Mental Health and St. Valentine's Day: A Guide to Finding Balance
Imagine an independent life, parties, a great career, casual sex, and fun with friends. This is how single life looks like in the eyes of many. But the reality is a little different. As a psychotherapist, I most often work with single people. Many of them enjoy the freedom on the one hand, but on the other hand, they recognize that single life also has its downside.
The unbridled beauty of solitude
Being single has undoubtedly a lot of advantages that your friends will either like to remind you of or quietly envy you.
Independence is your best friend. At any time you can raise the anchor and try your luck abroad, work overtime, and actively apply for higher positions or go home without remorse with a nice bartender.
You don't have to look at that duck. The Economist's analysis is clear: having a single person as a customer is every company's dream. They like to invest in experiences, travel, clothes, just in themselves.
You are in good company. Single people earn more and more. Especially women have learned that building a career and making money is fun. Marriage and family can wait. The share of brides aged 35 and older in the Czech Republic increased from 18% in 2006 to 29% in 2016, and for grooms from 28% to 42%.
Grandma and grandpa don't mind either. The entire twenty, and usually not even the first years of the thirties, bears no stigma in single status. Being single or in a series of short, not very binding relationships and investing energy other than in partner life does not mean any wonders from the environment, on the contrary, rather a new norm.
Not exactly "Sex in the City"
Thanks to technology, we spend more and more time alone. But does joy really come from within, as is often written in books of personal development? Research shows rather the opposite. Happier and healthier are people who have strong relationships and spend time with others rather than alone at the monitor. Internal attitudes are undoubtedly important on the path to satisfaction, but they are not enough for most people alone. It is above all quality social contact and interpersonal intimacy that brings us joy. And it is the singles who have the least.
Sometimes your only company is just four walls. At the age of twenty, most singles still have the background of a family and a group of friends, after the age of 30, these ties tend to be weaker. Singles don't live in isolation, but often just don't have anyone to share experiences with or laugh at an evening movie. And it is precisely these everyday interpersonal interactions that, according to research, contribute to our life satisfaction. Normally, a relationship will provide them, but singles must try much harder.
Independence means full responsibility. "At one point I realized that I had all the freedom, but I don't know who would help me if I was sick. Or if I couldn't repay the mortgage. I was filling out a visa application to the United States and I had no idea who to enter which emergency contact. I just don't have anyone, it's all up to me," Pavel told me at our introductory meeting. However, such anxiety is not necessarily an impulse to build relationships with the environment; on the contrary, it can be more of an argument for an even greater work commitment.
Admission for couples only. Surprisingly, my single clients often mention feelings of discrimination. Their friends do not invite them to "family" events and evening and weekend shifts automatically fall on them at work. What's more, everything happens without discussion.
Loud ticking. The surroundings are also happy to point out that the biological clock is already beating or where and how to know the right one. "I'm forty, I don't have a relationship, I don't have children. It's really hard because I've always wanted to start a family. But I'm kind of dealing with it, maybe it won't work out. But what I can't do at all is my mother. Basically, you can't talk to her about anything else. It feels like I failed when I couldn't deliver my grandson," Klára describes the pressure of the family. Even though the environment "thinks well" with the singles, their advice leads to a cooling of mutual relations. And again, they contribute to the loneliness of the single.
From happily single to happily entered
Most singles are not self-employed. It just came out that way. But they often agree on one thing: they want a partner and maybe a family in the future. For some, it's a big topic and often exactly the moment we meet. How to find your life partner? Why can't I make relationships work? Don't I have unrealistic demands? These are common first questions that come up in our consultations.
We usually work with single clients on two levels. The first is always self-development. Low self-esteem, feelings of loneliness, the conclusion of former relationships, workaholism, and the search for one's own identity are common topics that appear in the initial consultations and can be an obstacle to establishing a new relationship. The second level of our cooperation is the search for a partner. In the Czech Republic, active dating still has a bit of a stigma. The right love is to come when you least expect it. But what's wrong with taking matters into your own hands and actively looking for a partner? If you know that sharing life with a partner will bring you joy, you can go the opposite of happiness.
Try new things with new people. And thus expand your social circle. What to try theatrical improvisation? Volunteering? Dancing for adults? A new job? Actively opening up to new people and experiences is suitable for all singles who are struggling with feelings of loneliness, whether they want to meet or not. The primary is always the desire to try a new activity and company, finding a partner may or may not be a pleasant side effect. Acquaintance arises naturally, but it does not have to happen at all.
When you know what you want. If the primary need for a single person is to find a partner, dating is definitely the best choice. Going online is not an easy experience, but if you decide to devote time and energy to it, it's a great opportunity to meet new singles and probably the most effective way to find a new serious relationship.
Author: Markéta Šetinová
As a psychotherapist and sociologist, Marketa helps people to find and enjoy relationships. She specializes mainly in working with singles and millennials. More about her work here.