However, because we (as a collective, over time) have fought so hard for it, I think we can get a little tunnel vision.
I really hate being single. I so much prefer to be in a relationship. And when I tell people that, they usually respond with "But you're a strong, independent woman! You can do it on your own! You don't need anybody to be successful and happy!"
First of all, I know that. When I say I prefer to be in a relationship, what I am not saying (but always seems to be interpreted) is the following:
- I can't go on without a man (or a woman, but people mostly assume man because I am straight looking/acting)
- I don't know how to live independently
- I can't do things on my own
- I will never be happy if I'm not in a relationship
- If I don't have a partner, my accomplishments are somehow diminished
- My success must be measured first and foremost by my relationship status
And I prefer to have an intimate partnership with someone. The casual freedom of being able to hook up with whomever I choose without having to take into consideration another person's feelings is nice, don't get me wrong, and I've taken full advantage of it. But I much prefer being intimate with people that I have a deeper connection with. It makes everything so much better for me.
And I like the companionship. I know I can get that from close friends, but we all know it's not the same. And it isn't supposed to be the same, and that doesn't diminish the relationship I have with my friends. It's jsut different. And the companionship of an intimate partner is something that I want in my life. Because for me there's always friendship embedded in my intimate relationships. I can't imagine being someone's girlfriend without them being one of my closest friends. I like the blending of intimacy and friendship that those relationships bring.
I find it frustrating that I have to justify to people that I would rather be in a relationship than single. I find it frustrating that people think that me saying that makes me weak or naive or not independent enough. If I never find someone, I know I'll live a happy and successful life. But if I do find someone, I know I'll be that much happier.
And this is just my experience. In no way am I writing this to be prescriptive and trying to tell all women that what they need is a partner to make them truly happy. You do what you gotta do, because you know yourself better than anybody else does, and only you know what will truly make you happy. Don't let anybody tell you that you do or don't need a partner to be happy.
And, I'm taking that advice. I know I can live my life as a happy, single person. But I'd rather live it as a happier, partnered person. And there's nothing wrong with that. Knowing that about myself means I can strive to make myself as happy as possible.
And I'm not going to push it. I'm not going to settle for less just because I'd rather be in a relationship. I don't mean that either. I still want the partner(s) in my life to be truly compatible with me. I don't want to end up in some loveless marriage just because I don't want to die alone. I would rather be single than in an unfulfilling relationship.
And that's how I really know it's okay for me to prefer to be in a relationship. Because when I say that, what I really mean is I prefer to be in a healthy and happy relationship. I won't settle for less than that. They're never perfect, I know that. And my politics and lifestyle might make it difficult to find the right person(s) for me.
But in the end, I know that I don't have to feel ashamed, or weak, or naive, or traditional, or like I'm setting back women's movements just because I want a partner in my life. Because as a woman, I have the right to live my life as I choose. And I choose to include having happy and healthy intimate relationships in my definition of a successful life.