The Serial Singleton: Loves Being Single—and Romance, Too

You can love your single life and love serious romantic relationships, too.

Posted Oct 05, 2019

I’m totally into commitment. I’m committed to living single my entire life. For me, being single is how I live my best, most fulfilling, most meaningful, and most authentic life. I call people like me “single at heart.” We are not stuck with single life as our Plan B because our first choice never happened, or because it is better than being in a bad romantic relationship. Single life is a life we embrace.

Londoner Helen Croydon, author of Screw the Fairytale, also loves living single. But she loves romantic love, too. She has had “fabulous relationships.” For people like her, she explains, “our romances are our big highs.”

But the high always wears off:

“I’ve been with men who have adored me, promised me everything and told me they’ll never leave. In turn I’ve loved them as wholeheartedly back but I’ve often broken their hearts because there always comes a point when I wanted to go back to my roots: to being single. For me, after the initial, wonderful high of romantic love settles, a relationship starts to feel more like an obligation than a desire. I’ve broken my own heart too because I’ve walked away from men that I really loved because I wanted my freedom back.”

Some of Croydon’s happiest memories are from times when she was in full-time romantic relationships. And yet:

“…for all their cosiness they always become overshadowed by a sense of duty. I don’t feel like I can do all the things I want to do with my time any more. There’s less spontaneity about life. I can’t choose where I go on holiday; I don’t have the right to say I want to stay at home all weekend on my own and read three books in my pyjamas. That vague plan to one day uproot and move to an exotic climate seems even fainter.”

When she started writing Screw the Fairytale, Croydon had been single for six years. Then halfway through, she fell in love. “It felt wonderful,” she said, “to be in love and to be loved and to feel a secure sense of belonging with someone.” She even started to think that maybe she did want that fairytale ending after all.

Once again, though, it didn’t last. “I soon felt myself gravitating back to my default setting,” she said, which was living single.

Helen Croydon may well fall in love again. And if she does, it probably won’t be forever. Eventually, the lure of single life will overpower all of the attractions of a full-time romantic relationship. She has a name for people like her: They are serial singletons.

A hallmark of a true single-at-heart is a lack of wedding envy. We can go to the most touching wedding for the most amazing and loving couple and still not wish that our turn would be next. It is different for Croydon and her fellow ambivalent serial singletons:

“I always cry at weddings because it hits home that I haven’t got what those people have…a part of me is sad that I don’t think I’ll ever have that. But there is also relief that I won’t. If I had to choose between having love but feeling like my wings were clipped or craving love a little but being free, I’d choose the latter without hesitation.”

Not all single people live alone, but Croydon does, and that what she loves the most:

“Having a guaranteed, tranquil, secure, clean, personalised living space gives me more contentment than anything else.”

Croydon realizes that one of the problems for her is not romantic love in and of itself, but the intensive way that people are expected to practice romantic coupling:

“When we fall in love, we are expected to put that person before anything or anyone else. It’s expected that if you are serious you will one day live together and share everything.”

That intensive coupling is not what Croydon wants. In Screw the Fairytale, she explores a wide variety of unconventional relationships, including open relationships, asexual couples, co-parents who are not and never have been romantically involved, and committed couples who live in places of their own (they are living apart together—LAT).

The last option sounds best to her: “Personally I think LATing is the closest I’ll ever get to solving my conundrum of wanting love but valuing my independence more.” At the end of the book, though, she is happily single.