Do You Really Want a Partner?  

10/29/2018

istock/Orbon Alija

I’ve been in a weird place in my life when it comes to dating. I’m very happy being single, and I’m not lying when I say this. Past times when I’ve made the claim of, “I don’t need a man/woman!” I didn’t actually mean it.

I’ve been frustrated by the actions of men/women. I may have even hated certain men/women. But deep down, I believed that I would feel more fulfilled if there was someone snuggling up with me at the end of the night. For the first time in my life, I no longer believe that a partner would make me happier.

The only time I currently wish there was that special person in my life is when I’m feeling blue, stressed with work, or in desperate need of a cuddle buddy (usually because I’m feeling blue and am stressed with work). In fact, I only want someone in my life when I need something from them. I want them to “make me feel better.” People, though, aren’t need-fulfilling machines.

I should want someone for those reasons; of course, it would be naïve and unrealistic of me to claim that having someone by your side to cheer you up isn’t one of the major appeals of having a partner, but I should also want a partner to share the joys of my life: when I get published in a dream journal, my fun press trips, Thanksgiving dinners, and so on. And it isn’t just about me, I also should want to share in their ups and downs.

To be honest, I don’t have any of those urges. I feel – selfish – isn’t the right word for it – and self-absorbed has too strong of a negative connotation, but I desire to focus on myself. I want to be successful. I want to write (another) book. This time, non-fiction. I want to give talks across the country. I want to make some real money, save, and not always be barely afloat financially. I want to travel the world. I have a lot I need to do for myself before I can really do things for someone else.

Weirdly enough, I think that being in a place where I’m comfortable with my bisexuality has allowed me to calm down with dating. I’ve explored my attractions to both men and women and also dated various people of all genders. I don’t feel like I’m “missing out” on anything. I also love sex, and am getting plenty of it. I’ve gotten good at meeting people and picking them up at bars. I love the chase. I love being flirtatious, and I love experiencing what sex is like with someone new.

I think it’s likely that I will end up settling down at some point in my life, I just don’t think that the time is now. I also suspect that when I settle down, it will be with a man and not a woman – although who knows what the future holds. I’ve written about this before, but being someone who’s heavily involved in gay spaces, I find it easier to meet and date men even though I’m also attracted to women.

It’s interesting. Many gay men my age pathologize my lack of desire to have a boyfriend. They assume that I have a fear of commitment or am incapable of reaching the level of emotional intimacy required to have a serious relationship. That, or they claim I’m immature, with which I staunchly disagree. I think knowing where you are in your life and what you can (or can’t) offer a potential partner is a sign of maturity.

Yet gay men, on average, are meeting their life partners at 37, meaning, on average, I have a decade until I meet the man I will settle down with and call my hubby. So too, on average, do all my friends, and whether they rush finding love or not, that average remains the same.

I share all of this with you for two reasons. One: my insurance no longer covers a therapist, and I have an insanely high deductible for mental health-related care. Writing is the cheapest way for me to articulate and process my thoughts and feelings.

Two (and the reason why I didn’t journal but instead decided to publish this): Our culture is obsessed with marriage. And when I say “our” culture, I mean most of straight culture across the globe. Gay/bi men, for years, existed outside of this culture. We couldn’t marry, so not only did we not, we began to shun the idea of a heteronormative relationship.

Somewhat bitter, we began to actively eschew heteronormative lifestyles. (I know it’s not all due to bitterness, there are also many flaws with the constitution of marriage that make it unappealing.)

Now, however, with marriage equality in a growing number of countries, and despite the current political climate, and a growing societal acceptance towards LGBTQ folks, we’re becoming more invested in cultural norms when it comes to relationships. We’re feeling a pressure to settle down that just wasn’t there 20 years ago.

So to all my single friends, I’m here to ask you, plain and simple: Do you really want a partner right now? Why do you think you want one? And will having one bring you the fulfillment that you think it will?

I can’t answer these questions for you, but for the first time in my life, I’m no longer looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right, and it is liberating.  

Zachary Zane
Zachary Zane a Brooklyn-based freelance writer, speaker, YouTuber, and activist whose work focuses on (bi)sexuality, gender, identity politics, relationships, and culture. He's a contributing editor at The Advocate Magazine, a columnist at Bi.org, and currently writes for The Washington Post, Cosmopolitan, Out Magazine, and PRIDE.