Tell Me About It: How to prove to yourself you're happy
Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Question: I have been single for a long time. I haven't even been on a date in a long time. Recently, I was talking with an old friend who suggested I get out more. I replied that I'm perfectly happy with the way things are, and I feel that's true. My friend looked skeptical and suggested that I'm so afraid of getting hurt, I'm just fooling myself into believing I'm happy.
I shot my friend a look that said "You've crossed a line here," and the topic was dropped. But thinking about it after, I realize there's really no defense to that accusation. No matter how much I feel I'm fulfilled just the way I am, I could turn it around and say I'm that un-self-aware or that good at fooling myself.
I really don't think I'm afraid of getting into a new relationship, just not terribly interested, but is there a way I can prove to myself that my so-called contentment isn't rooted in fear?
Answer: "Single" is not an affliction! Agh!
Old friend: "You're just fooling yourself into believing you're happy."
You: "As long as I'm succeeding at it, I don't see the problem."
Not to get all rainy Tuesday on you, but, isn't there an element of self-deceit to all contentment?
If you continue to be nagged by doubts about this, then put on your pretties and "get out more" - not because your friend said to, but as a challenge to yourself.
Either you'll enjoy it, in which case you keep at it, or you'll confirm the wisdom of staying in more, in which case you snuggle back into your happy status quo.
Reader No. 1: "Isn't there an element of self-deceit to all contentment?": Thank you. I find myself thinking this very thing sometimes and then wondering if I'm just crazy, so I appreciate someone of your stature shining a light on that hard little kernel of existential fun.
Answer: That's it! That's what goes on my promotional material:
"Shining a light on hard little kernels of existential fun since 1997."
Beats admitting that my sole claim to "stature" is that I'm just crazy.
Reader No. 2: When I find myself disagreeing with a friend's assessment about me, I like to reply, "Hmm, why do you say that?" This helps me dismiss something as poppycock or realize they have a point. Sometimes the poppycock morphs into the person having a point, of course! I find a bit of something concrete in this situation goes a long way - but only with people you trust.
Answer: An eye-opening plug for eye-opening, thanks.
Reader No. 2: I recently encountered the same exact situation - except I was openly bragging about how terrible the dating scene is and how much smarter it felt to just opt out. Isn't the big question whether you can work on deepening that contentment without a mate while also ditching the fear and still "getting out there"?
Answer: While also spinning plates, like this: bit.ly/WhoaNelly.
Where there's fear, yes, but not everyone who opts out is scared. Not to mention that "out there" isn't the only place to meet people, but that's a whole other column.
Chat with Carolyn Hax online at noon Fridays at www.washingtonpost.com.