“Wow, that’s terrible that over six years of your life was wasted with him.”
She wasn’t trying to be awful, in fact, I think she was trying to be supportive. It’s a common sentiment after a breakup, but when you think about it for more than a second, it’s actually a pretty shitty thing to say to someone.
I did think about it for more than a second which immediately prompted a knee jerk twitter rant, but then I thought about it for a few more seconds, and the more I thought about it, the more feels I had. Feels that Twitter just couldn’t contain.
Sure there’s the obvious reasons a relationship wouldn’t be a waste. A relationship doesn’t have to last forever or risk being considered a failure. A relationship can be a learning experience, it can help someone grow. It can be a fantastic one night stand or a source of years worth of memories. It can evolve in unexpected ways and become a loving friendship. It can bring children into the world that never would have existed otherwise. It can bring change. It can impact the world. It can end, and still be a success.
But none of that was true for me.
My last relationship was shitty. Plain and simple. There is not one thing in my life I can point to and say “I wouldn’t have X if it weren’t for my last relationship.” Sure, it probably helped me grow. It would be naive to think it didn’t, but a part of me truly believes my life would have gone better had that relationship not happened at all. That’s the plain honest truth, all of the best things that happened during that time happened in spite of that relationship. Not because of it.
I still don’t look at those years as a waste.
The entire premise of that sentiment relies on our cultures prioritization of the couple as a single unit. The idea that anyone who is not partnered is incomplete. Even the very word “single” for some reason implies that the person is also looking, looking for their “other half” or “the one”. It strips value from the individual and gives it all to the pair.
Calling those six years a waste is saying that they might as well have not existed because I didn’t spend them looking for some mythical soulmate. It ignores and invalidates all of the awesome shit I did, all by my lonesome during those six years. The career I earned, all the pieces I wrote, the blog and community I created here, the things I learned, the friendships I made, the year I spent practicing pole, the personal development, the home I created, was all of that a waste because it happened while he was in my life?
Would it have been a waste if I did it alone?
I’m sick and fucking tired of feeling like a relationship should be my biggest goal. I’m tired of “you’ll find someone new/who deserves you/ better than him” being the most comforting thing someone can think of to say to me after a breakup. I’m tired of fielding pitying glances, poorly conceived pickup attempts, or unsolicited advice on how to “meet someone” every time I say I’m single. I’m tired of dinners for two, and couples vacation packages, and invites with a plus one. I’m tired of feeling like “alone” is a goddamn problem that needs to be solved.
Oh, and by the way that doesn’t even touched on how monogamy-centric all of this is and how poly relationships can throw this entire framework on it’s head, but that’s a ranty post for another night, I ain’t even got the time or the spoons to unpack that right now.
None of this is to say that I am suddenly anti-relationship. If you are in a relationship and are happy that’s great, if I stumble into one next week, more power to me, but why is our culture so goddamn obsessed with them? It assumes monogamy as the default. That we’re all on this earth working towards a loving partner, white picket fence, 2.5 kids and a dog. That any departure from that is an unfortunate accident, a horrible mistake, a sign of damage, but never a conscious decision, or circumstance someone might be indifferent about. Independence is pitied instead of honored, and ‘lonely’ is a label stamped on anyone who doesn’t pair off.
But guess what? My value doesn’t depend on a partner. I am valuable, I am the happiest I have been in years. I am single and that’s okay.