Jessica Viola discusses having self-awareness, self-assurance and the secret magic of being self-partnered
The idea of being ‘self-partnered’ was popularised by Emma Watson in 2019.This supports the concept that individuals are self contained and are tending to their needs on their own terms without an exterior partner.
It’s something many Irish women are choosing; self-love over romantic love. “I think being mindfully single means just being content with how things are at the moment and not feeling the need to rush into anything from others,” explains twenty one year old Saoirse O’Connor.
Saoirse is currently in her third year of an engineering undergraduate degree at Technological University Dublin, and has been prioritising her academia over dating. She continues, “It’s just about being happy wherever you’re at in life.” Being mindfully single is the active mindset in not choosing to look for a partner, whether it be staying off dating apps or just not looking to meet new people in a romantic sense on a night out, it’s about taking yourself out of the dating pool for the foreseeable.
There are myriad reasons why women in their early twenties are choosing themselves over pursuing romantic relationships, including not having enough time, no interest in scrolling aimlessly on dating apps as well as needing more time to recover after a long term relationship, like Olivia Walsh.
She reveals, “I need this time right now to be single because I was in a relationship for the majority of my late teens and early twenties, which of course are very formative years. I haven’t had the opportunity to develop and grow myself without the influence of a partner.” Twenty-four-year-old Olivia is in her final year of nursing in University College Dublin and came out of a long term relationship with her childhood sweetheart just under ten months ago. The student nurse adds, “I think that I had taken the fact that I had a partner as a part of my identity and, although it is often uncomfortable to ask myself who I am without a partner, I think that it’s important to tackle these questions. I’m trying right now not to rush into anything, and I am currently not seeking another romantic relationship.”
As a woman in my early twenties, dating and romantic relationships are always common discussion points between conversations with friends. For a really long time, I felt that having a boyfriend or talking to someone romantically added more to my self-worth and identity.
Choosing to be mindfully single and having no intention of pursuing romantic relationships has really taught me that I am more than just a girlfriend. After coming out of a relationship in May, I really took the time to become the best version of myself possible. In the past, I would have been blindsided with the idea of finding a partner to look after me. After taking around nine months to recharge and rediscover my needs, I know now that I am more in touch with who I am and what I am worth. Although it sounds cliche, I really do believe that your twenties are a time for exploration and discovering who you are outside of who people expect you to be.
Having said that, I definitely feel that there is a societal pressure for young people to be in or be looking for a relationship. Olivia adds to this point, “I think that this kind of mentality feeds down to women of all ages and, myself as a young, Irish woman in my early twenties, I often found success in life is associated with having a partner.”
She elaborates on her point by explaining that she finds friends to be a huge influence on this matter, “if you’re sitting in a group, friends are describing what their partner got them for Christmas or playing a game of ‘Never Have I Ever’ and people around you have much more experience. I think that of course, young women are going to feel pressured. They want to be involved in these conversations with their peers, so I definitely think that people will want to seek out a relationship, even if they don’t always feel fully ready.”
Similarly, Saoirse reasons that going to an all-girl secondary school has influenced her opinion on relationships from her teens to her early twenties. “When I was younger, being in a relationship was viewed more as a status thing, but when you’re in your twenties and out of school, I think no one really cares. When you get older you just don’t think like that anymore.” The engineering student jokingly adds, “My own mother is always telling me to wait way later in life to date, but I don’t know about that because she got married at age twenty six.”
There are a variety of perks that come along with adding more love from within. For myself, I have noticed that I have a lot more self-awareness about my past dating experiences. I think for a very long time, I was looking to be entertained by dating around, but when I was looking to casually date, I chose quantity of dates over quality people. Maybe it’s because I wanted to have funny stories to tell my friends afterwards over a few pints, or maybe I just wanted some excitement during the slow, drabness of life under restrictions during Covid.
Nevertheless, I was dating without intention.
With this old model, I used to go on dates with more or less any guy who was interested in me because in hindsight, I wanted the attention and a flattered ego. No disrespect to anyone who I went out with, but when I was following this method, I wasn’t allured by these dates because I had no real intention of dating them. I was always giving myself an exit plan as soon as I started talking to someone because I didn’t care enough to even try. I just liked the idea of dating around but didn’t consider the consequences of hurting the feelings of others in my cycle of thoughtlessness.
