Peter McGraw celebrates the 100th episode of Solo by inviting back two friends who joined him on episode 1 and episode 50. They discuss what they have learned from the podcast: 1) Recognizing the promise of non-traditional relationships, 2) How to behave when dating, and 3) Living unapologetically.
Listen to Episode #100 here
Episode 100: Looking Back And Looking Forward
We bring 2021 to a close by celebrating the 100th episode of the show. To do so, I invite back two friends who joined me on Episode 1, Introducing Solo and Episode 50, Looking Back and Looking Forward. Julie Nirvelli was born and raised in San Jose, California and she earned her college degree from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She has lived in Colorado for years. As a strong, independent and fun-loving person, Julie embraces solo life. She’s also a sponsor of the show with her company, Bachelor Girl Productions, which sells fun and flirty t-shirts.
We’re joined by Kym Terribile. Kym is an entrepreneur and the solo Founder of Wax Crescent, a candle company focused on the idea of self-care and intentional living. She’s also a sponsor of the show. Kym holds a degree in English Literature from the University of Hawaii and lives in Longmont, Colorado. Besides the excellent conversation, we taped some bonus material. We will be talking about the lost art of canceling plans. You can find that bonus material in the Solo Community. Sign up at PeterMcGraw.org/solo where it’s free to join. I hope you enjoy the episode. It is Episode 100 after all. Let’s get started.
Welcome back, Julie.
Thank you. It’s great to be here.
Welcome back, Kym.
Thanks. I’m so excited to be here.
Here we are, years later and 100 episodes later. This is a good time to reflect and project.
I can’t believe it has been years.
I can’t believe that either. The first night I met Julie was in the first episode we recorded.
For the infrequent reader, you may not know this but Julie and Kym are frequent guests or guest cohosts. Most notably, they were the first guests on Episode 1. They both returned together for Episode 50 where we did something similar to what we’re doing, which is to look backward and forwards. There’s certainly a lot more to look backward and forward on as we will see here.
We’re going to spend most of our time looking backward, which is unusual for me. You two know me well. I’m always moving forward but there’s a lot to be learned from looking back. You two were given homework, as I tend to do. I asked you for some ways that the show has changed you. I even went as far as to say how it has changed your life.
It is life-changing. I get that feedback all the time from people.
We have a story we can tell about that at some point here when we talk about The Solo Salon. My life has changed in ways that I couldn’t have anticipated. Frankly, I didn’t know where this was going to go at Episode 1. In Episode 50, I had a much better feeling and now I have clarity. Was it hard for you to come up with your list?
At first, it was. It’s being in a completely different space I was when I started listening and when we did the first episode. I’m now in a relationship with someone so I’m trying to figure out how the solo lifestyle still fits into that was interesting and challenging.
How about you, Julie?
I didn’t have a hard time coming up with a list.
Whose list was late?
I broke my thumb so my list was late. I had a mountain biking crash.
Julie was mountain biking solo and had a fall. What I did was because I’m a good professor, I went through all of your life-changing moments and insights. I looked at mine and saw three themes or categories. I thought we would go through each of those in order. They are recognizing the promise of a non-traditional relationship, how to behave when dating and living unapologetically. This feels like Jeopardy! “I’ll take living unapologetically for $500, Peter.” Let’s start with recognizing the promise of non-traditional relationships. I have been working on the taxonomy of singles and the different types of singles in the world. It’s an evolving concept but it has come a long way.
I would like to present that to lay it out. I have a hunch which of the categories each of you belong to. We can then talk about some of the ways that you’ve recognized this promise or perhaps even share how you’re doing more than recognizing it. The first one is the conventional singles. This is the Someday category, “Someday, I’m going to have an LTR or ride the relationship escalator. Frankly, life is not complete until I’m on the escalator.” You might call these folks the hopeless romantics of the world. Most traditional singles fall into that category.
That’s the type of single that we’re used to, historically.
They’re around us everywhere. We see them on dating apps. They’re the ones who are asking you at Thanksgiving dinner, “Is there anyone special in your life?” Many of those people are on that escalator. The remaining three groups are solos in terms of their identity, psychology and how they approach relationships or not. The next group is the Just May group, “I just may ride the relationship escalator or I just may have an LTR. If it doesn’t happen, it doesn’t happen. That’s okay. I’m not incomplete. I don’t need it to be happy but I would welcome it if it did.”
You might call these hopeful romantics in that sense. The next group is No Way. This may be a temporary or permanent state of the world. These are folks who are not interested in dating or a relationship. They might be single at heart, as Bella DePaulo calls them. They had been referred to in the literature as solitaires. At the far extreme, they may be loners where they’re not interested in many types of relationships, not just romantic or sexual in that way.
