Partnered up and longing for the single life

KATHERINE FEENEY
Last updated 14:07 03/07/2013
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“Oh what I would give to be childless again!”

So hear the cry from most any parent in a moment of sheer and desperate frustration. Certainly, they don’t mean it. Really, they love their offspring. It’s just, at that particular instant, said sprog is really, really testing their limits.

To the point memories from a simpler, freer, more independent life flash-up before their tired, bloodshot eyes.

A similar sensation can strike at the hearts of someone in a relationship.

Yes, they love their partner. No, they wouldn’t give them up for the world. But on occasion, in dark times of scant romance, even the most ardent adorer indulges in a moment of longing for life before love.

The difference is you can’t divorce your kid. You can quit your relationship.

What happens when you find yourself wishing you were single again? Is it always bad to reflect on what life was like before you made a life-altering commitment?

I’d say no. A fleeting thought for a former life is fairly natural. It'd be different if you dwelt on it. And found yourself regretting, not reflecting upon, your decisions...

This blog was inspired by a random, casual conversation at a cocktail party with people who were mostly strangers. Some were straight, others were gay, and everyone was making slightly less than civil conversation over flutes of free Champagne.

I ascertained the majority of the circle was married, or partnered off, and that someone had a new baby about which they were complaining. Complaining in that nudge-nudge, wink-wink kind of way you do when you’re trying to relate to a roomful of faces you may never see again.

And from bad baby we went to bad hubbies and wives.

Tired adages of balls and chains were flung about. Days since ‘I do’ were rued. Tales of blue balls were told and tall. And all this anti-commitment joshing was doused in knowing haw-hawing.

No-one was serious – were they?

Still, it got me thinking about the things people in relationships often say they miss about single life.

And I realise they’re kind of things that put people off getting into relationships in the first place. The consequences of commitment the phobic might fear, such as:

Not being able to flirt with strangers anymore
Not being able to make random plans with friends
Not being able to just think of yourself
Not being able to leave the house how you want it
Not being able to spend time truly alone
Not being able to say yes to anything

Not being able to do all of these things have some people thinking they’ll be disabled by relationships. And sure, there are some relationships where they might actually be.

We’re all familiar with the control-freak partners who limit their partner’s every move. We know about the jealous-types who can’t stand their lover so much as looking at anyone else.

But these aren’t healthy relationships. Healthy relationships work on compromise, not control, and pride, not jealousy. Healthy, happy relationships are based on selflessness not selfishness. The same goes for healthy, happy people.

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In this way, it’s clear some of the so-called advantages of single-life are unhealthy. Just thinking of yourself might be easier, but it doesn’t make you, or life, better.

Similarly, leaving the house exactly the way you want it might make you happy, but it does smack of an inflexibility that would make dealing with the quirks and peculiarities of other people somewhat challenging.

The flirting-with-strangers one is interesting – some people say they flirt all day, and it’s harmless, and it doesn’t hurt their marriage. I used to sit firmly in this school, but I’m not so sure of late... a follow-up blog perhaps.

Still, I stand by the idea that thinking about what life was like before you were loved up can be a good thing. It can be good because it can remind you what you’ve gained, not what you’ve lost. It can be good because it can remind you of things you enjoy, that you’ve forgotten, and help you find a way to rediscover some simple pleasures within the bounds of a happy relationship.

But as writ – there’s a big difference between reflection and regret.

Don’t you agree?

- Sydney Morning Herald

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