I've slept alone, adventured alone, eaten alone, bathed alone, worked alone, and played alone, and I'm fine with that.
For some of that time, especially in recent years, I've been attached to a significant other, but still spending much of my time alone, pursuing my own things.
I have no "problem" with being alone.
But being alone has not "cured" me of the desire to be with someone else, someone I can truly feel connected to, someone I can truly depend on and respect.
It occurred to me, instead, that if the point was to get so comfortable with living alone that I preferred it just as much as a relationship, then doing so would actually turn me into less of a partner. What would I care if my relationship was compromised or threatened? Why would I be motivated to do difficult or careful work to maintain it, when I could just bail out of it and return to equal happiness as a bachelor? Let the process repeat a hundred times for all I would care. Relationships are sometimes work. If I could take it or leave it, why do the work?
Ah, but you can argue back: The point is not to eliminate the desire, the point is to eliminate the need. If we need a relationship to be happy, then clearly we are failing to keep our own health and self-esteem, and are instead relying on a partner to support us, yes?
That means everyone who dislikes being single is weak and will sabotage their next relationship with their weakness, right?
How does that square with the simple fact that I am just plain happier when I am with a partner I adore, relative to being alone? If that is a weakness, what of it? Being made of pliable skin, rather than granite, it also a weakness, but being made of skin is human, and preferring a happy relationship to loneliness, is also human.
Is that it? Loneliness? How much time do I "need" to spend as a single person, independent and happy sometimes, but lonely and wistful at other times, before I pass the imaginary waterline where I am appropriately independent, and have the appropriately small measure of loneliness, to qualify as a successful candidate for romance?
I believed there was a bar to clear, all through my 20's, and I believed it was hard-won wisdom to know the bar was there, and how high it was.
But you know what? That's crap.
The height of loneliness does not occur when you are single. It occurs when you are with the wrong person, and part of you knows it, and the rest of you is fighting to hold on, and you start to bury that struggle down inside yourself because you think it's a necessary step to rescue the relationship.
What's problematic is that sometimes a small version of this struggle, a temporary version of it, is what's required to avert an obvious disaster. Being able to hold something in check so that you can safely and lovingly deal with it in the near future is a tactic that keeps families, communities, teams, and relationships, all intact despite hardship.
Real maturity comes from knowing when there is too much being held below the surface, and doing what is necessary to expose it, as gently, but as firmly, as possible. That's a skill that has almost nothing to do with keeping your own company. There are millions of people who are perfectly content to live as bachelors, yet don't have the first clue what they're really feeling, let alone the ability to talk about it with care, and for all their mercurial glamour or endearing housebound nerdiness, they treat partners like disposable tissues.
No, the real quantities we all struggle with are self-care, and care for others, and what that really looks like. And the real progress comes in treating it as more than a zero-sum game.
YOU DO NOT HAVE TO SUFFER, FOR SOMEONE ELSE TO BE HAPPY.
But to pursue your own happiness, you may have to change.