The last group is the New Way. These are folks who are approaching relationships in an unconventional way and diverging from the relationship escalator in some notable way. Maybe they don’t want to live with their partner, are polyamorous, don’t hold that relationship to a higher status than other relationships in their life, prefer a sexual friendship or are consensually non-monogamous. The list is endless as we’ve documented in previous episodes. We have Someday, Just May, No Way and New Way. It sure beats Type 1, 2, 3 and 4.
I have a question about the No Way. You said, “Not interested in dating or long-term relationship.” If they were interested in dating then they would be the New Way.
If all you wanted was casual dating, that would be a New Way. What do you think? Am I onto something here?
It helps people to think about those categories. That has always been my theme. If you’re being intentional about what you’re doing, that helps guide your thinking and helps you process where you might fall.
There’s a lot to be done with this, even as a way to help people talk about their goals because this is about goals when you think about it. Most people assume that you’re in a Someday mode or at best into a casual New Way, which is, “I’m not looking for something serious at the moment.” It’s a hookup culture or something like that. How do these ideas relate to what you reflected on in terms of non-traditional relationships, which are a New Way category?
The relationship that I have is non-traditional. It’s in a New Way. We’re both trying to define for ourselves what works in our relationship and what doesn’t.
Let’s step back. Kym, you’re in a relationship. What does it look like?
We’re living together. He’s someone who has been in my life for a long time on and off. We’re good friends. We live together well. Most of the time, we live together as roommates. We have separate rooms. I found that I need my space. From past relationships and living with previous partners, I can’t do the 24/7, domesticated and this-is-it relationship escalator. When we decided to move in together, a lot of it had to do with how we both wanted a life that we found we could build together as a friendship-partnership better with someone than alone in terms of being able to afford a house with a yard. I have two dogs so that’s a big consideration. We got a house, we’re great friends and he’s my boyfriend a couple of days a week.
With the separate room thing, how did that topic get broached?
It was so natural. I need my own space. I grew up in a house with four sisters. I didn’t have my own room my whole life. I love my own space. I have very secret and girly things I like to do when I’m alone that I don’t want other people to see. I’m talking more about facials, bath bombs, skincare and wrinkle cream. He can’t see that. That’s hiding in a bathroom.
You have separate bathrooms also.
Having separate bathrooms is the key to a healthy relationship.
When you were talking about moving in, you said, “I need my own room.”
We both did. He’s 47 and very set in his ways. He’s not willing to compromise on certain things, which I applaud him for. He knows who he is and he was not going to move into a house unless we had two separate bathrooms, which I’m grateful for. It’s a good friendship.
I know a little bit about this. Do you also vacation separately?
We do. He went to Mexico by himself. I’m trying to plan a trip to Hawaii for January 2022. It’s important for at least him and I to take space from each other. When he was in Mexico, it was the best week that I had in a long time. It reminded me of all the amazing self-care I give to myself when I’m single that I find when I’m in a relationship, you divert some of that energy to someone else. I was depleted between giving to a partner, a business or my dogs and I needed to give it back to myself.
That’s a great model for people to learn. You’re a New Way.
You didn’t think I was.
When you told me you were moving in years ago, it was much less so. Kym loves her monogamy though.
The most important thing in our relationship is I won’t, at this point, allow anything other than monogamy. I need it and I know that about myself. For whatever reason, I can’t not have monogamy.
It’s good that you’ve contemplated the other side. A lot of people who do monogamy never even allow themselves to go, “What might that look like? How might I do it?” You’ve done the work to know who you are.
At this point, who knows?
I was joking like, “I’ll have you back at Episode 500.” A lot can change between now and then. Don’t let Kym’s young face fool you. She has slept a little. She knows what’s good for her.
We’re talking about unconventional.
It’s this recognition of the potential promise. You have been married and rode the relationship escalator until divorce did you part.
I have divorced twice so I’m pretty much done with that. It has been quite an evolution for me. I should tell this funny story. I had gotten out of a relationship. He was controlling and jealous and had anger issues. I haven’t done it again since then and it has been years.
You have made big strides.
I was vacationing in Mexico with my friend, Greg and we met this other couple. He was telling them, “Julie tends to get into these types of relationships. She’s so independent that it drives some men a little bit crazy and they start having these behaviors.” The woman of the couple said, “You need to date a Millennial because they’re used to independent women. They have grown up. Their moms are that way.”
She was like, “You need to be a cougar.”
Strangely enough, less than a week later, I was out seeing live music and I met this guy.
Should we use his nickname?
It’s Young Skywalker.
What’s the origin of that nickname?
It’s just that he’s young. One of my friends was like, “He’s like young Skywalker.” He’s a reader too. I met him and I thought he was older because he had shaved his head bald and he thought I was younger. It wasn’t intentional. I knew he was younger but I wasn’t sure how much younger. When I first discovered his actual age, I was like, “That’s pretty young.” I remember I texted two guys, Pete being one of them and two women. Both of the guys were like, “Go for it.” The women were like, “That’s too much of an age gap.”
