Image by Mabel Amber
Narrated by Marie T. Russell.
Most all of us know the Rolling Stones' line, "You can't always get what you want." That's definitely true about our relationship status.
Regardless of whether we're on our own or partnered up, with or without children, we need to accept our situation and embrace it. Complaining won't change it. Neither will feeling hopeless or helpless. These crummy attitudes are guaranteed to keep us in the emotions of sadness, anger, and fear. Our best strategy is to find pleasure in our status and relish the moment, because as is abundantly clear, life is fragile and fleeting.
Going It Single
You know the adage “times are changing.” Well that couldn’t be truer when it comes to our living habits. According to a recent report from the U.S. Population Reference Bureau, 28% of adults, in 2020, are single person households. In 1960 – 60 years ago -- only 13 percent were.
This is because more people are waiting until they are older to get married and there are more elderly people healthy enough to stay in their own homes. There are also more middle-aged folks making the choice to go solo. While one person households went from 13% in 1960 to 28% in 2020, married couples with children now only make up 19% of households, down from 44% in 1970. Non-family households went from 15% in 1960 to 35% in 2020.
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Downsides, and Upsides, to Living Alone
There are some downsides to living alone: it's easier to feel bored or alone, experience a lack of safety, and have no one to help. In addition it’s more expensive. However, people report preferring the freedom that this brings, especially when it comes to the level of cleanliness in common areas, the noise factor, privacy.
"The rise of living alone is the greatest social change of the last 50 years," said Eric Klinenberg, author of Going Solo: The Extraordinary Rise and Surprising Appeal of Living Alone. He speculates that, as well as the freedom and flexibility living alone brings, connecting online helps people not feel as lonely. They also seem to have more time to do enjoyable activities, such as visit with friends, volunteer, or pursue outside hobbies.
Of course it can be a bummer not having someone to share events with both during and afterwards. In addition, in terms of perceptions and convention, things haven’t changed so radically about being solo vs being coupled. Table for one brings with it a label of “He or she must be lonely.” And “I feel like a fish out of water going to a restaurant by myself.”
It will take a while for society’s mentality to shift, but as we look at those couples with their pregnant pauses and no eye contact or both people engrossed in their phones and other electronic devices over dinner, it’s best to relish and celebrate the many benefits of independence.
The moral of these shifting trends is that if you live alone, do your best to find healthy activities and other folks to support your lifestyle. If you don't like your status, find constructive and creative ways to change your living situation.
Pet Peeves… and What You Can Do about Them
As a marriage and family therapist for close to forty years, I’ve had the opportunity to hear the full range of complaints that couples have about their partners. I’m not talking about big issues, such as sex, money, or child rearing strategies. I’m talking about little things that can become the focus of what’s not working and lead to feelings of anger, isolation, separation, and disconnection.
Here’s a partial list:
• doesn’t talk very much and doesn’t make his needs and views known. He has the fantasy I should be a mind reader and magically know what he’s thinking.
• talks in global generalities and is so dramatic that I can’t bring up anything, much less find solutions, without things getting out of hand.
• gives unsolicited advice and tells me what I should do, whether it’s about the kids, the way I drive, or how I dress. Her default setting is to try to control me, parent me, or lecture me.
• doesn't listen to what I say – he is distracted by television, computer, video game, football, a hobby, or reading or something.
• is a naysayer / wet blanket. She rarely gives me compliments, appreciations, or the benefit of the doubt.
• interrupts me when I’m talking.
• is perpetually late or the opposite – always wants to be early to any event.
• doesn't acknowledge my feelings when I share them but tunes me out.
• doesn't clean up after himself, help with housework, or appreciate how hard I work to maintain the home.
• doesn't back me up when I set boundaries and consequences with the children.
• doesn’t put the toilet seat down.
• drives like a grandmother or a race car driver.
• agrees to social events without consulting me.
How to Make Peace with Your Pet Peeves
Regardless of the complaint, as a psychotherapist and the author of Attitude Reconstruction, my strategy is usually the same. I help people understand that what they’re doing is not fueling feelings of connection.
There is no right or wrong. There are just differences. And if they want to feel love, sometimes they just need to accept some things and let go. And sometimes they need to speak up and try to get things to change.
Most often the pet peeve is not really a deal breaker. Sometimes we just have to give it a rest and adopt a genuine stance of acceptance. Yes, accept that our partner doesn’t put the toilet seat down, or call exactly when he or she promises.
Acceptance is most easily accomplished by repeating until you can truly “get it,” laugh, and let go of things needing to be your way. “My wife drives the way she does, not the way I think she should drive.” Or “My husband doesn’t put his dirty dishes in the sink and that’s the way it is.”
True acceptance means that we don't make snarky comments or jokes about our differences. We put the complaint on the shelf.
However, if you know that you need to speak up, after accepting the way they are, it’s essential that you articulate your pet peeves by following the Attitude Reconstruction Four Communication Rules. Remember it’s hard to be open and receptive when we feel attacked.
Rule #1. -- It’s crucial that you talk about yourself rather than finger-pointing. Talk about how you feel, why, what you’d like.
Rule #2 -- You must stay specific so that the other person can understand exactly what is so difficult for you. Only address one topic at a time.
Rule #3 -- Focus on finding constructive win-win solutions, acknowledging what does work well.
Rule #4 -- Listen well, taking the time to truly hear and understand the other person’s perspective.
Make your talk a discussion, not an ultimatum, and compromise to find the best solution that best honors you both. Either tactic, surrender or loving speak up, will bring more intimacy and is preferable to fuming or striking out.
It takes some effort and boldness to make change but it's worth the effort. Consider buying a copy of Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life for details about how to go about the rewarding task of acceptance, and how to communicate simply, lovingly, and effectively.
©2021 by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
All Rights Reserved.
Book by this Author
Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life
by Jude Bijou, M.A., M.F.T.
With practical tools and real-life examples, this book can help you stop settling for sadness, anger, and fear, and infuse your life with joy, love, and peace. Jude Bijou's comprehensive blueprint will teach you to: cope with family members' unsolicited advice, cure indecision with your intuition, deal with fear by expressing it physically, create closeness by truly talking and listening, improve your social life, increase staff morale in just five minutes a day, handle sarcasm by visualizing it flying by, carve out more time for yourself by clarifying your priorities, ask for a raise and get it, stop fighting via two easy steps, cure kids' tantrums constructively. You can integrate Attitude Reconstruction into your daily routine, regardless of your spiritual path, cultural background, age, or education.
For more info and/or to order this book, click here. Also available as a Kindle edition.
About the Author
Jude Bijou is a licensed marriage and family therapist (MFT), an educator in Santa Barbara, California and the author of Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life.
In 1982, Jude launched a private psychotherapy practice and started working with individuals, couples, and groups. She also began teaching communication courses through Santa Barbara City College Adult Education.
Visit her website at AttitudeReconstruction.com/