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Loneliness has become a near epidemic of our times. Not that it was not a matter of concern in times that have passed us by, it is merely that people in the older generations held certain beliefs, and used their time around feelings and individuals rather than things and achievements. It has become an unhealthy world where we strive to do things for the approval and applaud of the world than for our own inner peace and happiness. We run after mirages than stopping and asking ourselves whether this is what we truly need. 

Similarly, when it comes to marriage, I would ask what would it look like if the world married a little smarter? How would the mental and emotional health of our children improve? How much more productive, connected, and peaceful would it be? The reality is that healthy marriages have the ability to make us happier and even physically healthier. Children who grow up with parents who love and care for one another are protected from a range of problems including social and emotional issues, learning and educational issues, and even some physical health problems. At the same time, an unhappy marriage can be crushing both to the adults in it and the children they raise.

Engaging in or being exposed to chronic conflict impacts quality of life and productivity, and has the potential to hasten mortality. Research shows that telomeres—structures at the end of our chromosomes associated with longevity—show increased cellular aging when a person is chronically exposed to unhappy and high-conflict relationships. Making a smart choice when it comes to your permanent partner can impact almost every aspect of your life and your current or future children’s lives.

Here are some ways to start taking the commitment game seriously, by marrying up in terms of your mental health and emotional well-being rather than searching perpetually for mere genital union:

(Don’t marry) to prove something.

Right or wrong, in our culture, the act of saying – I do – and signing a piece of paper is a symbol of success, prosperity, happiness, maturity, and stability. As a result, people unwittingly use marriage as a way to prove things about themselves to those around them, or to themselves. Some marry to prove to their parents that they are independent and are now fully adults. People marry to prove to exes that they’ve happily moved on. Some marry to escape their family of origin and to prove they can do it all on their own. And many marry in an attempt to prove to themselves that their future is bright and they are “normal.” At the end of the day, marriage proves nothing. Instead, prove to yourself that you can maintain a healthy relationship in the here and now. Work to be yourself, to communicate and to love someone fully just as they are.

(Don’t marry) to take care of someone or to be taken care of.

The urge to take care of, and be cared for, is strong because it’s literally wired into our nervous systems. It’s okay to want to feel cared for, and to want to love others. It’s not okay to go around looking for someone to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. And it is not okay to do for others what they should be doing for themselves. You have to be a fully functioning, separate individual to be in a healthy union. Otherwise, you will start to get confused and overburdened by what is their baggage to carry and what is your baggage to carry. Before you know it you’ve become co-dependent with your partner and you, your separate, unique lovely self, will cease to exist. Happy marriages are true partnerships in which each member can take care of themselves and better the team. To get to true partnership, learn not only how to be on your own but how to like it.

(Don’t marry) to feel self-worth. 

Finally, you meet the person of your dreams. They are everything you are not and you feel intact and worthy in a way you have never experienced before. If you feel this way, sound the alarm: We have a problem. What you have discovered is not healthy love but fool’s gold. If you have never felt fully intact and good about yourself, separate from a romantic relationship, this relationship will let you down simply because no one can give us worth that we can’t first give ourselves. Work on feeling good all on your own before entering into a committed union.

(Don’t marry) because you think you are running out of time.

It can be the case that a person gets to a certain age and they feel, “All right, I guess I’ll get married; what else am I going to do?” They see friends or colleagues moving into the domestic sphere and fear they will be the last one standing alone. Pride and fear make them take the plunge perhaps, before they are fully ready. Let yourself be the last one standing. Be brave. It’s hard to wait, but a few more years can be the difference between a hasty marriage to the wrong match that will bring you conflict and upset or a healthy marriage that will bring you well-being and longevity.

(Don’t marry) to have the family you never had.

Childhood wounds are hard to heal. A tempting shortcut around the pain is to believe in a fantasy that marriage will give you the family you never had—and that you deserve. You may vow to yourself and your partner that you won’t recreate the patterns and dynamics you grew up in. You believe in yourself and your love. You want to take all that childhood disappointment, hurt, or even abuse, and transform it into a new marriage and eventual family. Sadly, the result won’t deliver the goods. Until you clean up those old wounds, on your own, or with the help of a friend, a therapist, anyone you can talk about the true you to, they will continue to plague you, no matter who you marry. Take time now, before you commit, to look inward, understand yourself, and heal.  

