Today we try to answer the following question about love: Do we need to be happy as a single person to unlock happiness when we are in a couple?
You may have come across that philosophy already and that is something I like us to explore together for the first time, or re-discover if you are familiar with it! Enjoy your read!
On that topic, old have an interesting story, which is my own, to share. I will also share with you the view from one of the latest The School of Life video: Why Only The Happily Single Find True Love. The 7 Principles (or Habits) I’ve covered from the book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People are also keys to understand the answer to that question. You can go back to my previous articles about that book if interested: Part 1; Part 2
Stay a while and listen…
In that part, I will share about my past and current experiences with love and attachment to others. This will set up the scene for my answer to the question as well as help you to understand why such an answer.
For a short while, let’s go back 15 years ago, even a bit more than that, it all started when I was 13 or so. For the first time, I dared to share my feelings to the girl I of my heart. Initially, it didn’t turn out that well as she wanted to be my best friend and wasn’t too interested in becoming my girlfriend, we became best friends for a few years and it helped me grow a lot to be close to a girl at that age. Fast forward a few years and a few relationships like that, with a few experiences with girlfriends too, something was clear: I was emotionally immature and co-dependent. Which as a teenager or young adult is to expect to some degrees I guess! Let me explain what I just meant: I couldn’t be happy on my own, I needed to have a close relationship with a girl, whether as a friend or girlfriend. I need to be devoted to someone and more than that, I needed someone to care for me to have a decent sense of worth. In my teenagerhood to adulthood, I was highly involved in relationships and expected the same in return. I wanted connection, I wanted closeness and honesty but girls of my age weren’t really into that (yet). Or at least, not with the intensity of what I was looking for. This caused a lot of disappointment along the way and it built up slowly over time, relationship after relationship.
When I was roughly 22, I started to withdraw from my friends and isolate. Little I knew that I would spend the next 9 years single. Looking back, it wasn’t that hard nor that sad and also a very interesting time. The first few years I felt rejected and alone but that was only for a time. I had other focuses in my life. I was competing in video games and trying to build my career in the workplace. Fast forward another few years I had made a good progress in both areas. I left France for Ireland to work for the company I was playing the games of. In that same company I progressed quite quickly and while on a temporary assignment, I was introduced to self-development. For me it’s all started with The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, it literally changed my life. I was always someone interested in learning and in personal growth, but it was more “how I felt life should be” than anything else. That book introduced a structure, various concepts and it put words on vague ideas I understood from my life experiences. One of the main concepts is about how we can be: dependent, independent and interdependent people. A quick explanation of these concepts:
- Dependent people aren’t owning their life, they are victims of circumstances and they blame anything or anyone but themselves. Being dependent isn’t a place a fulfilment nor a place of happiness, it is often associated with a feeling of being stuck.
- Independent people are responsible for their choices and for what happen in their life. Their joy, happiness and feeling of worth is coming from within and as nothing to do with others.
- Inter-dependence is a state where independent people can choose to be in together, it is when 1+1= 3 or 5 or 500, it is a synergy.
Since I’ve read that book, I’ve been working on various aspects of myself to be independent. There will be some aspects where I am there already and some others that I might be in 5, 10 or 20 years, who knows! Creating that blog is partially to share that journey so I can inspire you but also learn for your experiences while we exchange on the subject!
Slowly, I have seen myself grow. New situations came at work or in my private life and my reactions were from someone who is considered as independent, someone that chose his response to this situation he is in. Situations after situations, I could see how much I changed and I could enjoy the wisdom and power of the new me.
Last year, I met my wife, we have both a past of being co-dependent and we are still in some aspects of our lives. We make up for it with awareness, constant growth, honest and open communication. We also have principles and we do our best to stick to them. Because of that, we grew so much in a year and various aspects of our relationships are more mature, I would even dare to say healthy. In many ways, we built a healthy relationship and for co-dependents, it is quite a change!
We have been separated for 16 days recently, which in the longest we’ve been away so far and I can say that I have a secure attachment towards her. I know she will come back, I know she loves me. I do miss her but I can be on my own. In the past, I would have been worried she won’t come back, that her plane would crash or that she would leave me for the next guy who is better looking and smarter than me. I would be often sad and having a hard time being alone again. I had these thoughts of course, but they were there for a split second, they weren’t what kept my mind busy nor my worry levels high. I have internalised the relationship enough that I can be okay when she is away.
“No one can hurt you without your consent”
Something else that surprised me over and over is that I can now choose, in most situations, if I let someone else or something else hurt me. Many of us and I did for most of my life, are just hurt by others and circumstances. We do not see the alternatives, it doesn’t even cross our minds that we have one. We are just hurt, it’s painful. This is a principle that I have learnt, internalised and it is extremely rare that I can’t stand by it. I could bring that part of being independent in our relationship which is supporting my wife and our relationship to grow in a healthy way. I could support her when she needed it the most because I could see beyond the choice to be in my own pain and chose otherwise. That principle I’ve listened in the audio book years ago grew up on me and changed who I am and empowered me to chose my responses. In the past, I would just be hurt and be a victim of circumstances.