We developed this amazing “relationship.” He’s mature and sweet. I feel like he almost showed me a new kind of person that I could be with without being jealous and controlling. That story has been done over and over in my life. What I learned from that is we were brutally and openly honest about everything. That’s so important but it was also like, “There’s nothing to lose here so we should put it all out on the table.”
When you say about everything, what are some of those everythings?
It’s talking about how we would not ever have a serious relationship. He said, “Someday, I’m going to want to meet someone my age.”
He’s more of a Just May deep down.
He met someone and said, “I want to explore that.” I was happy for him but that didn’t work out. It was such a nice time with him. Prior to all of this, when you’re dating, especially on the app and you’re in that more relationship escalator mindset, you’re evaluating everyone for a long-term relationship. On a first date, you can see a couple of things where you might eliminate someone, “He’s not long-term relationship quality.” I can be with someone. I enjoy someone’s company and it doesn’t have to be, “What is this going to turn into?” It’s more like, “How can I enjoy this person? What can I learn?”
It’s like Choose Your Own Adventure rather than a Jane Austen novel. You’re like, “I’m going to choose Path B with this person, which seems like a better fit and see where it goes.”
I do remember you talking about that in the first episode we did. It was one of the things that stuck with me when I was dating and on the apps. You talked about how at the end of the date, you would be like, “Did I have a nice time? Do I want to do this again?” It doesn’t matter if there’s a future in this. It’s thinking about it at the moment and saying, “How did this make me feel?” When I was dating a bunch, I was like, “That’s exactly the approach I’m going to take to things.”
I met Skywalker when I was having trouble with age. What I went back to was, “Did I enjoy meeting him? Do I want to see him again?” The answer was yes knowing that I might see him and have different feelings about the age difference. That might be it but why not try one more time and see how that feels?
Age is a blunt instrument when it comes to trying to figure out the susceptibility of a partner because there are plenty of people your age who are children. It’s only a guidepost in many cases. We even talked about this in the first episode. I use this conversation, “Am I attracted to this person? Let’s see where it goes.” It’s a lot of pressure for a 1st or 2nd date to figure out the long-term viability of someone. People have bad days and you would be surprised what you can adapt to. In Kym’s situation, for example, it’s what people will agree to. They have limits about their living situation, for example, and that those things can be negotiated and agreed upon.
Once you take out the idea of the relationship escalator like, “This is what I’m working towards for my future.” You’re like, “I don’t know. I want to have fun and see how it feels.” It takes the pressure off and opens you up to a whole bunch of new experiences you might not have had. You got to meet this amazing person that probably had you been on the path to, “This is what I want in the future,” you wouldn’t have spent time with in the same way.
My friends joke that that’s the best relationship I have ever had.
I have known Julie for years and she certainly speaks fondly of it. Skywalker, we want you back. You’re our only hope. I’m not enough of a Star Wars nerd to do all the things.
He’s in a relationship now so we don’t talk that much.
We’re talking about these ideas very nonchalantly but frankly, when I was learning about them, it blew my mind. When I was interviewing Amy Gahran, who is the creator of the term relationship escalator and deconstructing it, I couldn’t believe it. I was like, “I now have a framework, language and also a way to think about this and know that there are alternatives.” They’re not as out there as they’re often treated. If you’re a New Way, you get treated with curiosity at best and with contempt at worst.
I have had people unmatch me immediately from an app when I expressed an interest in something other than the relationship escalator. It’s not even a, “That’s nice but no, thank you.” It’s a, “You’re done.” It’s even what you may encounter, for example. Imagine being a consensually non-monogamous or polyamorous person and writing in your profile, “If you’re monogamous, swipe left.” You see the opposite of that regularly, “If you’re ENM, swipe left.”
It shows you the asymmetry between the conventional and unconventional folks in terms of navigating this world. I’m puzzling over how I might define myself within that fourth category. One of the nice things about the show or the SOLO project more generally is I now have prototypes. For example, Amy Gahran is solo poly. What does this mean? She lives on her own separate from her romantic relationships. She has roommates but she doesn’t live with either of her partners.
She has two partners so she calls them sweeties, with who she’s romantically involved. She’s sexually involved with at least one or maybe both of them. It doesn’t matter for our purposes. Part of me is like, “I like the Amy style of relationship. I love living alone. I have a lot of love to give. I have lots of friends that I give a lot of love to. The love that I give to one friend doesn’t diminish the love that I give to another friend. Maybe that’s something I could explore or try to do.”
I always wanted to hear from Amy’s sweeties. I would love for them to be on the show.
