EmunaDating re-post: The not so solitary solitary life

By Samantha Hulkower
I was scanning through my facebook feed last week before Shabbat, when I came acrosss an article shared from the New York Times. I used to read their 'Modern Love' column every Sunday, but as I got older, it stopped appealing to me. I started looking at life and love differently, especially once I became more observant in my Judaism, and most of their stories left me thinking, "You're how old and this is how you are behaving??" But, my friend had shared the story with the caption, "For all my single friends out there," so of course, my interest was peaked.

The author had gone through most of her adult life without a long-term relationship. While her other friends were settling down, she felt like she was missing out on important relationship experience by never quite meeting anyone who lead to anything lasting. Even her friends who broke up and were back to being single, still came away with valuable insight into who they are and what they want out of life. As she aged, she worried that if she did ever meet the right guy, she just wouldn't have the skills necessary to have a healthy relationship. 

Of course, she does meet the right guy, and then is faced with the challenges of being part of a relationship. Much to her relief, she finds that she didn't need those decades of trial-and-error to be good at it. She describes the first big fight she has with her partner, and the fact that she knew she could handle being single if they broke up. The piece ends with the author confident that no matter what happens, things are going to be ok.

I noticed something the author failed to mention - she did develop skills important for a relationship while she was single: the ability to take care of herself. I've met so many people in life who confide in me that their mother told them they had secretly wished they had divorced their father at some point in the marriage. The thing holding her back was the fact that she didn't know how she could manage on her own. The common denominator in almost all of these stories are the fact that the women got married at a very young age, and therefore never had to learn how to balance a checkbook, or develop a career. The prospect of having to do all that was too overwhelming for them, even though they had otherwise demonstrated themselves as capable adults. 

Let me be clear, I'm not suggesting that being single for an uncomfortably long period of time is good insurance in case you need to get out of a bad marriage - chas vshalom (G-d forbid)! Rather, that we are learning things about ourselves and growing in ways that will be doubtlessly helpful to us when we do meet Mr. or Ms. Right. Go on lots of dates? Here is a great opportunity to practice your active listening skills, so that when you and your future spouse inevitably have a disagreement you can ensure that you hear and understand them, and hopefully keep things from escalating. Lots of time spent going to parties by yourself, and therefore forced to strike up conversations with strangers? Practice for becoming a great conversationalist. Constantly going to others' homes for Shabbat and dinner parties? You get to see how other people arrange their house and conduct their family at the dinner table, and take away the best parts to implement in your own home (or make note of things you definitely don't want to do).

There is a lot in life we don't have control over, but being single doesn't have to equal a life alone, waiting, and the time we have to spend is what we make of it. If you're worried that the longer you're single the more intractable you're becoming and the harder it will be to be open to the right person, then maybe that will happen. But, if you look at this as opportunities for self-growth and accomplishment, so that you'll be that much awesomer when you do meet the right one, then I would say that's time well spent. 

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