Often, I’ve been asked (and a few times chastised as some sort of love deviant) about my perpetual residence in Singledom. Folks just can’t fathom why a young, goal-oriented, and relatively established man would want to spend countless nights sleeping alone in a bustling, vibrant city like Chicago. Usually people assume there must be something wrong with the single person, perhaps they’re socially awkward, emotionally damaged, or so “popular” (read: serial monogamist) that no one really has any confidence in them making a long-term commitment. Rarely do we think that a single person has actually made a choice to be free from romantic attachment. However, there are many people, like myself, that consciously make a decision not to pursue a relationship with someone unless they feel both parties are “ready.”
Granted, being “ready” is a very broad and ambiguous state that can be defined differently across genders, races, and levels of consciousness. To avoid sounding preachy and judgmental, I’ll tell you what being “ready” means to me and, as customary, difference of opinion is welcome – but not requested.
Long-term relationships, platonic and intimate, are rooted in what social psychologists refer to as an equity principle. Now, don’t go getting your feathers all ruffled thinking that equity means each person has to bring an equal share of everything to the table. It doesn’t mean that your partner has to earn a matching salary, cook breakfast each time you cook dinner, or expeditiously reciprocate every one of your good deeds in similar fashion.
Equity is not as simple as a game of table tennis, with each partner required to instantly return every gesture with equal force. Long-term relationships aren’t maintained through this sort of short-term return of investment. Equity assumes that each person is receiving an outcome proportional to what they are putting into the relationship. If both have a feeling that what they receive from the association corresponds to the assets and efforts they contribute, they both perceive an equitable relationship. Your partner doesn’t need to provide something identical to what you provide, but you need to be content with what they do bring to maintain long-term equity.
Long-term equity isn’t hung up on tallying every red rose and “it’s been a long day” foot massage. It is instead concerned with not keeping score of who does what and when and it is much less calculated. However, when we involve ourselves in relationships where our needs are so grossly unfulfilled, we have no choice but to consciously focus on the inequality of our responsibilities.
Take a look at the recent developments between Chris Brown, Karrueche, and Rihanna. First, and mostly to avoid the risk of being indicted by their legions of fans and friends, I think it’s important to say that I have no internal intelligence regarding their situation so most of the following will be purely hypothetical and based on media speculation.
Chris Brown is without a doubt a very successful and accomplished young man. He’s sold millions of records, performed in countries many of us only read about, and is consistently thinking of new, innovative ways to market and promote his brand.
From what I’ve learned of Karrueche, who I ‘m sure is a very nice and kind-hearted girl, her identity to the public begins and ends with Chris Brown. I’ve read that she models and consistently volunteers for nonprofit organizations, but that’s about all I know of her. She’s a 24 year-old woman that has yet to be associated with a degree, a career, or any long-lasting endeavors. Of course, this doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have any, but it does provide a sense of the mode that the majority of the population identifies with her.
From an outsider’s perspective, it would appear that her livelihood was mostly dependent on Brown during the course of their relationship. One look at their social media accounts shows that the majority of their time was spent together. This kind of relationship demands a tremendous amount of responsibility from one partner. Sure, having a partner that is totally dependent on you may be beneficial for someone with a controlling nature or preoccupied attachment (marked by a sense of one’s own unworthiness, anxiety, ambivalence and possessiveness). It could also be a joy for someone who is engrossed with the idea of giving, giving, giving and never receiving or accepting anything in return (FYI, this is me facetiously pretending that person exists). However, it’s not quite as attractive to a person who prefers a mate that can equitably contribute or, as they say in the streets, match their “swag.” Enter Rihanna and her seemingly never-ending bevy of successful accomplishments.
Rihanna is a woman that has achieved a very high level of success in her own right. She sells records, she breaks record, stars in pillow-buster (let’s be honest, it was hardly blockbuster) movies, and is a mononymous brand celebrated across the globe. She’s a person who can do what she wants when she wants to do it and doesn’t have to rely on another’s approval in the process.
This kind of self-reliance and independence is appealing to a mature audience. Sure, it’s nice being able to take care of someone but I think we would much rather do so voluntarily as opposed to it being an absolute necessity. As we mature, a partner’s level of independence becomes a more attractive feature and, from a selfish perspective, it actually allows us more freedom. When our partners have their own obligations, they tend not to be overly preoccupied with what we are doing every waking moment of our lives. In my opinion, having your own “life” before you enter into a union and not totally surrendering that “life” is such an integral part of a long-lasting, healthy relationship.
By now you may be asking what all of this has to do with my choice to be single? Well, I’ve taken the time to critically engage myself and evaluate what “equity” means to me. It’s incredibly important to be aware of what equity is in order for us to determine whether or not another person can and will meet those needs. We often end up disappointed because we’ve made commitments to people who are unable to meet us in the middle in various avenues of the relationship. We need emotional support and make commitments to emotionally unavailable people, assuming that their love for us will change them. We need dinners at fancy restaurants and commit to people with buffet budgets.
I’ve chosen to be conscious about the nonnegotiable facets of my relationships, no matter how strict they may seem to others. It’s much more productive for me to be honest with myself, and others, about who and what I want than it is to force something that just doesn’t fit. I’m single because I’ve chosen not to settle into a partnership where I perceive myself contributing too much and feeling irritable or too little and feeling guilty. I’ve made the conscious choice not to accept anything less than I feel I deserve whether it be respect, love, or honesty. I no longer waste time in relationships that I knew after the third week weren’t really going to last, merely for the sake having the attachment. I’m not afraid of commitment, I’m not afraid of falling in love, and I’m not damaged and broken by my past relationships. I’m awfully optimistic that one day I’ll find myself in a loving, enduring, and healthy relationship. I’m just no longer interested in trying to make “fetch” happen. I’m exercising my right to be single and free until I don’t want to exercise it anymore.