Finding that one person is something our author has crossed off her list of life goals. Here she explains why that was good and important for her.
Two of my friends ended their partnership this year. One after seven years, the other after four. The one with the seven-year relationship told me a few months after their breakup that he was having trouble adjusting to being single again. “It’s so sad when I come home and nobody’s there,” he said, for example, “or to eat alone.” I was sorry to hear that. At the same time, it made me think: I like and appreciate these two situations that my friend mentioned in my single life. To have to do without one of them permanently would be me to make someone sad.
Unlike my boyfriend, I have never lived with a partner. Not even with a partner. To be honest, I’ve never been in a relationship that was serious enough or lasted long enough to even consider moving in together. I’ve made a few attempts at being in a partnership relationship, but the most successful one resulted in a multi-year on-off story that ended for me with the realization that the other person involved was not interested in really getting to know me. So my most successful attempt was a flawless picture book failure.
My friend with the four-year relationship has been suffering extremely from his breakup for several months. His partnership was neither particularly harmonious nor healthy. My boyfriend told me several times during those four years that he didn’t love his girlfriend and that he didn’t like being with her. On the other hand, he had enjoyed and celebrated his life as a single for years. Interestingly, some time after his breakup, this friend told me: “Living with someone is very special. It’s just the most beautiful thing, maybe you would understand that too if you experienced it.” I’m pretty sure I might. And maybe I would never want to come back to earth once I had walked on the moon.
Life partnership model: Why did I actually think there was no alternative?
I don’t want to question the fact that it can be nice to have someone special in your life with whom you share household, bed and ballast. The exclusive, monogamous, long-term partnership model works for many people, so it certainly won’t be wrong or bad. But it doesn’t have to be suitable or desirable for every individual. For example, it did me a lot of good to remove a solid partnership from my list of life goals. To be clear: I don’t rule out the possibility that one day I might accidentally meet someone with whom I would enter into some sort of partnership. But I’m not striving for it in the slightest, I don’t want it at the moment and have other wishes, priorities and goals. That feels good and right to me. However, it was not exactly easy for me to find this healthy and relieving attitude. And I think that’s at least partly because the civil partnership model is treated in our society not just as a possible, but as the ultimate way of life.
Whether series, films, books, reality formats or magazines, there are so many media offerings in which a central theme is finding that so-called one and growing old with them as conflict-free as possible. For most of the people around me, from classmates to colleagues and friends to my siblings, this was or is also important.
Because of these impressions, I believe that getting together with a life partner has positioned itself in my worldview as something as natural and essential as getting older or washing your hair. By the time I was in my late 20’s, I was seriously concerned about my lack of dating experience. I was convinced that something was wrong with me and was ashamed of my supposed inability to relate. But why should it actually be so central, important and natural to have a life partnership? Why should people without a partner not be able to feel happy, fulfilled, successful and complete in their lives?
A partnership is just one of many equal opportunities
There is no doubt that we need love, closeness, appreciation and intimate social relationships in order to be healthy and content in the long term. Humans are sociable, cooperative, empathetic beings, that’s what evolution has shown and there’s no denying it. But the civil partnership model is not the only life concept that can meet our interpersonal needs. A lively, intact circle of friends, family ties, purpose in life in which we make contacts and make new acquaintances, open, partnership-like relationships – all of these are alternatives to the classic lifestyle as a couple, which I actually didn’t perceive as fully valid for far too long.
But since I’ve been doing this, I’ve felt better. Since I stopped asking myself what’s wrong with me, that I live differently than many other people, I feel freer and more relaxed. I can fully engage in my friendships and other relationships and give the people I love from the bottom of my heart the space and importance in my life that they deserve. I can appreciate and enjoy the positive sides of my partner-free lifestyle and get to know new people in exactly the way that suits my personality: Curious, open-minded, without seeing them as a potential partner, but if I kiss her at the end of the day, it’s not a problem for anyone. If I could wish for something, it would not be a partnership, but that I would have had this attitude and perspective that I have today twenty years ago.
Don’t be afraid of being different: Diversity is the key to success in life
Since I mentioned evolution before, I am aware that an important principle of species conservation is reproduction. And that in the course of human history, living in a partnership has proven to be beneficial for raising offspring. Therefore, it may well be that we as humans have a certain inclination to team up with a partner. However, it seems to me that an equally important principle of life is diversity. Beginning with the simplest microorganisms, life on this earth has continued to diversify. In the process, more and more different and complex creatures have emerged that populate almost every possible niche in this world. Because of this breadth and diversity, there is a high probability that life will also survive major changes: Some species will have adapted to what is happening, even if in the end it’s microorganisms again.
In relation to the human species, I consider diversity to be at least as healthy and important as it is for life itself. For example, at our current level of development, it would be quite unfavorable if everyone wanted to have children—or if everyone remained childless. We would have a problem if everyone was passionate about cars and nobody was passionate about nursing or baking bread. We are lucky that people are different. We are fortunate that there are individuals who are different from the majority and deviate from certain standards.
I am almost certain that it is fundamentally advantageous to strive for a society in which all forms of diversity have a place and can develop. Diversity goes hand in hand with flexibility and adaptability, and these are desirable qualities in a rapidly changing world. In this country, politics and the media have obviously hardly promoted diversity in terms of life plans if they think primarily of families and married couples in all contexts. But at least I’ve come to understand that just because I don’t want to marry anyone doesn’t have to mean that there’s something wrong with me. Of course, from a life perspective, this realization is a ridiculously small thing. But for me it is a big step forward.