9 Surprising Things You Learn About Relationships From Never Being In One

I am single and I always have been – I’ve never been in a relationship – and most of my friends are couples. Like most things, it has its definite upsides and downsides. One of the good things about it is that I’ve learned so much about relationships… from never being in one. As a keen, objective, outside observer and generally good friend, I’ve seen all different kinds of relationships succeed and fail on their own accord. My friends have picked themselves up and started all over again and navigated single life on their own, and then, when they’re ready, transitioned back in to being a part of a couple. I’m always the go-to person for advice even though I’m technically under-qualified. Weird, huh?

Having a wealth of information about how relationships should and shouldn’t go from an outsider’s perspective has taught me so much. Let me be clear: I don’t hate relationships or people who are coupled up. Relationships are awesome and I’d like to be in one eventually, but there’s something to be said for the things you pick up on when you’re single. If you’ve never been in a relationship, like me, you know what I’m talking about. It’s surprising, but it’s true. You learn a lot about relationships from never being in one. Like what, you ask? Let me explain. Here are a few, important to girlfriends, boyfriends, and singles alike.

Being In A Relationship Is An Active Decision

The decision to be in a relationship isn't a passive one. Ideally, you're both really clear about your titles and what that means in terms of being there for each other. There's no way to do this in a cool way. You have to make an effort and showing someone that you really care about them in this way isn't always going to look or feel cool. Totally fine! Par for the course, in fact. This means that you have to have the dreaded "what are we?" conversation, and it doesn't feel great, but it's important to discuss things honestly. If you want to really be there for somebody, you can say goodbye to ever feeling one hundred percent cool again.

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When Two People Want Each Other, They Make It Known

Know this deep in your soul, readers: nobody is too busy for you if they like you a lot. When two people want each other, they reach out to the other person. There's no annoyingly coy deliberate not-texting-back, you're just mutually animately excited to see each other. It's not awkward or difficult to put yourself out there. When it clicks, you feel okay making it known. There's no reason to play games because when two people want to be together, they both want to "win" so to speak, and that win doesn't come at having one on the other person because why would you want to do that to the person you want to date, you know? Not all communication is easy, but you make time for each other when you want to be together.

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You Can Be In A Relationship And Not Want To Marry Them

It's as simple as that! Not every serious relationship needs to be marriage-serious. Being in a relationship can add a lot to your life and not all of those benefits have to be directly related to your partner-as-future-spouse. It doesn't mean your relationship is any less meaningful or that you're less in love, you just know you don't want to marry this person. No big deal! There's a lot of misconceptions about dating that if you can't envision yourself marrying this person, you're wasting both of your time, and I disagree. Relationships are rad, regardless if they're intended to last forever or not.

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You Have To Constantly Put In The Effort

You don't decide to be in a relationship and go, "Welp! That's it! Now we're here!" and then stop trying to be with that person. Relationships are a lot of upkeep. You might think that you're through talking to your friends about what these texts mean, how much is too soon, and the ins and outs of your feelings for this person when you make it official because you two are now a Sure Thing. However, that'd be wrong. Each stage of being in a relationship requires a different subset of effort you need to put into it and level of maintenence required to keep both of you happy. There's no coasting involved. Hate to break it to you.

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Some People Totally Lose Themselves

I hate to say this, but we all probably all know that person who gets into a relationship, loses all sense of their own identity, then after the break up they come-to again like they had just lost consciousness for the entire length of time they were dating this person. Since relationships require a lot of being in tandem with someone, a lot of people take that to mean that they just adopt this other person's hobbies, interests, friends, values, and political points of view. If you aren't careful, you can totally lose yourself and that's dangerous. If your friends are clueing you into the fact that this may be happening, listen to them.

Source: iStock

You Only Have Some Control Over Who You Fall In Love With

The saying "you can't help who you love" is only a little true. When my friend watches her boyfriend do something stupid, shrugs, and goes, "What can I say? I love him," it's different than saying you can't help falling in love with your friend's ex or someone who you know is bad for you. Love doesn't mean that you need to be with this person. A ton of people are still in love with people they've broken up with. Love isn't a separate monster and you're just helpless to following their instructions and whims. You can say no to someone on purpose for your own reasons. You have some agency in all of this. You aren't a love-puppet.

Source: iStock

You're In A Relationship With The Person's Life, Not Just The Person

This is what sucks the most in a breakup! You aren't just in a relationship wiht a person and their day to day life, you get emeshed in their whole life: their family, friends, places you go together, shared memories. They're frequently there for major life events. If it's serious enough, their family starts to feel like your own family. So, when you break up, you aren't just breaking up with this person, you have to divorce yourself from the entirety of their lives they just shared with you for however long you were together. The upside to this, is that sharing your life with someone is rewarding and uniquely satisfying and heart-warming. The downside? Ugh, you know the downside. It's the worst.

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The Pressure To Find Another Set Of Couple Friends Is High

Oh my gosh, I feel for all of my couple friends who need to find another set of couple friends to hang out with. The friendship balance it takes for all parties to be cool with each other among other things make finding your perfect couple friend tricky as hell. Ideally, you're all the same level of serious about your relationship to avoid the dreaded pocket of time where one couple breaks up and you're all still unsure about how to navigate the friendship once their relationship is over. More often than not, one person isn't so keen on another person, but wind up making a compromise to make their partner happy, but even getting to that good of a place can be hard to get to for some people. Hats off to you, dudes. I don't have the social stamina for this.

Source: iStock

Love Isn't Always Enough

Love is all you need, right? How about honesty, communication, zero games, and common values? A similar sense of ambition? General compatability? In a relationship you have to own up to who you are and show up for this person like an adult, even if you're still young. Falling in love, especially for the first time, is a really intense feeling, but love isn't enough of a reason to be with soembody. Relationships don't thrive on love alone. You need a heck of a lot more to keep it going. If all you needed in a relationship was love, a lot more of us would be in relationships and we'd be constantly breaking up and getting back together. Love changes over time, even if it doesn't go away, and it's not the only thing you need in a relationship.

Source: iStock

Have you ever been in a relationship? How do you feel about relationships when you’re single v. being in them? Let us know in the comments!

You can follow the author, Aliee Chan, on Twitter.


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