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Single and Happy: What It Really Means to Be Self-Partnered
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Heather K Adams
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Though the continued proliferation of dating apps may make you think otherwise, not every single gal and guy is in a hurry to find The One. Some of us just don't mind being unmatched. Yet anyone who's ever faced the dreaded family holiday "when are you going to settle down?" firing squad knows the struggle of explaining just why you're in no hurry to partner up. Trying to put into words how completely satisfied you are with your life as-is can be a challenge, especially under the pressure of even the most well-intentioned confrontation. Luckily, there's now a term for it. The next time someone asks when you're going to find yourself a partner you can say, "I'm actually self-partnered, thank you very much."

What does it mean to be self-partnered?

While the growing self-partnered movement applies across the gender spectrum, the term is in strongest use (so far) by women. Why? Because once upon a time an unmarried or unpartnered woman was considered "on the shelf" (as in un-saleable goods) or a "spinster." While unmarried men could mature into silver foxes and revel in their "bachelor" status, women were basically categorized as past their due date. And while everyone can face familial, cultural and social pressure to settle down and start raising a family, for a woman, doing so was often seen as her main purpose. As in, "If you aren't married and raising children, then what are you doing with your life?"

Times are indeed a-changing when it comes to social and gender norms, albeit sometimes more slowly than we'd like. And for a woman, or anyone, who sees no need to hurry into a relationship — if they even want that for themselves at all — the term self-partnered is a nice alternative to the much more loaded "spinsterhood" of yore. To be self-partnered doesn't mean you're pining away for the love that never was. It means you're going to go ahead and love not only yourself but also your life. Self-partnered folks have no qualms about taking themselves out on dates to a nice restaurant or that new superhero movie or buying themselves flowers just because. Being self-partnered is less about being single and swearing off the dating game and more about making a point to take care of yourself in a loving fashion. It's about empowering anyone who's ever felt embarrassed for not having a significant other or, for that matter, for not actually really wanting one.

Can you be self-partnered and in a relationship?

Of course! Self-partnered women aren't man-haters (another unfortunate term that still bubbles up sometimes) and they aren't anti-relationship. Taking on the label of self-partnered doesn't mean embracing singleton status forever — unless that's what you actually want. Instead, it's about being happy with you and the life you're living, it's about making the decisions that work for you and not feeling pressure from the outside to toe any line of the status quo. If having a relationship is something you want in your life then, by all means, date away. Being self-partnered simply means turning away from single/not single as such a defining element of your life. Should you find a special someone to be with, there's absolutely no reason why you can't be in a relationship and continue to be self-partnered at the same time.

Tips for being self-partnered.

Remove the "sad" single stigma from yourself first.

Being self-partnered is about embracing the positive aspects of singledom, empowering yourself to be free of any need to be in a relationship in order to be somehow complete, fulfilled or successful. If having a relationship is part of what you want in your life either now or in the future, that's fine. But don't look for a relationship just because you think you're supposed to or that being in one will somehow "fix" your life.

Define yourself beyond your relationship status.

Our relationship status can easily feel like one of the major ways we define ourselves. But you're more than a tab on your Facebook profile. What else defines you and maybe defines you better? Artist, carpenter, activist, gamer... There are so many more ways to represent who you are than your relationship status could ever encompass. Who you're dating or partnered with is such a very small part of the whole of who you are. Spend some time getting to know yourself beyond being someone's S.O.

Focus on you.

Start with the simple idea of taking yourself out on your ideal date this weekend. Will it be hours rummaging through an antique store, seeing a show or having an evening in with pizza and wine? Whatever it is you want to do, go ahead and do it. Being self-partnered means feeling no need to wait for someone else to do any of that with.

Enjoy — and love — yourself the same way you would a significant other.

Do and be what makes you happy. Many people feel their lives are lacking without someone special in their lives to complete it. But self-partnered people declare that they already are someone special. And it's true. So take care of yourself with the same amount of focus as a partner. Go beyond date night, and integrate that kind of attention and affection into your daily life. Believe that you're worth it.

Be prepared for unexpected reactions.

Your grandmother might actually think self-partnering is pretty cool. The woman next to you at work may actually not. And she may not have a problem telling you just why she doesn't like it either. People are always going to have their opinions and the need to share them. Just remember that their opinions have nothing to do with yours, and don't let them influence the choices you make. Do what feels right for you.

All the single ladies.

In the course of living a full and happy life, relationships will be important. But the longest and most defining relationship of anyone's life is the one they have with themselves. Whether you choose to date or not, whether you marry or you don't, being self-partnered means you're happy with yourself and the life you build, period.

We’re navigating the new normal, together. Join us for support.

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