As a reminder, we are looking at the following question: Do we need to be happy as a single person to unlock happiness when we are in a couple?
Yes but not only! Let’s look at that more closely:
Reaching a state of happiness while being single is a major achievement and put oneself in a very solid position to achieve happiness within a relationship. The main argument to that is usually that if you are independent for your own happiness, then you can be happy with someone else. In opposition to (co)-dependent people who have damaging behaviours due to the lack of owning themselves (mind games, blame, unsaid expectations, building resentment and much more!). As happiness is coming from within as an independent person, we can still be happy when we are sharing a life with someone else.
I also believe that you can develop it within a relationship. Lovers sometimes meet each other and that are not yet fully independent. If they are self-aware and willing to work on themselves, I believe they have a chance as happiness in a couple. As you may have understood, that is the situation we are in with my wife. Let me share a bit more about us and how we try to achieve that:
We work on both ourselves and our relationship, we do our best to have values and common goals so we operate on a higher level than our (co-)dependency, even if we aren’t fully independent yet. To share with you simple but powerful traits of our relationship: unconditional love. We understand that Love the feeling comes from love the verb and it is by nourishing our relationship, keeping efforts every day than we can keep the feeling alive. We say “I love you” when the other upset us and we learnt how to truly feel it. We express love when we push the other away because we need our own space (or when one of us have been pushed away too). We express love when the other is hard to be around, that’s when we conscientiously make more efforts to be present and supporting because it is harder and more importantly, needed. Another trait could be that we communicate openly and we don’t allow ourselves to build resentment. That quote is great to keep in mind around that topic:
“If you ask yourself if you should leave (or not) your partner, you should instead ask yourself what are the hard discussions you need to have with him/her”
In most occasions, we ask kindly if the other is available for us to share how we feel. We know that sharing how we feel isn’t an attacking the other, even if it is hard to hear and at times, looks like it. It is, in fact, being open and vulnerable. If I feel disconnected with her, I assume that the issue is with me first and look at what is present. If I can’t be with myself, it is likely that I can’t with in our relationship too at that moment and it has nothing to do with her. If it is resentment, we share it right away so it goes away and if needed, we can resolve what caused it in the first place.
These are examples of what we try to do to achieve happiness, closeness and bonding in our relationship and so far it is working! If you keep reading, I will keep sharing and together we can see how it is working over the next months and years and learn from the experience!
Why only the Happily Single can find True Love
“Being satisfied with being single as is precondition of satisfactory coupledom”
This is a strong statement and that’s how the video is opening. It is followed up by the idea that if we aren’t satisfied as a single, we can’t make a proper choice to start with. In other words, if we are dependent, we will be attracted to another dependent person and we will build a co-dependent relationship.
“We cannot choose wisely, when being single is unbearable”
One of the issues raised is that our society is pressuring us to find that partner. Our family and friends will ask us if we date someone and what is going on. As a single man for 9 years, it isn’t very hard to relate to that. But that very pressure is pushing us to make a bad decision, to settle for something that is a lot less of what it could be.
Another struggle for the single is sex. Particularly when we thought that having sex with a friend might be a good idea, we may loose a lot when it goes wrong. The next point is that sex was limited mostly to marriage for a long time in our culture and that led to some people to marry for the wrong reasons. Liberating sex should have meant wiser choice when it comes to finding partners but this process is half-accomplished as we still can’t really choose who we want to be with, with a clear head.
“Being single needs to be as secure, warm and fulfilling as being in a couple”
If we would hold that true, it would mean that people could choose to “pair up for the right reasons.”
“It is time to liberate companionship from the shackles of coupledom and make it as widely as easily available as sexual liberators wanted sex to be”
The last idea is while we are doing that, we need to accept being single for many years and be satisfied with it. If we achieve that, then we will have a chance “to be with someone on the basis of their own and true merit”.
There are no doubts that being satisfied as a single, is a key to be happy in a couple. Being in a couple isn’t meant to make us happy, it is meant to make us grow and in that, we have a chance at happiness.
I believe that it isn’t a black and white situation. It is not: if independent, then happy in couple otherwise not. As human, we can grow so much. We have the power to heal our wounds and we can forgive others. We have the strengths to change our lives and relationships aren’t different. Starting from a dependent place means that we will have more challenges along the way. Some aspects of the relationship will be non-healthy and co-dependent. If both partners are willing to be open and vulnerable, if both partners are willing to learn and grow, if both partners understand that the other is perfect the way they are then we can give ourselves a chance at happiness with another soul.
To go further
This video I just talked about is only a bit longer than 2 minutes. I’d suggest watching with full attention and a few times, to really get the important points and as well as doing some self-reflection of your past experiences or current situation.