Alison Taylor on relationships: 'Single shaming' is getting boring now. I'll take single over suffering any day


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The Independent Online

I feel I should break all the rules and begin this column with a caveat. Namely, that I don't think all couples are miserable and living a lie... but the idea that being single is a sort of affliction to be pitied is getting a bit boring now.

'Single shaming', as the wonderful Dolly Alderton put it recently in Grazia, is not only patronising for single people but for those in relationships, too. Who says that single people even want to be 'spoken for'? And what if it's actually that they feel like they don't have a choice?

I say this because currently I know (or know of) a number of people who are in so-so or even bad relationships, but feel like they can't get out of them for various reasons. I'm not going to debate the use of the word 'can't' versus 'won't' here as it amounts to the same thing, ultimately.

The thing is, often what keep people together is money. Living in London, in particular, is so gallingly expensive, I can see why if you lived with the monetary cushion of a partner, the leap to solo occupancy could seem incomprehensible. Impossible even? As, too, is the (very real) thought of reverting to shared living, possibly with Gumtree sociopaths. It's these people I feel sorry for.

"I feel stuck," an old friend told me over a drink recently. She's currently living at her boyfriend's parents' house with no real prospect of getting out any time soon, money-wise.

She sounded so helpless. I remember feeling like that when I finally gained the courage to get out of a long-term, live-together relationship in my late twenties.

I was deeply unhappy but I didn't have the scandalous rent to deal with. I felt lonely and unhappy but I didn't feel trapped. The feeling that there is no alternative must be so claustrophobic.

If it's not financial demands, it's often fear keeping some couples together.

But which is worse? The Curse of Being Single or The Fear of Being Alone? I know which I choose. I can't put it better than the following dialogue from As Cool As I Am, a brilliant film I watched this week:

"Why do people stay together for so long in bad relationships?

They eat so much shit for so long, they don't even recognise the taste of it after a while"