What Does It Mean To Be "Culturally Single"? Here's Why Maintaining Independence Is Great For You And Your Relationship

Do you like to feel a little bit single even when you're in a relationship? You might be culturally single. I know, if you're anything like me you're probably wondering, what is culturally single? It's basically a fancy way of saying you maintain your independence when you're in a relationship — and I'm all here for it.

"To be culturally single is to have a strong sense of single identity, regardless of your relationship status," Jean Hannah Edelstein explained when she coined the term in Elle. "It means that you regard whether or not you're in a romantic relationship as moot when it comes to who you are or the direction of your life. It means that you don't see a relationship as a peak life experience. It means that you don't see being single as a problem to be solved."

It's certainly not for everyone, but I am all about this. After being single for eight years, I was really worried that getting into a relationship a few years ago might be too radical of a change. There was so much I loved about being single and the idea of giving that up was terrifying. But soon I learned that, with the right person, you can still be yourself and have your own life. I go away on weekends with my friends, I do hobbies that have nothing to do with my girlfriend — and she does the same. I loved being single, but now I love being in a relationship without feeling like I have to live and breathe it all the time. It sounds crazy, but I agree with Edelstein, it's so much better for me — and my relationship.

Being Independent Is Good For You

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Whether you've been with someone for 10 weeks or 10 years, it's important to make an effort to stay an individual even when you're in a relationship. "It’s very important to have independence in a relationship," relationship etiquette expert Mara Opperman tells Bustle. "Successful, healthy relationships allow for the both people to form a bond which lets them to not only grow together but also to grow independently as people. It’s essential to have your own sense of autonomy while feeling you can depend on each other. Also, if you give up your independence and abandon the things that used to make you happy, it will be reflected in your relationship." It can happen incrementally and almost without you noticing, but so many people give up their independence in a relationship.

You know the ones: the people who only come as a pair, the friend who's stopped taking her photography class, or the one who doesn't spend any time with their friends and family anymore. Because it can happen without you even realizing, being culturally single can help you keep your sense of a self in a relationship, no matter how serious the relationship gets.

And It's Good For Your Relationship

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If you spend too much time together, it's possible to become too reliant on each other — and develop a clinginess that's really bad for your relationship.

"Clinginess, or being overly needy, is one of the great relationship-killers nobody really pays attention to until it’s too late," dating expert Noah Van Hochman tells Bustle. "This could entail calling person numerous times a day for no other reason other than to ask where they are. Not being able to make simple decisions without first asking your partner is another sign of being too needy." With the culturally single mindset, you can retain a level of autonomy — and competence — that can maintain your relationship.

Find What Works For You

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There are different levels of this mindset — and it may not work for you or your relationship altogether. I go on trips without my girlfriend, but I'll always give her a heads-up that I was booking one — which Edelstein says she doesn't do. Basically, find a balance that works for you and your partner. Some relationships are going to have more independence than others, so you and your partner need to work out a dynamic that makes sense for you, and that might take a bit of negotiating.

But the basic principles of being culturally single — keeping your identity, not looking at singledom as a curse, and not thinking your relationship is the most important thing in the universe — those are generally things that can improve your relationship. Being culturally single may sound like an odd concept, but if it's something you and your partner are comfortable with, embrace it. You can love someone and love having your own life at the same time — and you'll both benefit.