The metamours are what they’re called. She would be called the hinge in this situation and they’re metamours. They’re independent of each other for the most part. My apologies to Amy or her metamours if we’ve gotten any of the facts. In general, as a prototype of a relationship, I’m like, “There’s some appeal there.”
Another analogy I have thought of since you said you have lots of love to give to friends is people who have multiple children. You love multiple children.
I’m a believer that you can be romantically involved with more than one person. You can’t be romantically involved with more than one person in a traditional relationship escalator style where you share everything together like space, identity and lifestyle. You start to crowd someone else out. With a certain amount of solo or independent living, it can be possible to do. The second model is my friend, Matt. Matt hasn’t appeared on the show but I have been talking to him a lot about this stuff. He will appear in my forthcoming book. Matt describes himself as 90% monogamous.
Dan Savage has this term monogamish. In Matt’s relationship, he has a primary partner and a romantic partner. They play together and separately. They have sexual relationships with other people that are consensual and disclosed. What’s fascinating about Matt is watching his progression. When we were becoming friends, he had started dating a woman and moved in with her. He was riding the escalator with her and did so for several years. That didn’t work out and he realized that he wasn’t a Someday or Just May person. He didn’t think an escalator-style relationship was going to work with him so he became a No Way. He’s like, “I have to go alone.”
It’s this lone wolf mentality until he started to explore some of these New Way ideas. He then met his partner. Their first date was, as he called it, a face check. They met briefly for a cup of coffee or a walk in the park. On their second date, he was forthcoming about what his desires were and she said, “Why can’t you have it all? Why can’t you have a primary partner and still have something that’s non-monogamous.” They’re going strong. There’s part of me that’s like, “That’s exciting.” You have this deep bond and this team. You get to spice things up as you like. It’s not without challenges but monogamy is not without challenges.
When you were talking about the different types and this emphasizes that, I liked that you said that your state could be now or it could change.
The largest minority of singles or nearly 50% of singles are in No Way mode at the moment. They’re not interested in dating or a relationship. That’s a striking statistic. If you’re reading and you’re in No Way mode, you have a lot of other people who are living the same way as you are.
I went into that mode. It was the first year we knew each other. I was like, “I’m not dating anyone for the next four months.” I would take myself out on dates and go places by myself. I knew I didn’t want the relationship escalator type of relationship. It didn’t feel good to me. It felt very suffocating and constructed. I didn’t know where to go from that and I felt like I needed to turn inward and do some work. I had 4 to 6 months where I once a week would take myself out somewhere. I would go to see a play, go out to dinner and do all the scary stuff that forced a lot of growth. The No Way was a transitional point for me into the New Way.
If I were to critique my own copy here, No Way is a little strong but I want to be provocative. It could be temporary.
No Way doesn’t have to be forever. It could just be at that moment, “No, I don’t want to focus on someone else. I want to focus on myself and what I want.”
There’s building a business, making art, getting in shape and traveling. The third style is where I’m at. This is the term relationship anarchy, which I have acknowledged is not a great term but in principle, it’s the best fit for where I am. It’s very close to your perspective, Julie. The idea behind relationship anarchy is that the two or more people in the relationship decide on the rules of the relationship. They get to design the relationship. Is it romantic or not? What is the nature of the intimacy and living situation?
What that does is if you approach every relationship not as, “I’m looking for solo poly or monogamish,” depending on who’s in your life and what the connection is like, you get to design your relationship. One person might become a friend with benefits, another person might end up becoming a relationship escalator and another person might end up being monogamous with you. There’s power in keeping an open mind and working on the communication necessary for that. If someone’s like, “What type of four are you?” I’m like, “I’m a relationship anarchist.” Even though I have very little experience with it, I have been playing around with this quite a lot especially since my return to Denver.
I like that because when people come to the table with, “This is what I want,” without the flexibility of being open to something else, how do you know what you would be willing to give and take with a certain person? I do like that idea of being open and that’s what happened with Young Skywalker. We wrote the rules.
That term is giving me a little bit of anxiety. I feel a little discomfort with it because I would push back a little bit and wouldn’t call it relationship anarchy. I would call it relationship conscious because you’re almost looking at each person and being like, “How do I want this person to fit into my life? What can we build together that is special to this person that doesn’t fit into the mold?”
Anarchy is not a great term and has a bad rap but it’s about foregoing outside rules in a sense. I understand. It’s a new idea and it’s still emerging. It could use a little rebrand, frankly.
The thing I’m seeing with all these aside from Someday types of relationships is communication is at the root of everything. There needs to be communication and trust to make the relationship work.
That’s a perfect segue into our second category of life-changing elements of this show. That is how to behave when dating. The overarching idea and this has come up before is how to be a good citizen in the world of dating. Each of you wrote about this in different ways. What do you have for us?
Mine is recognizing that I traditionally am a people pleaser and would sacrifice because I can put up with a lot. It’s recognizing that I would put my own needs and wants aside to please other people. The idea that comes up over and over again throughout the show is to ask for what you want. It’s such a powerful thing. The other person can’t read your mind. They’re not going to know what you want unless you ask. It’s a form of communication that can be used in so many ways.
As you know, I had a mountain biking crash and this guy in my life said, “Let me know if you need anything.” I said, “I could use some emotional support snuggles.” He was like, “When? Tomorrow night?” He was all over it. That’s what I wanted so that’s what I asked for. It was such an easy task but in the past, I would have thought, “I don’t want him to think I’m needy.” I could have excused that away but that’s what I needed and wanted. It was great. It’s a small example. It’s baby steps.
You had mentioned something about how terrible it is to be ghosted.
It’s hard. When I was dating a lot, especially on the app, I would go out sometimes on six dates a week meeting people for coffee or a walk. I was like, “I’m going to go out with everyone. Why not?” There would be a lot of times where someone would want to see you again and I wouldn’t want to see them. I would be very clear, have that hard conversation and be like, “You’re great. I don’t feel any romantic spark.” That’s hard to say to someone. Having listened to the episode where you had Jill on where she talked about dating, being a good citizen and having those hard conversations because it’s kindness.
That was the How to Go on a Date episode with Daliya. That was very fun. I had a whole episode on ghosting, what a phenomenon it has become and how hurtful and guilt-inducing it can be for the ghoster. I’m a lot like you, Kym, where I don’t ghost and I will communicate this. I know it often can be a fraught thing. I even go as far as to wrap up text threads where I’m being ghosted. That’s how anti-ghosting I am. I say, “It looks like I’ve lost your interest. Thanks for meeting. I hope you find what you’re looking for. Cheers. I know what you’re doing. You know what you’re doing. We’re going to put a little bow on this.”
I’m inspired by this conversation. I did something that Esther Perel calls power parting. Esther Perel is a relationship and sex guru. A lot of her focus is on monogamous relationships. Mating in Captivity is her big book. How do you keep a monogamous relationship spicy? She has the Relationship Accountability spectrum with ghosting on one end of it, which we all know about. Power parting is on the other end and this is what we’re talking about doing here and doing it well. There’s something called icing. You have to remember a lot of this stuff is via text.
Text is the dominant form of dating communication. Icing is manufacturing a reason to suspend the relationship ala, “I’m too busy. I’m terribly sorry. Work is too busy. Can we do this another day?” It’s the idea of it’s on the burner but it’s not full flame. You’re keeping it warm. The other one is simmering, which is reducing the frequency of dates and communication. That’s like, “Can we do this next week?” Maybe you were doing something and now you’re pulling back.
It’s where you have established a cadence and then all of a sudden, the other person without any communication is less available or not reaching out and making plans. As we’re saying, it’s not a great way to behave because it leaves the other person wondering, “What’s going on? Could you tell me?”
In all three of these, ghosting, icing and simmering, there is a lack of clarity. They’re not interested or they’re less interested at least behaviorally than before. There are lots of reasons why you might be less interested. There’s someone else in your life, work is crazy, you have been sick or you’re losing interest, which can happen naturally. We have all been on that side of it. I have certainly have iced and simmered other people. Even having this language is useful to do. Some of it is being honest with yourself about, “I’m not that interested in this person. I’m interested but I need to be very clear about what that looks like.”
I power parted. This was a woman I met on an app. We met out for a drink and I said, “Let’s get dressed up and get a cocktail.” She was quite lovely. She didn’t come that dressed up. We had a nice conversation but it became very clear as we were talking that she’s a Someday or at best, a Just May. I know this because I ended up doing a lot of teaching on the date about a New Way. To her credit, she was open-minded and thoughtful in response. She didn’t find this stuff offensive, which some people certainly could have. She’s doing her work around dating and so on.
I was mixed about seeing her again. There was a lot to like but also I was like, “I’m not sure about the match.” I wrote to her, “X, I’m enjoying this lovely day. I’m curious if you want to get together again. Was I not your cup of tea?” I hadn’t heard from her so I figured I would ask. She said, “Peter, it’s nice to hear from you. I’m not sure what you are a cup of yet, which is the beauty of dating. I would love to get together again. What and when are you thinking?” She pushed it back into my court. I’m on the lookout for people when it feels traditionally heteronormative, where the man does the asking and pursuing and the woman does the sitting back and choosing.
She could have said, “I’m free Monday and Wednesday night.” She could have given you some options.
When you’re interested, you make it easy for someone. I’m not sure that’s the case but that was what I was thinking. Feel free to editorialize as much as you want. I said, “Now that I know you would be interested, I’ll start thinking.” She said, “I like the way you sequence things.” I did some thinking about it. Some time went by and my heart wasn’t in it like, “What would I want to do? How would I want to do it?” I didn’t find myself in that way. A short period later, I wrote, “Good morning, X. I hope the project is going well.” She’s working on a book-related project, “I’m excited for you. I gave this some more thought and while I think you are lovely, I don’t think we’re a good match. I’m wishing you the best in your search. Cheers.”
