Despite physical loneliness, make the best of what you have
Q: I am generally satisfied with my life. Few complaints. Good job, friends, family, etc. I would like very much to share my life with someone, but in the absence of a partner, I am generally able to get my companionship needs met through my peeps. So far so good.
But what this whole "be happy single" mantra overlooks is the fact that humans are hard-wired to crave physical intimacy. I am intensely — almost desperately — in need of sexual bonding. Since casual sex doesn't fit the bill for me, I'm left with physical loneliness that cannot be erased by a life well-lived. I'm not going to have or stay in a bad relationship to have these things, but I can't say that I'm at peace when I go to bed every night wishing I had someone to be intimate with and fall asleep with.
I get it that other people can't make us whole or happy etc., but I really think it's a willful denial of reality to suggest that single people can be truly happy because the fact is that we are living without something that human beings need.
In short, I think the "be happy alone" advice is full of hooey and usually impossible due to the reality of human sexuality.
I'd love to hear your thoughts on this since you often advise the "be happy alone" approach to single people.
A: To oppose that argument, I offer the married people who would be content if they never had sex again (married, of course, to people who do still want to have sex, since that's apparently how cookies crumble). They're out there, too, lots of them.
"Be happy while occasionally agreeing to have sex with your spouse" may seem "full of hooey," since it means having sex you don't want — but it's important to consider the context, and not just the advice itself. Like it or not, everyone lives less than the perfect life, because everyone has to accept the price of interdependence.
You can want what you want, but you can only get so much before you're relying on others to supply it. And no others will supply everything you want to your exact specifications.
With every question you see here, someone is wrestling with the absence of something — sex is just one of them. There's absence of children (because they can't have any), of privacy (too many kids), of work (can't find a job), of time (too stressful a job), of friends (too shy or isolated), of self (too many demands by friends).
We are all sexual, yes, but we all need our own space, too, and senses of accomplishment, self and continuity. And all of these needs can seem like luxuries during a major threat to one's health.
So you make the best of what you've got. Not everybody is going to be blissfully happy with the result, but any effort to improve your life circumstances will still be limited to what you can do about it.
I really do think the Buddhists get this one right. You can center your life on what you lack, or you can center it on what you have. What's the alternative advice?