The United States Bureau of the Census says the fastest-growing household type since the 1980s has been the single person. The same is true in some other countries like the UK and Japan. A report says that sixty percent of people living in Stockholm live alone.
It raises the question of whether it is better to be single living alone or living together in a committed partnership?
Benefits of living alone
People living alone usually have fewer financial burdens. Advertisers, particularly in fashion and leisure, target these consumers because they often have larger disposable incomes.
The person living alone may feel life is less complicated. He or she may appreciate freedom as an opportunity for study or as giving independence for career development.
Single people may be uninterested in a committed relationship or having children.
Alternatively, being single may be thought to be best simply because of not having yet met the right person.
“A bad marriage can make a person feel more isolated than being single”(Sociologist professor Eric Klinenber).
Benefits of living with the right partner
The quality of life of couples varies a lot. One cannot truly be happy living in an unhappy relationship if for example one is always dependent on someone else for emotional and financial resources. But if one has found the right partner you will want to share the responsibility of decision making and responding to the demands of time regarding the home and/or children. The other partner can provide emotional support, and company and one can depend on them if life goes pear-shaped.
A lot of published research has found individuals living as a couple on average have lower rates of early death. Physical and emotional health tend to be linked and a happy two-some creates emotional gain.
On the other hand some recent research suggests that the more self-sufficient single people are then the less likely they are to experience negative emotions.
Importance of challenge for spiritual growth
From a spiritual perspective I would argue that personal growth has an important spiritual component. For me it is all about no longer prioritising what is naturally pleasing and enjoyable for oneself. No longer seeing life in terms of me – my preferences, my social standing, my convenience, my desires. Instead it is learning to think more about others, their feelings, needs, concerns, predicaments.
Such a turn round, in what we give attention to, sounds quite radical and actually rather difficult to achieve. But I would suggest that life itself is a training ground for this kind of personal growth. It is continually obliging us to do what is right. It offers no end of challenges to test our resolve and teach us new lessons of living. These challenges we can avoid or escape from. On the other hand we can try to deal with them.
Many benefit indirectly from such personal difficulties in life. This I would say is because they require a positive response that helps to change us from being ego-orientated to other-orientated. Sometimes over a life time, a person gradually changes from confusion to enlightenment, from seeing in darkness to seeing in light, from self-centredness to loving kindness.
Challenge of not living alone
Living together as a couple, especially as parents, provides no end of challenges. But we can learn so much from them.
You don’t get to have all your own way when sharing a home. Give and take rules okay!
Living with someone means spontaneous communication at any time. Your spouse wants some attention, so you stop what you are doing. You learn how to listen sensitively with sympathy. You start to talk openly and honestly about uncomfortable issues.
Children force us to be more patient and tolerant of noise, untidiness, and demands for their attention.
Having a shared home means the other person will expect you to do what you have agreed to do – whether it be housecleaning, cooking, laundry work, gardening, car maintenance etc.
Your partner will expect you to share important decisions. You can’t spend a largish sum of money on a whim. Likewise choices about income are not just a personal matter: they raise issues of work-family life balance and location of work and home.
Good couple partnership and spiritual growth
Family life requires us to meet the needs and expectations of others. In this way we develop as human beings. A committed and intimate relationship supports spiritual personal growth in another way. Facing life with the support of a good partner, who is right for you, can pierce your balloon now and again and will help you get off your high horse. If one’s partner has a warm heart they can have a humanising effect on you: for example to become less harsh in your judgements or more forgiving of those who have offend you. When you notice your partner’s sensible response to your ideas you may becomes less conceited.
You may lean towards their practical suggestions instead of staying in the clouds with your thinking.
A spouse who can chat about matters that concern you in an objective light will help you steer clear of subjective bias. Likewise if they are able to see things that are bugging you from a higher perspective they can guide your thoughts and actions.
These things can arise on a daily basis and over a length of time make a significant difference to your thinking and feeling.
Such a notion as this may seem unrealistic in unsatisfactory relationships many of which fail over time. However, I would say it is only when two partners become as one in a partnership of what philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg terms ‘conjugial love’, in deep harmony together, will :
- Warm feeling affect you when it does beyond your own interests.
- Rational thinking influence you when it goes beyond your immediate perception.
Thus a deepening intimate relationship – one that Swedenborg calls a conjugial loving partnership – supports the further development of each person in a deeper union of love and light.
‘Copyright 2017 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems