Single Vs. Coupled—Who Will Win?
By Darrah Belle
Your long-term boyfriend or girlfriend may not give you butterflies anymore, but there are other things that keep you two spooning on Saturday night, right? The Affair flickering on your flat screen, eating pepperoni pizza right out of the box. So… what is it?
When I’m in a long-term intimate relationship, however, I generally behave like a better human being. I’m calmer, more centered, stable and grateful. That doesn’t mean I’m not eternally restless, sexually frustrated and resentful at being dependent on one penis or one vagina. I am! Not to mention, endlessly comparing my committed relationships to other people. Especially on social media, where women portray their partner as being straight out of mommy porn: chivalrous, always clean-shaven and with low-hangers that never smack them too hard.
Worse yet are girlfriends who constantly complain about their husbands but never do anything to change their unhappiness.
Lately, I’ve been wondering: if committed relationships are so complicated, why do we seek them out with fervor and why do we stay in them?
An acquaintance at a 12-step meeting once said, “I thought I was perfect until I met my boyfriend. Then he held up a metaphorical mirror to my face and showed me my character flaws.” He seemed grateful. We all chuckled. After the gathering, my then-girlfriend and I walked to the car, his words echoing in my head. “I thought I was perfect until…” I couldn’t help but wonder: Did I think I was perfect? I think I did! Not perfect, per se, but darn near it.
That is until my then-girlfriend exposed my shortcomings, including a temper, stubbornness, selfishness and immaturity. (There were more but I’ll stop there.) It’s a lot easier to sail along single and convince yourself that you are Venus incarnate than it is to actually break the mold and see our true selves.
When I was single, I honored a strict exercise regimen. Had time to nurture friendships with a squad of girls more loyal than a nipple piercing. I lunched with male friends I rarely see anymore, at the now-shuttered Dolores’s Restaurant. I went where I wanted when I wanted and told nobody most of the time. I dressed more provocatively, let my apartment get dirty and the laundry pile up. I played music loud late at night then snacked on Cheetos and fell sleep high on the couch with orange fingers. I flirted with the guy behind the register at 7-Eleven then went home to binge-listen to Adam Carolla’s podcast. Cheetos dust still glued to my fingernails. [When I was single, I didn’t give AF.]
When I was single, I could travel for a weekend tryst on short notice and not take another person into consideration. I could screw whomever I wanted on any given night without answering to anybody (except my own conscience). This adventurousness broke up the monotony that is built into sleeping with one partner only.
What I didn’t have when I was single is a man who loves me down to his bones and I didn’t have the love of my life: my daughter! While I am often confronted by my own demons including depression I can’t hide from my partner, who detects it from a mile away, I sincerely believe, after all is said and done, we are here for our spirits not our own satisfaction. We are here to wrestle the metaphorical dragon to the floor only to retrieve the gift in his mouth—which takes us to the next evolutionary level, spiritually speaking.
That’s not to say I don’t occasionally chomp at the bit for that perpetual nagging feeling of ‘Will he call or won’t he?’ that comes with dating unavailable men. Even though it was dreadful at the time and nausea inducing, somehow, once you have the support and stability of a long-term partner you do sort of miss the wondering. Especially for somebody like me, who mostly dated addicts and alcoholics, being with somebody who does not have those types of problems is foreign. I got used to the bad boy personality who is also charismatic and could charm the pants off of anybody. That boy would also charm the pants off of me and subsequently break my heart… But I digress…
The other part of a long-term, committed relationship that benefits our spirit is living in an intentional way. I am propping a mirror up for my partner as well, and helping him grow. I am making him a better man. When we are content to commit to someone fully, we are being of service to another human. And that’s just cool. We get to learn how to be gentle, kind, loving and also guide somebody to be a better, stronger and higher version of themselves. By being of service in that way I’ve become a better listener, become more keen at asking questions, and being patient before pressing for an answer (or offering multiple choice answers—girls you feel me?) and this helps me in life too. It’s a win-win!
Being in a committed relationship with one-person forces you to negate the EXIT sign blinking like Beetlejuice’s favorite brothel, and ignore the buffet of prospects you could distract yourself with when the going gets tough. Rather than seek out Ashley Madison, you seek out therapy and 12-step programs and journals and date nights and other intentional activities where you get in and get in deep with another person. It’s hard! It’s not easy! It’s intense and uncomfortable.
Is it worth the fighting, the blanket stealing and the horniness? That’s for you to decide.
If you find yourself unhappy in a romantic relationship, I suggest writing down the pros & cons. If the cons outweigh the pros, consider making a change. That change can include finding ways to voice your unique needs and also discovering what you actually want if you’re unsure. Then share those feelings with your other half. Don’t keep yourself hidden away. Trust me, I did it for a long time. Hiding yourself, making your needs secondary and burying your voice won’t get you what you want. Taking risks and being vulnerable will.
…Follow Your Bliss xoxo
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Darrah Le Montre is a writer and journalist and devoted mom. Her work has been published by Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan and nudie blog SuicideGirls. Next month, her essay, “This Is What Dating An Alcoholic Is Like” will debut in the recovery blog The Fix.