I struggle with terms to define intimate relationships, especially regarding my own. Boyfriend seems a juvenile way to describe a relationship between anyone older than 40. LAT, or Living Apart Together, expresses how one does or doesn’t share space but feels emotionless. Partner is a way of describing a connection that, for me, too much resembles a marriage. In the absence of an adequate way to describe a relationship with an emotional and sexual connection, more than friends with benefits, I have come up with my own – single-ish, and it’s my preferred type of relationship.
What does it mean to be single-ish?
As it suggests, a single-ish person is essentially single, possibly non-monogamous, but with the consent of the significant other. There’s no cheating when you are single-ish. If you’re going to sleep with someone else, I prefer to know, and I have a rule that means using protection. You likely have frequent contact, although perhaps less face-to-face time. You may have a weekend-only arrangement or some prescribed time in which you meet. Maybe you live in different cities.
Whoopi Goldberg once said, ‘Sometimes in a relationship, people can’t always get what they need, and if you have reputable people you can turn to to get what you need, I say go for it,’ writes Goldberg.
Another single-ish celebrities are Sandra Bullock, who has a reputation for being discrete about all her relationships while making it clear that she’s not always alone. When asked about her ‘ex\ Ryan Gosling said, ‘If you were to add the word ‘just,’ it would probably be a bit of a lie. So, I’d say we’re friends.’
To be single-ish is to not live in each other’s pockets. You maintain separate residences, can look after yourself and do not expect to move in together. You are two grown-ups and have your friends with whom you meet for social activities, sometimes together, sometimes apart. You may be casually dating or in a transitionary phase. Perhaps, like me, you’ve experienced a personal tragedy (the death of a recent partner) and aren’t seeking a relationship that requires too much commitment. You may have a busy life focusing on other priorities such as career, personal growth or your friends and family.
Being single-ish is the ideal relationship if you’re over 50 up to the age where you may no longer be mobile or healthy enough to live alone and require more support. It acknowledges that, as older people, we have busy, sometimes complex lives and have, most likely, lots of people with whom we enjoy spending time. You may no longer look for or believe there is ‘the one.’ I suspect lots of people that are single-ish are older women, who no longer are seeking someone for whom being in a couple means doing the cooking, washing up and the ironing. Like me, they may already have been married, have grown-up children and the traditional relationship they may have had in the past hold little appeal.
Currently, I’m in a single-ish relationship with Peter Marriott, with whom I record the Sex Advice for Seniors podcast. He lives in Oxford and will soon move to Sheffield, while I live in London and recently moved to Las Palmas in the Gran Canaries for three months to avoid the British winter. He is coming to stay with me for a month, which will be our longest time together. I’m both apprehensive while looking forward to the company. I have lots of work to get on with and typically work best alone. I’m hopeful he’ll improve his language skills as he has been studying Spanish and can help translate if needed! Even so, it will be a real test for our relationship as I’ve enjoyed being single-ish for the past couple of years, while he is someone that sparks off having company and hasn’t been out of a long-term relationship for very long. We’re at different stages in our lives with him wanting more sexual adventures than I do having had more sexual adventures than most.
As you would expect from a relationship that doesn’t subscribe to traditional norms, being single-ish requires clear communication. It’s easy, for instance, for one person to desire to be more of a couple whilst the other prefers to be more independent, especially if there’s an imbalance, as often happens, where one person has a more active life than the other. Combined with non-monogamy like our relationship, people in single-ish relationships need to trust one another and be clear about their wants and needs. It can be a challenging balancing act, especially when other lovers come into the picture, either for the long or short term.
In our relationship, for instance, I suspect Peter would prefer living with a woman who didn’t mind him having sex with others! Whereas my days of living with anyone are well and truly over. I’m not too fond of domesticity and the monotony that often accompanies it. Once laundry becomes involved, my libido goes with it.Psychotherapist Esther Perel said, “Distance breeds desire,” which I firmly believe. It’s hard enough for me to get aroused as an older woman, so anything that interferes with my feeling sexy, which domesticity often does, is not desirable.
My version of single-ish is not for everyone, but it works for me, at least for most of the time. It’s the closest I’ve ever come to being in a relationship that gives me the independence I crave with the feelings associated with being in a relationship and good sex. Can you want anything more?