That’s the power part. I’m concerned about doing this because I don’t want to be presumptuous and mean. She writes back immediately and says, “Peter, thank you for reaching out and letting me know. I agree with you but I’m still so glad I met you and had a great conversation with you. Good luck to you as well.” It’s a win. Now, there’s no wondering. I invited her to The Solo Salon and gave her the discount code. You might meet her at some point.
Kym was saying she does the power parting after someone asks. We were talking about behaving well in the dating community. The next step of that is how the person responds to your kind, upfront and forward communication. I have had people say, “It was great to meet you. Best of luck to you.” I have had people get mad and be mean. We are a community of people who are trying to figure this out. Let’s support each other. There’s no place for being rude or mean to other people, including ghosting and those types of things.
This came up in the Slack channel. I have this private community, which you can apply to be part of at PeterMcGraw.org/solo. It’s about some of the other reasons why people ghost that wasn’t covered in the previous episode. One of them is fear. Why do women ghost men in particular? It’s because sometimes you gently power part and the person explodes is mean and says awful things. You’re like, “Thank God I stayed away from that person.” It makes the whole experience fraught.
If you’re doing something hard, telling someone you don’t want to see them again and getting negative reinforcement back after you do it makes you not want to do it again.
I did a power parting with a guy I had been on three dates with. I was trying to be more open-minded and shift my type of guy but I was forcing it. We had a great time so I did a power part. I was thinking he would be a good match for Leslie, our friend. She’s super into wine. His reaction to the power part was so bad. I was like, “No Leslie for you.” You never know what could happen.
That’s one of the things that came up in that episode that Daliya always talks about. This person might become a partner for a friend, a business associate or a friend. Why is it like, “Just because it’s not working this way, it can’t work at all.” We have talked a lot about relationships. Forgive us for those of you who don’t care about these things but certainly, this one applies to everyone. That is this notion of living unapologetically whether you’re unattached or not and whether you want to be attached or not. I see both of you living your lives much more this way. Each of you wrote about this as you completed your homework. Kym, your life is completely different than when we met years ago. How so?
When we met, I was working in a restaurant. I’m not doing that anymore. I started a business and I quit my full-time job in July 2021. My focus on my life is growing my business and building Wax Crescent candles.
Wax Crescent is one of the sponsors of the show.
That is the number one focus of my life. I have discovered that being in the relationship, I haven’t been taking care of myself. That’s now my priority every day. I have gotten back into practicing yoga. I’m essentially taking all the best parts of solo and bringing it into my life again. It was like this honeymoon period for the first couple of months. We were sitting down to dinner every night and this domesticated thing. That wasn’t working for either of us so I feel like we’re taking some intentional space for ourselves and putting our relationship on pause or resetting. There’s still the monogamy and foundation. We’re still great friends but I need to get back to what’s important for me.
A lot of that has come from you asserting your independence in terms of creative pursuits. You’re writing the candle company and even how you’re approaching this relationship and doing it differently than previous relationships.
I’m very unattached to the outcome of it. I do want a partner for life but I’m not sure if this is the right partner for that life. Being in this situation, I’m going to discover that. As much as I love this person, I’m not going to sacrifice what I want and my needs for the relationship. I have done that and it doesn’t work. Every once in a while, I will catch myself doing it again. I need to reset and come back to me.
No matter what, you will learn more about yourself, what works for you and what doesn’t. It’s a great step for you in your life. For me, being a people pleaser, a repetitive theme in this is to do what makes you happy. We have talked about that and not in terms of not being so selfish that you’re hurting someone else.
The idea of this is to do no harm. Be unapologetic but do no harm.
I would even extend the, “Do what makes you happy,” to, “Encourage others to do what makes them happy.” Peter, you’re good at this. We were talking about trips for Thanksgiving. There was a little bit of a snafu and you were like, “You won’t offend me. Do what makes you happy. You do you. Do what works for you for that trip.” That’s so freeing and it’s nice to know that I don’t have to worry about upsetting you or anything like that. My take away from that is also to give that freedom to other people. I’m not going to be offended. If you want to stay in tonight and I want to go out, you stay in, I will go out and we will both be happy.
We will rendezvous at some other points.
Do you want to hear my mountain biking story?
I know this story and I want to hear it every day.
I had been dating this guy for maybe two months. It was a three-day weekend and we had made plans for a lot of the weekend like seeing live music and going dancing. I had been busy and hadn’t mountain biked much. The one thing I said is, “I needed to take half a day to go do a great mountain bike ride.” He wanted to learn how to mountain bike and said, “Can’t you take me out? It could be the day I learn.”
