paramount indicator of quality?
The message that a relationship will complete you is harmful. It means a lot of people never took or take the time to really understand themselves or even like themselves before engaging in sharing a life with another person – “I don’t need to be a complete whole as myself, because someone else will do it for me.” That is fucked. This is not to say that if you feel badly about yourself you don’t deserve love, it is to simply say that you must recognise that that will taint and distort any relationship you have. You absolutely must know who you are and love it before you allow someone else to do it too, if only for yourself. If you do not know what love is from inside yourself, how are you expected to recognise it from someone else? This makes you vulnerable to rubbish love, sub-standard love, abusive ‘love’. If you’d never seen an orange before, and someone came along, gave you an apple and told you it was an orange, how are you supposed to know that’s simply not true? Even if that other person doesn’t know what an orange is either, truly believes that apple is an orange, and is trying their absolute hardest, that still doesn’t make it a fucking orange. You’ve gotta find out what an orange is yourself; what it looks like, smells like, tastes like, before you start believing other people. Because that means, when someone brings you an apple in the future, you can know for absolute certain, and be well within your rights to tell them to fuck off (or maybe a polite ‘thanks, but no thanks’).
Just before I have people reading this thinking I’m a complete sociopath, I want to make it clear that I am aware that feelings obviously feature as a component in this situation. People want to work, compromise and sacrifice for someone because of the feelings they have for that person. That reads as the truest demonstration of romance doesn’t it? I mean, isn’t that what love actually is? The surrender of all things, anything, for the sake of this bond? You picture people moving to other countries for a spouse, travelling huge distances to see someone, even if only for the briefest of moments, spending time, money, thoughts on them. Now picture that ideology in the context of a society determined to put you in a relationship no matter what. Re-read those sentences, and think about an agenda hell-bent on demonising being single. The message that this bond is more important than anything. Anything? Where do you draw the line? Why is it more important? What if you’re altering something permanently, and the only reason is because of this person? Think about all the romantic phrases we use that suggest you exist lacking. ‘My other half’. You are not half of a person without the presence of a partner. You are not a validated whole with the presence of one either. These phrases and their successive principles have been coded to us as romantic, but why? What do they really mean, and what are we saying and perpetuating when we use them? This toxic mindset breeds helpless dependence, the tendency to latch onto the nearest person who will do, who shows interest, who could work.
Where does this feeling of need come from? Why should you need someone? Why is this notion romantic to us?
Amidst all of this, a friend reminded me that it’s important to consider that you never really know someone else’s relationship, not truly. I can sit here and speculate all I want, but fundamentally I’m not a part of the relationships I’m seemingly condemning, nor am I a member of a relationship of my own. It’s also crucial to consider that this can be an extremely simplistic view of human relationships – I’m aware that romantic connections are not so black and white. There are people and relationships that are temporary and flawed but that does not automatically render them bad. And true love isn’t going to be perfect happiness all of the time, because wherever anything interlocks with life there is unpredictability and room for problems. I just don’t think the way we see and expect human connection to work at the moment is right.
Despite my self-righteous tone I genuinely don’t know what I’m doing or even what I think about a lot of this – that’s why so much of this piece is made up of questions; I have a deficiency of answers. Please do not misunderstand my words – I am not encouraging everyone to live singular, independent lives, judging others harshly and completely, turning your nose up at feelings and sharing. Love is absolutely one of the best things in the world, and you’d be forgiven in assuming that maybe I am someone that doesn’t believe in it based upon this piece. But I do, and that’s honestly what motivates me to write this. Everybody deserves to fall in love, to find their perfect equal, and I don’t really believe that a lot of people in couples now have achieved that. They are in confusing, complicated, transactional unions, a series of smoke and mirrors of keeping someone interested and satisfied, sometimes knowing deep down that they are thoroughly not for you, all the while being held hostage by the fear of the solitary alternative. Everyone deserves better than that. What a waste! What a waste of your capacity to love! Your body and mind and soul’s capacity to f e e l! Think of couples you know – are they together because they are in love, or are they together because they’re familiar with each other? Is their relationship and its subsequent behaviours simply a series of habits, born of comfort and compulsion? Can you even tell the difference? I am trying to illustrate how obscenely strongly the concept of relationships are essentialised to us. You should not fear being single enough that you are willing to compromise the very essence of who you are and what you want to accommodate the presence of someone else. If people call you selfish from inside their relationship, and lecture you about how compromise and sacrifice are essential components of a happy, working relationship, consider that those could be words of someone so afraid to be alone they were willing to become someone else to prevent it from happening.
This piece is not intended as a vitriolic attack on other people and their relationships and feelings. This piece is a love letter to the individual that we all are, before relationships, within them and without them. Your value is not quantified by your capacity to attract and obtain someone else, and at times the opposite message can feel overwhelming within our culture. Single people – do not rush into the arms of someone because you feel deficient. There is nothing to fear about a ‘reckless’ loving lifestyle, one that prioritises yourself and is incredibly picky if you see the strength, power, comfort and potential of being independent and single. You can afford to be selective when you know being single is not a weakness.
I just think it’s strange how easily we are willing to compromise.
*If you are interested in this topic and want to see it articulated beautifully and funnily, watch Daniel Sloss’ comedy special ‘Jigsaw’ on Netflix! X