Do you have a boyfriend? Do you have a girlfriend? These questions are common icebreakers amongst family, friends, and even strangers. If you dare respond with “No” or “Not at the moment,” prepare for that awkward silence followed by unsolicited remarks such as, “Sayang naman,” or “The right one will come,” or “I’m praying for your happiness.”
The reaction always comes from a place of concern and genuine intention. But it can feel like there is a stigma around being single. Does being single automatically mean your life is incomplete? Or are you valued less because you haven’t spread your genes?
Esther Perel, the famous relationship expert, recently wrote a blog post on the changing view on singlehood. With older generations, being married was held in high regard. Today, she writes, “You can have a full life as a single person, with economic independence, your own home, a job outside of the house, kids or no kids, multiple partners or no partners, and so on.”
Eighty percent of the time, hindi ka nagsasalita. It’s therapeutic and calming. My mind entertains me. I’m talking inside my head. So, I can hear myself speak with such clarity. It’s nice for my soul.
I asked 30-something-year-old men and women what being single means to them. What’s common among them is that being single can have its perks, whether by choice or circumstance.
You can own your time
Anne Atanacio, 39, has been single since 2011. She shared that the biggest pro to being single is “I have my own time.” Pre-pandemic, she loved traveling on her own to places like Bali and Boracay.
She said, “Eighty percent of the time, hindi ka nagsasalita. It’s therapeutic and calming. My mind entertains me. I’m talking inside my head. So, I can hear myself speak with such clarity. It’s nice for my soul.”
Although she can’t travel right now, she finds joy in reading books and listening to podcasts. She said that, no matter what, “I celebrate my situation.”
You can learn to have a relationship with yourself
Mauro Daez, 30, agreed that there’s more time for creative pursuits such as playing guitar or piano. He said, “I’ve never discovered more music than during this time.” Besides music, being single for a little over a year has strengthened his relationship with himself.
He shared one realization: “I’ve discovered that everybody has their demons and that we all need to face them at one point or the other.”
He explained, “It’s so easy to forgive other people, but not ourselves.” Self-compassion and kindness are two values you can learn while being single.
You can enjoy dating yourself
Like most people I spoke to, Penny Estrada, 31, expressed that being single has been a journey for her. When I asked her how she found joy in being single, she said, “There’s a French word, flânerie, which embodies the feeling of just walking, and then you go to wherever pavement or path you see. It feels freeing, which is why I do this with walking or cycling.”
This French approach has taught her how to enjoy her own company, whether it’s in a bar or a music festival.
David Claridad, at 31, relishes freedom similar to Penny. But, he said, “I enjoy forgoing obligation to others and instead just following my mood that day — but not in a spiritual way! That is, if I’m in the mood to be playful, then I’ll go out and see my friends; if I’m feeling restless, then I’ll go for a long run; if I’m feeling drained, then I’ll go to the cinema or stay in, on the couch.”
He has not been in a long-term relationship since 2018. However, he was candid enough to explain his single status: “I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s by choice as, if I find the right person, I’d take the plunge — I’m just not holding my breath!”
However, he obsessively spends time on solitary daily activities like listening to three to five music albums and journaling on weekends.
When I asked him if he feels pressure to find someone, he admitted, “None from my family, or at least since my older brother got married and had his daughter in July of 2019! Joking aside, it’s more the soft pressures of society that make me feel I should have a partner, similar to owning my own place and having a successful job by the time I’m 30. Though I do look at some people at my workplace and it seems a prerequisite for success is having a partner.”
You can survive on your own
Carlo Malixi, at 33, is the antithesis of what David expressed about “soft pressures.” Being in a relationship, says Carlo, is not a prerequisite to success. At times, being in a toxic relationship can hamper your potential.
Carlo, who migrated to the US, has been single for five years. He shared that he learned to sustain himself from “prioritizing, budgeting, time management, differentiating wants and needs to survive.” He explained that, being single, “I enjoy the time used for self-improvement most.”
Sarah Sison, at 39, is another example. She feels that, just because you’re single, doesn’t mean you have less chance of succeeding in life. She is a lawyer by profession. And in her years of studying, she even moved to Geneva and Singapore for her L.L.M in International Arbitration. But for her, career goals were a lot simpler and more attainable than relationship goals.
She shared that there was one life-changing moment during a hearing when she was grilled and had to think on her toes. “I had an epiphany that I wanted to be that happy and fulfilled in a relationship as I was with work.”
Sarah has always been self-aware, given that she received a lot of love from her family. Because of this, she said, “I was able to distinguish toxicity fast. If it’s toxic, just let it go.”
You can give what you lack to others
When I asked for Sarah’s advice to those anxious about being single, she said, “What you lack in life, you should give away. For example, if I feel like I lacked love in my life, like romantic love, I gave as much love away as a doting aunt or a good friend.”
In the sentiments expressed by these 30-something singles, there is real value placed on a person not worrying too much. Instead, one should focus on the relationship with oneself. Being single doesn’t mean one is unhappy or wasting time. On the contrary, in making the most of singlehood, one can live a life not wasted.