I said, “I want to do that with you. At the same time, I haven’t been able to do a hard ride in over a week. I want to do this.” He gave me grief and I said, “I have been working on not being a people pleaser. I need someone to support me. Do what makes you happy and it’s okay.” It went from grief to raising his voice and being angry. In two months’ time for that behavior, it was like, “We’re done.”
I was so proud of Julie for doing this because the old Julie would have said, “I can move my schedule around and find a way to make this thing happen.”
I would bear the brunt of him being mad, go for the mountain bike rid and then try to patch things up. That is not a good pattern.
It’s not a great start in any way. The good thing is like, “This is a boundary. It is a solo or friend activity.” I appeared on an episode of Why You Mad with a friend, Luisa. Luisa and I got to know each other through the world of comedy. We’re both solos so we have bonded more over solo-ness rather than comedy. She refers to these folks as traditionals. If I may project, for him, he wants to ride the escalator with you.
One of those things is to merge your life, finances, identities and lifestyle. You’re supposed to start to vacation together. That’s something that Kym doesn’t do. You’re supposed to live together. Kym semi-does that. You’re supposed to start to do the same things. For a lot of people, a lot of this is revealed in their dating profiles. They’re looking for someone who does X because, “We’re going to have our relationship and we get to do X together.” The fact that you didn’t do X together, he was like, “We got to do X together so I should learn how to mountain bike.”
We know that guy is trash and he’s going to slow you down for the day, the next year or forever on these rides. You’re supposed to compromise the thing that brings you joy in that sense. I thought you did a nice job setting that up. It wasn’t like, “It doesn’t mean I don’t like you or I don’t want to see you again. It means I need Saturday afternoon for myself. I’ll see you later in the day. We can go two-stepping and it will be fun.” He wasn’t able to hold that space.
Something I have realized is you can’t expect whoever your partner or multiple partners to be everything for you. It’s a lot of pressure and it puts a lot of stress on any relationship. It’s expecting someone to be your best friend, companion, tennis partner, mountain biking partner, lover or accountant.
I like the term unapologetic. It’s a powerful term. I do believe that you should only apologize for things that you regret and wish you had done differently. A lot of what we have been taught is that you should apologize to smooth emotions and relationships. It’s a problematic pattern to have, to apologize for things that you’re not truly apologetic about. I have stopped doing it. When you get an, “I’m sorry,” from me, it’s big.
It’s like, “I am sorry. I wish I could have done that differently. I feel terrible. How can I make it right? I will acknowledge that what I have done may be disappointing. I recognize the fact that my desires or what I have done may rub you the wrong way and might not be what you want. I’m happy to try to smooth that situation. I’m just not going to say I was wrong to do it.” First of all, launching the show alone was an act of being unapologetic about being single and that I’m living a non-traditional life. At that time, I was a 49-year-old bachelor and didn’t foresee that changing in some measurable way.
I remember I launched it with trepidation. I’m not sure how much of that came out in Episode 1 but it was a little nerve-wracking for me to do it. Even what I do now, I couldn’t have done it in Episode 1, which was to talk about, “Solo poly and monogamy sound interesting and enticing. Relationship anarchy is cool.” That’s in part because I didn’t even know about those ideas before I launched the show. The other one is I didn’t understand how they might fit into my life and how I might communicate them with a partner or partners.
I’m done apologizing and feeling bad for the fact that I’m a little unconventional. I had done that in so many other ways in my life but it took a while to get it. In many ways, I needed this show to do it in the same way that some people needed to find this show to be able to do it. It’s amazing the number of people I get reaching out to me. One of the most common thank yous I get is, “I feel more comfortable being myself.” That’s a powerful idea.
You owe it to yourself to live the life that brings you joy and makes you happy. You owe it to yourself to ask for what you want because if you don’t ask for what you want, how are you going to get it? For me, this notion of being unapologetic is powerful. I have been playing with it a little bit ambitiously at times. If you’re at a dinner party and there’s a bunch of couples sometimes I’m like, “When are you going to start swinging?” I’m pushing a little bit of unconventional thinking on them to see what happens with that.
Was there anything good that happened with that?
Keep at it. Eventually something good will happen. Maybe you will get invited.
The issue is that’s not an unreasonable question relative to all the unreasonable questions that single people could ask all the time. I’m not sure I’ll keep doing that but I certainly enjoyed it. Let’s transition into looking forward. I’ll start by asking you two. Looking forward is there something that you were thinking about, want to experiment with or reinforce in your solo lives forward?
I can’t say specific things that I would want to experiment with but my learnings and my shifting through the show will help me if I end up partnering in some way in the future. I will approach that in a much healthier and more communicative fashion. I’m interested to have those types of conversations and develop a relationship that works for both people if I get to that point.
