"...there is a silver lining in either scenario to be grateful for and you have to learn to make the best of the situation you are in."
After nearly 30 years of being in/out of relationships, dating and being single, I have a pretty good idea of the pros/cons of being single or involved. I will highlight the good and bad of each in this article, based on my own experiences.
First a little background on me. I was raised Catholic, but have not had religion in my life for over 20 years, so I have no moral bias one way or another. I was a shy kid growing up and always preferred the idea of monogamy to promiscuity, but I have experienced both lifestyles at different times in my life. For full disclosure, I have never been married and have no kids. My longest relationship lasted nearly 6 years and I have cohabited twice (current relationship included) for reference. I've had many different relationships and sexual adventures in between.
The Single life
Being single does have its perks. You can do what you want, when you want, with no obligations or responsibility to anyone else. You can be selfish and self-absorbed. You can go out with friends when you want, have friends over all night, host poker games, walk around naked and date or sleep with whomever you like. You can travel at the drop of a hat and be spontaneous. You can explore your sexuality to the fullest without concern for anyone else, no jealousy or fear of judgement and rejection. You don't have to buy gifts or pay for expensive dinners or flowers; you can be a slob, if you choose. When you make plans, you can do whatever you want, without worrying about someone else's schedule or desires. You can spoil yourself financially and sexually.
When it comes to sex, you can live out your fantasies, have emotional-free carnal encounters, explore group sex and get all kinds of wild and crazy. You can get-off without worrying about pleasing someone else. You can take up the entire bed, eat, sleep, or play video games whenever you choose to. That all sounds great, right?
The problem is, the thrills are often few and far between in single life (unless maybe you are rich and famous). Trying to find someone to hook up with online or in a bar for casual sex is an exercise in futility. It can and does happen (I could tell some stories), but it takes a long time to weed people out and find someone that you actually want to meet and visa versa. A lot depends on your personality type and surroundings. Often it can be a waste of time if you get too wrapped up in making it happen.
We all know the dating game and experience it differently, as well as what dating disappointments and heartbreaks are all about. They can wear on you and make you jaded. Sometimes being single can leave you feeling alone and empty, particularly at the holidays. Other times, it can feel liberating and energizing having your options open. Much depends on your age, personality and expectations. Some of us feel a need to be attached to someone and others find it stressful and confining to be emotionally involved. Frankly, dating or prospecting for potential mates can be quite tedious and if unsuccessful long enough, can lead to sexual frustration.
Being single can be a great opportunity to explore things in life you might not get to when in a relationship. So go travel, play golf, live overseas, try swinging or whatever other activities you fancy, while you have the opportunity. Be a groupie for your favorite band for a summer. You may not get the chance later in life.
Being in a relationship can be very rewarding. Being in love is like no other feeling. Having that love requited and feeling butterflies every time you see your partner is wonderful and a rare treat to enjoy. Knowing you have someone special in your life, who is always there for you, is very reassuring. Whether it's sharing the joys in life or dealing with tragedy, having a loyal, loving partner is rewarding and makes you feel secure. As you get older, you may begin to feel left out or judged for being single, and in rare circumstances, people may begin to question your sexuality.
Being coupled means sharing and sacrifice too. It means compromising and communicating all the time. You must almost always take your partner's feelings into consideration when making decisions or planning out your weekends. It means sleeping with the same person monogamously-- for better or worse (open relationships and poly aside). This includes dealing with different sex drives and sexual desires. We all have different needs, wants and fantasies that don't always fully mesh up with one another. That means compromising and accepting your partner for who they are.
Now sex usually gets better with time and familiarity in a relationship and allows you to explore more variety and share a deep emotional bond. It also means you can have barrier-free sex vs. having to constantly be dealing with contraception and be vigilant about catching STDs/STIs. The obvious downsides are that sex can become stale and routine and you must work to keep it fresh. You might miss that excitement of hooking up with someone the first time. You may wish to explore things your partner is not into or you may want sex more or less than they do. As bad as that may sound, you will still probably get more sex than being single on average, so that is good to keep in mind. It's normal to masturbate when involved in a relationship anyway, if you need more satisfaction than you are getting at home.
Some people find it comforting to spend a lot of time with their partners or to live together, while others find it to be overwhelming, annoying and strongly cherish their independence. Regardless, there is a silver lining in either scenario to be grateful for and you have to learn to make the best of the situation you are in. It takes the right mindset, expectations and attitude to enjoy either scenario. The grass isn't always greener, whichever side of the fence you are on, though it often may appear it is. It's all a matter of perspective.
In summary, one is not necessarily better than the other. At any given time in life, you may be happier one way or the other. Every personality reacts differently to relationships (or being single) and the quality and compatibility varies from partner to partner. One thing that I feel is true is that you are better off in no relationship, than being stuck in a bad or abusive one. You are much better off going solo, being true to yourself, and bettering your chances at finding the right person for you. I've endured long periods of being single and I'd say I lean towards preferring a relationship, and I do feel that when you find the right one for you, you should make the best of it and cherish that person. Don't just settle for someone that isn't going to be long-term compatible.