I was talking with a friend recently about relationships. She was telling me how even though she is dating someone, she still feels like she needs to live some semblance of a "single" life. I asked her why, and she said that since she was previously in a really bad relationship, she felt like she'd grown too attached to her previous boyfriend, and didn't really do much of anything that didn't involve him. Her life was sort of consumed with her boyfriend and her relationship, and there was no individual left.
I mulled it over for a little bit, and realized something. She doesn't need to be "single" per se, since being single and being in a relationship are mutually exclusive. What she was missing in her life was not singleness, but separateness. And separateness in a relationship is vital.
It is commonly stated that relationships are 50-50. But that really isn't true. Relationships are 100-100. You both have to be a whole person in order to have a healthy relationship. And when there is no sense of separateness, you really are only half a person.
I was recently in a relationship that didn't work out, and one of the major problems we had was that my (now ex) boyfriend had no sense of separateness. Once we started dating, he literally gave up everything else in his life. He turned down work, stopped participating in his hobbies, wouldn't go out unless I went with him, ditched family events, hung up on his friends, all so that he could spend every available minute with me. In fact, whenever he got upset with me, he would complain about how he "gave up everything for me." My response: nobody asked him to.
I felt suffocated by his choice to give up everything for me, because he felt like his decision to do that obligated me to do the same. I simply can't do that. I work, I go to school, I coach, I mentor, I go to church, I work out, and I do my best to keep up a healthy social life in addition to those things. It's important to me to maintain my friendships, both male and female, even if I am romantically involved with someone. It's also important to me to maintain my hobbies. And really, those are the things that make you a whole person--your friendships and family relationships, your interests and hobbies and values. Those are the things that make you interesting.
As you can imagine, we fought a lot. He was constantly giving things up for me and trying to spend all of his free time with me. I was constantly trying to avoid giving up things for him and trying to hold on to the other aspects of my life that didn't include him. Since he didn't have a separate self, he didn't want me to have one either, and it was a constant battle to keep from melting into him. The truth is, though, his constant presence and desire for my attention actually made me resent him. When he wasn't around I felt relieved, like I could finally live my life. Eventually, we had to end things. The nice thing, though, is that separateness also helps you get through a breakup, because since you maintained your hobbies, it's easy to keep busy and since you maintained your friendships, you have people to spend time with and to lean on.
Singleness means not being in a relationship. Separateness means holding on to your whole self, even when you are in a relationship. And that separateness is your lifeline.