The Standard Relationship Model and Me—I'd Rather Be Alone

Romantic relationships as a TCK are a difficult topic for me because I am alone and likely to stay that way. I struggled with this article for quite a while, and several times thought of abandoning it altogether. But here we are.

As I look back on what is over five decades as a TCK, one pattern has become clear; other than my marriage, my relationships have been few and fleeting.

I was married once for about five years. I was fortunate enough to be married to my best friend, and although we don’t speak often now, I still consider her as such. In the near 30 years we’ve been divorced, I’ve never really found anybody else I was that comfortable with.

In the interest of full disclosure, having alcoholic parents hasn’t exactly made me predisposed to being in relationships and around families anyway.

I tried though. I’ll give myself that. But I think, now that I’m analyzing it, I was doing what I thought I needed rather than what I really wanted. Boredom, loneliness, isolation? A combination thereof? It’s hard to be sure what was underneath it all.

I’ve only had two even remotely serious relationships since I got divorced. The first was when I was living in Turkey. I think I fell in love (I’m still not sure how you tell), and she — I think — fell for me as well. But one evening, out of the blue, she showed up on my doorstep, said, “I can’t see you anymore” and disappeared. I was younger then. I was devastated, and it took me a while to get over it. It turned out her parents had forbidden her to see me any more because I wasn’t Jewish. That was my first real experience of the insanity that can come from families and religion combined.

My second try at a relationship, I went out with a Thai woman for almost two years, but she took great exception to the fact that (although I had told her this up front) I was occasionally going out with other women. (She chose to confirm this by trawling through my phone one night when I wasn’t around.) All that drama aside, she said one thing to me that I never forgot:  Although I hadn’t lied, she felt I was probably hurting the women I was going out with, not to mention hurting her. It took me not more than a few minutes to realize I also thought that she was absolutely right, and at that point I stopped going out with anyone. That is coming up on eight years ago. And now, at this point in my life, I have been alone for so long that it is very difficult for me to conceive of actually being with anybody else.

I had never thought culture would be an issue back when I was young and naïve, but now I feel that it certainly is. Even though I don’t worry about it a lot, it has interfered with my relationships. I’m pretty dismissive of religions of any stripe, and my view of family-centric lifestyles borders on active dislike. In most countries (but I would say especially in Asia, where I spend most of my time), that can put you at loggerheads with many of the people you might want to go out with. In the Philippines, being an atheist in a militantly Catholic country is not helpful either. The Catholic church actively fights against any form of birth control, so it is well-nigh impossible to find any woman of a remotely appropriate age who has not already been married and had several children (which is simply not my preference). I’m also pretty tired of ‘culture’ being an excuse for egregiously stupid behavior (such a treating women as second class citizens), so it isn’t difficult for me to run aground on the shoals of cultural harmony often.

So, in the end, I’m alone. I would like a partner, but, when all is said and done, I’d rather be alone than settle for less than what I feel that I deserve.

With my background and living in Asia, it is very difficult to find someone to really be a partner in life. And I am just not interested in having nothing more than “company” or “eye-candy” on my arm. (It’s easy enough to do, but what a waste of time.) As I get ever older and have been on my own more and more, I am now caught on the horns of a dilemma; On the one hand I think, “Who would want to be with me? I’m not worth the trouble.” On the other hand, arguably the most insidious, I find myself exceedingly comfortable with my life. So comfortable that I have found myself reluctant to engage with anyone because I don’t want to go through the trouble.

But — to be clear — this is in no way meant as a pity jag. I have no complaints. My recent relationships, casual as they have been, have been conducted with respect and mutual amiability at the very least. Although I have no intimate relationships with anybody at the moment, I find that I don’t particularly miss that. I am also fortunate to have a fair number of extremely good friends. I seem to be very content.

I do have a few friends that have very close relationships with a significant other, and sometimes vaguely wish I was fortunate enough to have a connection like that in my life. But I don’t want to make the mistake of being desperate and trying to find that simply because I don’t have it right now. That seems like a recipe for disaster. It’s far better to be alone than to be with somebody out of desperation.

Now, as I forge steadily ahead into the lifestyle of a digital nomad, I find that, at least in my estimation, being alone and content is not a bad thing.

“Never explain―your friends do not need it and your enemies will not believe you anyway.”
Elbert Hubbard

This article was first published on 31 January 2018