Mumbai-based student Malavika Shah is single – and happy. This is hardly surprising for a lot of people who’ve been single for years and never been depressed by it, but for others who believe that a life not lived as part of a couple is an incomplete life, this could be astounding. "I love the time I get to myself," says 26-year-old Shah. "I think you’re more yourself when you’re single than when you’re with someone else."
It may seem strange to talk about the joy of singlehood on Valentine’s Day. But since this day has been taken over by romantic love rather than just love, it makes sense to see just how important couplehood can be in our lives and why, for some people, being single is the only way.
“There’s too much pressure on romantic love,” says Pooja Brar, family therapist in Delhi. “Valentine’s Day is a celebration, but it becomes a crucial time for self-evaluation. There are a lot of reasons to celebrate Valentine’s Day – and being in a relationship isn’t the only way to enjoy life.”
Being single doesn’t mean you’re alone and lonely. Delhi-based media professional R Krishnamurthy has been single for a year and a half, and says he’s as happy as ever. “My social life has changed considerably – I spend far more time socialising with different people, as compared to when I was in a relationship,” he says.
But there are two types of singles. Some are single because that’s what they want to be – they don’t see aloneness as loneliness, only as precious solitude. “It is selfish,” says 34-year-old designer Neha Varma. “But my space is important. I enjoy relationships when I have them, but I can’t imagine being with someone my whole life, because I need to get back to my own space.”
Others are single because they haven’t found that special person yet. This doesn’t make them unhappy though. As actress Shamita Shetty, who’s been single for two years now, says, “I’m not elated about being single, but I think a relationship will happen whenever it has to.”
If someone isn’t single by choice, says Brar, then they may wonder if they’re leading a full life. After all, who doesn’t want to feel the romance and passion of being in love?
But there’s no reason to not enjoy the freedom while it lasts. “These things happen at their own time,” says Dr Nikhil Raheja, psychiatrist at the National Institute of Psychiatry. He also points out that there are many things to look forward to and enjoy when you’re single. You have the freedom to do plenty of things – such as socialise or indulge in your hobbies – which you cannot do when you’re bound in a relationship.
And being single can mean great freedom, says Shah. “When you’re in a relationship, you tend to think more about the two of you, rather than about yourself alone,” she explains. “Being single gives you the opportunity to do stuff yourself.”
Adds Neha Varma, “I don’t have to consider anyone else’s preferences when I watch a movie or buy something for my home or go on holiday. I just do what I want to do.”
And further, when you’re single, you have the opportunity to meet and date a lot of people. Casual flings are fine, commitment-free dating is fine, and taking life lightly is fine too.
“Being single can be a great time to build your own identity,” adds Shah. “After all, loving someone else begins with self-love.” We agree. ‘Being single is about freedom’
You have to keep working at being on the same plane as your partner. that’s tiresome
I am single and let me tell you, it has many advantages. The most important: I am not answerable to anyone. A relationship comes with responsibilities. No matter how cool your partner is, the element of freedom is lost when you are in a relationship. Every action you take affects your partner. The most typical thing may be that your partner doesn’t approve of your friends. So you are questioned about whom you talk to and meet. “Why are you talking to so and so?” or “Why do you have to meet him/her?” are some common complaints.
When you are single, you can talk to and meet whoever you want and avoid those you don’t want to meet. Also, you have be very lucky to be in a fabulous relationship. Usually, you have to struggle at keeping it working. It’s not effortless. Often, your partner tries to change you. Also, you have to be in sync with her, and hence keep working at it. When you’re single, you can stay out late, party with the friends you like, watch the movies you like, and not function according to your partner’s whims and fancies.
With a relationship, there are expectations. It is assumed that in a relationship, the happiness of one depends on the other. That puts tremendous pressure on you. Your partner is supposed to complete you. Why? Why should you be responsible for someone else’s happiness? When you are single, it’s all bliss. Because there’s no pressure.
If your mood is off, you can sulk as much as you want to. But when you have a partner, you have to make sure you control your emotions, let her know that you are not upset because of her, and so on. Also, men are not very vocal. But when you have a girlfriend or wife, you are always expected to talk about your feelings. You have to keep working at being on the same plane as your partner. Now, that’s tiresome.
Being single is all about freedom. Freedom to feel, and do whatever you want to. So if you are single, do not sulk on Valentine’s Day. Enjoy your freedom. And do as I do – go out with friends, make the most of the day, and have a blast. Make something special out of the day. You never know. Cupid might be waiting around the corner.
— As told to Parul Khanna
Be your own I decided to stay single because I wanted to be sure i was capable of being alone
I think most people want to be in a relationship for all the wrong reasons – because they are running away from a certain problem, or from loneliness. This is not the right approach. The only reason to be in a relationship, I think, is true love. I was in a wonderful relationship once, which happened to break up. After that I went on the rebound and got into something I shouldn’t have. That lasted for only two months. But when it ended, I decided that I was going to be single until I found the right person.
It was important that I learnt to feel comfortable in my own space. People are basically afraid to spend time on their own; most often, they’re just scared to be without someone else. I see a lot of people my age doing this these days. The problem is that they don’t love themselves. By simply jumping from one relationship to another, they are basically just trying to run away from themselves. This is wrong. I know some wonderful women who are in abusive relationships – and this is because they simply are unable to be with themselves.
Unless you love yourself, you can never be happy in a relationship. How are you going to give happiness to someone else if you yourself are not happy? The frustrations and tensions will eventually surface, and problems will always occur.
There were some men I met later, but I didn’t go ahead because I knew it wouldn’t work out with them. I decided to remain single because I wanted to be sure I was capable of being alone. Once you’re single, you also get time to meet your friends. Meeting friends is something people stop doing when they are in a relationship; you are always with your partner. The only time you remember your friends, unfortunately, is when you break up.
The best thing about being single is that you learn to enjoy your own company. The day you have done that, you realise it is possible to spend evenings alone after work without feeling sad, or feeling depressed. You also learn to nurture yourself emotionally. When you’re single, you begin to discover yourself. The man you are with later will also be happy if he knows you are not going to be a clingy person and an emotional wreck.
I also strongly believe in the power of instinct. I think women have an instinctive awareness about whether something is going to be good or not. I’m not the kind of person who likes kissing a lot of frogs before one of them turns into a prince.
To me, falling in love and dating are two different things. I’d rather fall in love. It is better to be friends with someone than get physical with him. If it is going to damage you, it’s not worth it. Instead, I’d advise that one should make a lot of friends, hang out with them, and wait for the right person to come along.
Women should also stop feeling insecure about being single. Instead, they should take the time when they’re single to work on themselves and heal themselves instead, so that when they are in a relationship, it can be nurturing and fulfilling for both people. The greatest examples for me are my parents. When my father was in the army and away for years, my mother did not sit and mope. Instead, she took the opportunity to do a lot of things – she worked, and she studied. We had great times together when he was away. And they just celebrated their 30th anniversary last week, on February 6.
All of us have this thing about wanting things immediately. When you know what you want, you won’t settle for just anything. I think it’s important that both people have a positive influence on each other. Finally, I think this is an important day. I think we should celebrate love on this day, but if you’re single, I think you should take the opportunity to be your own Valentine.
— As told to Supriya Thanawala