Now as I am choosing to re-enter the dating world, I want to carry this feeling of mindfulness into the decision making process of dating. I don’t want to date for sport, I just want to meet like-minded people who reflect the best version of myself.
Olivia mirrors that being self-partnered has taught her more about herself too. “Whether you’re single in your early twenties during college, or in your late twenties when you’re in the workforce, the only thing that being single is going to do is enhance your feelings of self.”
She elaborates; “there obviously is so much to learn from relationships. I was so lucky because I had a great and healthy relationship, where I got to know so much about myself during that time. However, it is important to learn about yourself by yourself, and I want to develop my needs and wants further.”
On the discussion of needs and wants, one perk for Saoirse is that, “being single and selective in who I date has helped me weed out what I want and need. Even compared to my friends in romantic relationships, I see what I want in one and definitely what I wouldn’t.” By not looking actively for a romantic relationship, it can help magnify more self-awareness and prioritise what you are looking for in the future.
Having said that, choosing to be single can feel a bit isolating. At the beginning of this process, there were a lot of highs and lows when it came to being by myself, which mainly manifested itself in feelings of loneliness. However, it’s important to acknowledge that those feelings of loneliness are valid and can be reduced in changing my mindset around it.
Loneliness is often associated with negative connotations reflecting having no social outlet or harbouring feelings of inadequacy. Personally, I found the best way to combat these periods of isolation was through journaling. Oftentimes, when I transcribed these intense feelings onto paper it was cathartic to be able to pinpoint where these feelings stemmed from and how I can better manage them if they were to reappear. Being able to know myself and know how I can better look after myself has really been so rewarding. In the past if I were to feel lonely in friendships or relationships, I would immediately try to cancel it out by preoccupying myself with distractions, such as making unnecessary phone calls, scrolling for countless hours on social media or going on a night out just for the sake of it. Although, I do think that talking to people in times of need is a very useful tool, I believe for my self growth that journaling has really enhanced the way I self soothe in periods of loneliness. In this way, I am responsible for looking after my mental health in a self sufficient way. Loneliness is unavoidable, but coping with it can help the pain ease significantly.
Being mindfully single has been such a transformative experience because it really made me examine how I treat myself and how I also let others treat me. In choosing my needs over a partner, it has revealed the areas where I need self-improvement while also reintroducing myself to all the great features that I have to offer. Before my relationships, I would never even consider the idea of going on day trips by myself. I would always wrangle my friends or my boyfriends to partake in whatever activity that I wanted to do because I felt that I needed company around to enjoy myself. Nowadays, one of my favorite activities is to go to the cinema and watch a newly released film by myself, without the distraction of others with me. I no longer wait for someone to tag along to my plans, I just go as I please.
I also think from experience, I have lost parts of myself in relationships by trying to save them, and when it ends, I feel a part of myself slip away with the failure. However, with this period of solitude and reflection, I’m now able to detach myself from that negative way of thinking and appreciate the flaws and turn them into lessons learned. Once I learned to let my past go, I definitely became more self-assured .
Olivia notes that she has become more self-assured as well, “I think being able to develop yourself without the influence of a partner is just a very important skill that we all need to learn. Your partner’s opinion is just a different type of opinion. For me anyway, I took it so personally and emotionally. I think now I can just make a decision and that’s it.” She continues, “What I have learned mostly is I just need to become more confident in my decision making. I don’t have to consult anyone, I can just be comfortable in that decision. I really want to carry that through.”
Saoirse also shares her positive experience of being self-partnered, “I think it’s so significant to prioritise yourself because it’s such an important time to figure things out with coming out of school and with college, deciding what way you want to go. Just decide your needs and wants before you settle, discover them fully.”
Being mindfully single is definitely a period that I would recommend to anyone who is looking to understand their thoughts, actions and relationships with themselves and others. More than any lesson in a classroom, learning about myself in this time of solitude from romantic relationships has really taught me how I treat others and how I need to treat myself with a lot more compassion. Olivia perfectly expresses this message by stating, “I want to approach being single not as a time of pity or sadness, or even feeling bad for myself, but I see it as an opportunity to thrive by myself.”