Being single is OK

Carving a jack-o’-lantern, apple picking and watching scary movies: these are just examples of some of the autumn pastimes that are considered to be “couple activities.” In fact, the concept of “cuffing season,” when habitually single people start to long for serious relationships, begins in October and carries on until March.

No matter the season, a person’s relationship status does not define who they are or how other people perceive them. Whether or not someone is single, dating or in a serious committed relationship shouldn’t matter.

Some single students may be rolling their eyes at this. What about all the engagement photos on social media? What about all the questions from distant relatives about your dating habits this time of year? Or, what about the “ring by spring” culture fostered on Christian campuses like Baylor?

Dating and marriage is not everything. A significant other to link arms with should not be viewed as a level or a goal to achieve in order to feel fulfilled.

Trends in the U.S. are actually moving away from the idea of marriage as an ideal. In 2016, 45.2% of all residents 18 and older were single. That means there were a total of 110.6 million unmarried people in the U.S. according to the United States Census Bureau.

Attending a school like Baylor, it can feel like all the happy married couples are surrounding you and closing in on you with their talk of rings and dresses like a horde of hungry zombies. But it’s not the general population.

Yes, your coupled and married friends are happy, as they deserve to be. And yes, they deserve to be able to show how happy they are without hurting your feelings — to an extent. Sometimes it can feel like they are rubbing their joy in your face, but they’re not (if they are decent friends, of course). They’re just happy.

Couples may have a lot going for them, but single people do too. When you’re not in a relationship you have more time to focus on yourself rather than worrying about another person. It may be a tired cliche, but that’s because it’s true.

At whatever point in your life you are currently in, there is still room to grow. Growing, maturing and learning from your mistakes never stops no matter how old you are. Even though in a relationship you can grow with another person, that’s not always what you need.

People are constantly changing, and college students are experiencing some of the biggest changes in their lives. Freshmen moving away from home for the first time, seniors preparing for the rest of their lives and everyone in between evolving. There’s nothing wrong with experiencing these big life changes in a relationship, but that also means there is nothing wrong going at it alone.

Nothing against engaged and married couples on campus, but they have to consider a whole lot more than their peers when applying to jobs. They have to take into consideration their significant other’s best options and family as well as their own. This narrows down both of their options; one will likely follow the other to a perfect job.

Making decisions like these based on another person can lead to pent up regret, anger or resentment that can affect their relationship or mental health in the long-run. And those who decide to break up because of the distance are struck with a different kind of heartbreak.

A study from the National Library of Medicine found that people who were in a relationship that failed had lower self-esteem than current couples or single individuals.

Single people are also better at being alone than people in relationships. Although there is a common misconception that being alone and being lonely are the same things, there’s a stark difference between being single and being lonely.

While “being alone” is a physical state of not being with someone, “being lonely” is a psychological state characterized by “a distressing experience occurring when one’s social relationships are (self-)perceived to be less in quantity and quality than desired,” according to Psychology Today.

Individuals who are perpetually single are much more self-sufficient than serial monogamists. Not only are they more comfortable by themselves, but they know themselves much better than their “cuffed” counterparts. They know who they are, not how other people see them.

Researchers analyzed seven different benchmarks of well-being in a 2019 study published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. When comparing single people and people in relationships, they found that couples were only better off according to one of the benchmarks.

Being in a relationship doesn’t make you happier. You have to make yourself content before you can ever be happy in a relationship. If you don’t know yourself, how are you ever going to get to know another person? If you don’t treat yourself with kindness, how will you ever be kind to another person? And if you are not able to achieve a place of serenity and peace, how will you find that with someone else?

All of these benefits of being single don’t cancel out the negatives. It can be lonely sometimes, and in the middle of a pandemic, single people who are living alone could be getting less social interaction. Sometimes you just want to hold someone’s hand, but social distancing makes it hard when you’re not in a committed relationship.

If you’re single this time of year, you should take advantage of it! Carve jack-o’-lanterns or go apple picking with a group of friends. Use Netflix Party to share a night of terrors with long-distance friends. Or take this time of year to be thankful for the people who are in your life right now.