Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Single and Satisfied

Relationships! While we have been created for them, they can be a bane or a blessing, a joy or a sorrow. They can promote deep satisfaction or drive one into the pit of despair.

Many people, though not all, would agree that being in a loving marital relationship has many benefits. It provides love, meaningful companionship, an understanding partner to talk with every day, someone with whom to share our joys and sorrows, security, and the joys of physical intimacy. Good marriage relationships help keep one contented, and physically and emotionally healthy.

On the other hand, without meaningful relationships we can limp along in the shadows of life eking out a miserable and sometimes lonesome existence. It has been claimed that eighty percent of life’s satisfaction comes from relationships; that is, healthy, loving relationships. Alternatively, many of the stresses and sorrows of life are caused by broken, impaired or unhealthy relationships.

But does one need to be married to experience loving relationships? If so, our society would be in sad shape as a considerable percentage of adults in today’s society are single—either having never married, or are divorced or widowed. And, of course, the high percentage of divorces testifies to the fact that marriage, in and of itself, doesn’t guarantee satisfaction—oft times just the opposite. So the answer to our question is no, one doesn’t have to be married to find fulfillment and happiness. In fact, nobody except me can make me happy. Happiness basically comes from within.

Furthermore, unless we have learned how to live fulfilled, contented and happy lives as singles, we are not likely to find fulfilling relationships or make healthy marriage partners should we decide to marry. Happy, well-adjusted people tend to have happy well-adjusted relationships. Looking to someone else to meet our unmet needs and fill the void caused by unresolved personal issues is a recipe for relational disaster. This is why it is imperative to resolve our own personal problems if we are to find loving, lasting and healthy relationships. Fundamentally, to a varying degree, especially romantically, we are as sick or as healthy as the people we are attracted to.

Happy, well-adjusted people tend to have happy well-adjusted relationships.

If you have either chosen a single life or been thrust into it by circumstances beyond your control, the question is, as a single, "How do you find fulfillment and satisfaction in light of the fact that we have been created for relationships?"

First, make a commitment to continue growing emotionally and spiritually. Be a perpetual learner. Read widely, attend helpful relational classes, seminars and retreats. If needed, don’t hesitate to seek qualified professional counseling. These can help further improve your relationships, and build a healthy positive self-image that, according to Joyce Brothers, “is the best possible preparation for success.” 

Second, and equally important, is to take care of your physical wellbeing. Without being obsessive, stick to a healthy diet and get sufficient rest, relaxation and exercise. 

Third, maintain a clear conscience. There’s nothing like a guilty conscience to destroy one’s peace of mind. Put wrongs right. When needed, admit and genuinely say, “I was wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me.” Be quick to resolve negative feelings towards and forgive all who have hurt you. Resentment and nursing grudges is another sure-fire way to destroy peace of mind and damage physical health. As another has said, “Failing to forgive is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die.”

Fourth, remember that character counts. Newspapers are replete with stories of business personnel, politicians, and others who abandoned moral and ethical standards for the sake of personal gain of one kind or another. As Teddy Roosevelt stated, "To educate a person in the mind but not the morals is to educate a menace to society."

Remember, too, the following nine pillars of character. The first six are from Michael Josephson of Character Counts to which I have added a seventh, eighth and ninth. They are as follows: trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring, citizenship, integrity, personal honesty, and humility. Adhering to these principles provides a gratifying sense, not of being superior to others, but of self-respect. 

Fifth, know what your gifts and talents are and develop these. Best of all be sure to discover your God-given life purpose … and find a work (be it paid or volunteer) where you can use your abilities and into which you can put your best efforts. This is vital for personal satisfaction and fulfillment. Keep in mind the admonition of John Ruskin who said, "The highest reward for your toil is not what you get for it, but what you become by it." And, as Abraham Maslow said, “If you plan on being anything less than you are capable of being, you will probably be unhappy all the days of your life.” If you need to return to school or take special training, do it.

Sixth, master the art of effective communications. Learn how to get in touch with your emotions, be transparent, and be honest about how you feel. However, when being open with feelings, never lash out and hurt others but always “speak the truth in love.”1 Use “I” messages such as, “I feel hurt, angry or whatever.” Never play the blame-game by making statements such as, “You make me mad,” or “You really hurt my feelings.” Nobody can make you angry, upset or hurt your feelings without your permission. Actually, the more immature and super-sensitive we are the easier our feelings will get hurt and the more we will overreact.

Always accept responsibility for your feelings, actions, and reactions. What others do may be a serious problem, but that is their responsibility. How we respond is always our responsibility and to the degree that we overreact, that is always our problem. One of the major causes for impaired relationships is the inability to communicate constructively and a tendency to blame others for our overreactions and for causing our personal problems. At best, others trigger our unresolved issues but they don’t create them.

We have a need for several areas of intercourse besides sexual intercourse.

Furthermore, without sharing and communicating at the feeling level there is no hope of genuine intimacy and closeness. Sexual “intimacy” is not true intimacy, neither is it closeness. In fact it can keep one in denial and be used as a means to avoid facing one’s reality and from getting emotionally and spiritually intimate and close to anyone.

Seventh, recognize legitimate needs and get these met in healthy ways. High on one’s priority list is that of getting social needs met. As already implied we can live happily or contentedly without romantic relationships but we can’t live healthily without healthy relationships. One of the best ways to get social needs met is to go to places where you can meet the kind of friends you wish to associate with and do things together.

Keep in mind that we have a need for several areas of intercourse besides sexual intercourse. In fact Webster's Dictionary's first definitions of intercourse are "communication; or dealings between or among people" and "interchange of ... ideas, feelings, etc." We don't need to be married or engaged in sexual intercourse to have: 1) Intellectual intercourse—the sharing of thoughts and ideas; 2) Social intercourse—being with and sharing social times with friends of both sexes; 3) Emotional intercourse—an honest sharing of feelings with trusted friends; and 4) Spiritual intercourse—relating to and staying in fellowship with God and others who have similar goals and interests. When we get our intellectual, social, emotional and spiritual needs met sufficiently, it greatly compensates for the absence of sexual intercourse. 

Finally, serve others. Speaking personally, in my single years three of the most constructive and fulfilling things I did were to keep actively involved in my own growth and recovery, serve in the singles ministry in my local church, and regularly teach and lead seminars to both singles and marrieds in the areas of recovery, relationships and communications.

Someone has wisely said that the person who is all wrapped up in him or her self makes a mighty small package. Don’t allow this to be said of you. If you consistently practice these eight principles, I am confident that you, too, will find considerable peace, contentment, fulfillment and satisfaction in your singleness.

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