(Don’t marry) because people think otherwise about your sexuality. 

If you aren’t married until a certain age, gossip is rife about your sexual preferences. You know who you are and that is testimony enough. Do not be bothered about adjusting to the world with the fear of being branded something if you haven’t found your fit yet. Getting into a relationship to silence the world is the worst kind of torture you would be doing to yourself. Remember, a woman who makes you weak in the knees is the one for you, and if the bells toll in her heart and mind about you the same way, then there is nothing stopping you from being together, but until that happens naturally, simply ignore the gossip mongers. Bear in mind that your band of brothers have stuck by you, no questions asked, so stick with them, and do what makes you happy. What matters is a firm and stable support system and it doesn’t matter what gender provides it. 

(In) conclusion. 

Loneliness is one of the sole reasons that majority of people plunge immaturely into marriage. They find it hard to differentiate the lines between loneliness and being happily alone. They fear in having to deal being comfortable with your own company, more so because such feelings have been ingrained in them by society as being abnormal. This is exactly where I wish to share some thoughts about loneliness and being alone from what architect, athlete, poet, singer, actor to the world, but simply my younger brother to me, Imran Abbas had shared not too long ago. Imran, like me, is an individual who lives life sans any pretentions or regrets, and these reflections from him below, and me above, may help access a deeper you, and might throw light by giving you some clarity on your thoughts, yourself.

The stereotypes that often come with leading a single life are generally categorised into one group: loneliness. It is so often assumed that those who have not yet found that special person who makes the world a little brighter are experiencing those god-awful waves of loneliness. In reality, there is a magnificent difference between being lonely and being alone. 

Being lonely is that kind of aching that resonates in your chest. That dull, constant feeling that follows you around all day long. It doesn’t matter what you’re doing or whom you’re with, it’s impossible to shake that feeling. Typically, these feelings are most prominent after recently losing that person who made your world a little brighter. 

Being lonely comes with so many side effects: memories, insomnia, and confusion. Loneliness encapsulates the best parts of your life and forces you to notice their profound absence. Loneliness makes you wonder why—why you? Why can’t you catch a break, why haven’t you had a simple stroke of luck? Loneliness is that prominent, gaping hole in your life that just can’t seem to be filled regardless of what you do. Loneliness is the 3am thoughts that haunt your dreams. Loneliness is that song on the radio that you have to turn off the second it comes on. 

But being alone is a different situation completely. Being alone is a state of being; loneliness is a state of mind. When you’re alone you’re forced to realise all the things you don’t have, sure, but you’re also forced to realise all the things about yourself that you couldn’t when you spent your days memorising someone else. Being alone is taking the time to really think about what you want from someone the next time around, because you are going to do everything in your power that you never suffer from that lonely disease again. Being alone is sitting under a tree for an afternoon and reading a book, and enjoying every single minute of it. Being alone is doing things by yourself, but also doing them for yourself. 

Of course, there are those times when being alone crosses paths with being lonely. It’s those times that you’re shopping for a new dress by yourself and you can’t help but notice that couple on the corner of the street. Their happiness radiates, and you remember the days when that used to be you. For a brief moment that dull feeling aches in your chest, but it doesn’t stay. 

Being alone can be the most empowering experience of your life. If you let the loneliness consume you, you’re going to lose that rare chance to figure yourself out when you could always find company in yourself. Loneliness is going to try to force you to find that company with another person. Everyone has a place in the world, though, and yours shouldn’t be inside someone else. 

Being alone is an art; embrace it.

(Foot) note.

Stay stress-free and traverse the journey that life has chosen for you. Don’t worry about what is to come because nobody knows what is to come. Live in the moment, and live it to your maximum – what is to happen tomorrow will happen in your today, and what happens in your today, decides whether it would want to stay in your tomorrow, and even though we think we have control over it, we don’t. Nothing has ever been in our control and nothing will ever be in our control. The switch is in the hands of someone or something that is beyond the realms of our common understanding. So I would say, inhale, exhale, live, love, and know that that’s enough.