One of my favourite American movies of all time has to be Eat. Pray. Love which starred the award winning actress Julia Roberts.
In it, the main character decided to take a year after her divorce to travel to multiple places in a bid to rediscover herself and her value system.
I cannot remember exactly when I first watched that movie. I must have been twelve or thirteen. But what I do know is that it played a foundational role in shaping the part of me that loves adventure, self development and solitude.
It also made me question the belief that being partnered is the pathway to happiness and a cure for loneliness especially for women.
This is because in the movie, some of both the male and female characters were partnered and yet unhappy. The few characters that seemed happy, were those who made a conscious effort to have a purpose that was not necessarily tied to a man or a relationship.
Although I also love love and healthy relationships, of late I am beginning to understand the importance and need for women especially to have a period in our lives where we are intentionally single.
The main reason for this is that women are raised to see relationships, weddings and marriage as things which mark our worth as human beings. Women are also raised to not have identities outside of being a man’s wife or girlfriend; such that even the desire to travel as a woman or experience living alone is something that is shamed by the women who may spend ages scrolling on the Instagram page of a vilified female travel blogger.
Not knowing how to be single and never having a period where you just live for you with minimal commitments has worse effects for the women who desire marriage and children. Going from the house of a parent to the house of a husband can create resentment in a woman who never got to know herself outside of being a daughter, wife and then mother.
For the women who may be living alone, avoiding a period of self development can lead to women not knowing how to cultivate a support system outside of a man. It can lead to never appreciating the privilege of having a space of yours as a woman because a part of you feels your life will only be complete with a man in it.
This too leads to such women ignoring red flags in men and it leads to seeing every man at an event as a potential fuckbuddy/boyfriend as opposed to a friend or a business partner; this also can create an environment of desperation that men can take advantage of leading you to multiple heartbreaks for you.
Speaking with Glory, she says that while it is okay to want love, being single by choice and living alone helped her greatly.
In her words: “Every woman in my opinion should live alone at least once for those who desire marriage. There’s so much. Financially, emotionally etc. So much to learn. A lot of women leave their fathers house to a husband’s house and when the marriage starts to falter they hang on so much because where would they go? Most times parents won’t welcome you. They have also not learnt to live alone so it looks so overwhelming.
Living alone did so much for me and being single by choice did so much more.
We live in a society that sees being single as a flaw. That’s why a lot of people avoid it so much and as a woman you must intentionally try to be alone even if for a short while. So many people are so afraid of being alone.”
She went on to say: “I was in conversation with a friend and I was asked my biggest fear and without thinking I said POVERTY. I replied further that it keeps me awake at night sometimes. Then there was a pause and he replied what about marriage? And I said what about it? He paused again and looked at me. I can still remember how he looked in that moment. He looked at me with this fear in his eyes and he said he was afraid. He was afraid of being alone. Of the feeling that he was going to end up ALONE. Over time I have seen a lot of women also express that feeling.
…and it’s OK to want someone. Your own person but if you do not learn to be alone you will make very bad decisions when it comes to relationships. If you learn to be alone, when you go into a relationship, you would not put up with disrespect because you know where you are coming from.
I grew up around extended families and I saw a lot. A lot of women even at the time talked down on single women and when I grew up, I realised why they did. They had no joy in their lives and took comfort in their children. It was easier to castigate other women for the sole reason that those women were FREE.
I think the solution is women putting effort to learn how to be alone. It can be hard if it’s not something you are used to but so much benefit can come from that.”
When asked how to help women who don’t know how to be single, Elle had this to say: “This might be harsh but just let them be. They’d get their heart broken enough, and keep on the destruction till they see it’s a problem and start to question why they always need someone.
I really look at it like an addiction. There’s an underlying reason and shame or speaking sensibility is not known to work with addictions. The sufferer needs to want change to have it. They can’t want it if they can’t figure out their current state is dysfunctional.
Let them self-destruct.”
For OB, she says she’s been single for ten years and self awareness has been a great help and factor.
To quote her: “I’ve been single for almost 10 years. I’m a very self aware person. Always been that way, and some experiences in the past as well as a couple of severe mental health breakdowns have led me to forswear dating. I have had boyfriends, about two that I’m still on relatively good terms with and one whose name I’ve forgotten. I don’t particularly want to be single forever but for right now, I’m content. I’m happy by myself. I have a tribe of friends.
I realize that a lot of the desperation to get married before age 30 is what other people want, and to preserve premium fertility and honestly, that’s fine for some people. But for me, I have come to believe that what is for me will never miss me as long as I chase after it.”
There is no better way to end this essay than with the words of Desire when she says: “It is so important because being alone helps you discover so many parts of yourself you hadn’t known even existed. Figure out how you love to be loved. Figure out how to love yourself and root your love in yourself. It’s so so important.
Enjoy your own company without the lens of someone else’s eyes, without performance for their gaze.”
Indeed, having an intentionally single period as a woman will not only lay the groundwork for healing, it will ensure that you are strong enough to leave even non-romantic situations that do not serve you.
Angel Nduka-Nwosu is a writer, journalist and editor. She moonlights occasionally as a podcaster on As Angel Was Sayin’. Catch her on all socials @asangelwassayin.