Being in a relationship is forcing me to do a lot of work that I wasn’t aware of around being in a relationship and also being authentic to myself. Moving forward, I need to stay true to myself, take care of myself and make myself a priority. As I was making my breakfast, I was like, “How is being in this relationship serving me? Do I want to continue to be in this relationship?” It’s approaching it every day and reconsidering, “Is this working? Is it not working? How can I better take care of myself and do what I want in my life regardless of whether or not this person wants to come on the journey with me?”
To use Julie’s favorite term, it’s to be intentional on a regular basis. For all the relationship talk we have had, we haven’t spoken that much about friendships. One of the things that have happened with this is I feel that my relationships have deepened. I have always appreciated friendships because they stand sometimes in contrast or conflict with more traditional, romantic and sexual ones. Yet, they’re more consistent, supportive and stable. I have been working very hard at expressing my affection for the people in my life who are my friends. I look forward to doing that no matter what, even if I turn into a No Way person, which I do on occasion.
Here are a few other things to look forward to. The SOLO project is now a project. It’s not just a show. There’s a very good chance that this time in 2022, there will be a book out. I would be frankly surprised if there’s not a book out. I am in the process and in a full pivot from Humor Research to Solo. I’m redoing my website socials and everything so that it is impossible to ignore the fact that I’m working on the show. If you want stuff about humor, you can find it but you got to look harder. That’s the complete flip.
I’m putting myself out there in a way that is still not fully comfortable but it’s happening. I am going to own this big time. I’m starting to do events. I did a beta test with friends and family of a concept called The Solo Salon, which is an hour of social time, programming, entertainment, music, comedy and cultural stuff like poetry and talks. There’s another hour of social time bringing together solos to celebrate our lives in a non-dating fashion. This is not a dating event. By the time this launches, we will have had our first event and the next one will be forthcoming.
I was at the friends and family one and it was such an amazing night. It was something completely different. I have never experienced anything like that before. The socializing and programming were great and thought-provoking. It was nice to be in a different space so I’m looking forward to the public one.
There’s a lot of opportunities doing events and bringing together like-minded people and perhaps singles.
Unfortunately, I didn’t make it to that but you are a fabulous host.
I do relish this term host. I’m leaning into it. I host this show and these events. There’s a skill to hosting that I’m still developing but I do enjoy it. I am back to being a professor. My mini-retirement is over and I’m back in Colorado happily. I am starting to turn my scholarly attention to the issue of single living. I have put together a team, a lab of sorts. I started running some surveys and looking for interesting questions. I’m running a survey on pets.
There are some forthcoming episodes about singles and their pets and how might singles relate to their pets differently than the non-singles, for example. I have also will have launched a new project that’s more business-focused for organizations called Single Insights: The Science of Solos. It highlights the opportunities and needs of single people as customers and employees. That relates to my life as a business school professor. I’m bringing my personal and professional lives together.
We are also going to be doing many more in-person episodes because we are sitting in my brand-new studio. It is a cozy little space. I have a new apartment that I spent a lot of time making it feel like a good home base and this small room. I was like, “This is going to be the perfect studio.” I’m hoping to do many more in-person episodes where the sound quality and energy are a lot better. I look forward to that. Speaking of sex, maybe I’ll make it part of a series.
We talk a lot about the relationship escalator and unconventional relationships. We haven’t even discussed the unconventional relationships that are becoming more popular. That is seeking arrangements. It’s not prostitution or the typical guy-pays-for-everything. It’s this in-between world of sugar daddies, sugar mamas and sugar babies.
This was prompted by my matching with a woman who is an aspiring sugar baby. I got talking to her about the world she’s living in. That will make a provocative topic. I may bring a sugar baby into the studio with a chaperone, who’s probably Julie, to answer some questions or find someone who knows that world to talk about these in-between relationships that break some norms and are interesting. There will be a lot of myth-busting that happens. That’s looking forward. Julie and Kym, you’re wonderful. Thank you so much.
Thank you for having us.
- Introducing Solo – previous episode
- Looking Back and Looking Forward – previous episode
- Bachelor Girl Productions
- Wax Crescent
- The Solo Salon
- Bella DePaulo – previous episode
- Choose Your Own Adventure
- Amy Gahran – previous episode
- Mating in Captivity
- Relationship Accountability
- Why You Mad – previous episode with Peter McGraw
- Single Insights: The Science of Solos
About Julie Nirvelli
Julie Nirvelli was born and raised in San Jose, CA-and earned her college degree from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. She has lived in Colorado for 17+ years. As a strong, independent and fun-loving person, Julie embraces the solo life. She is also a sponsor of the Solo podcast, with her company Bachelor Girl productions, which sells fun flirty t-shirts.
About Kym Terribile
Kym Terribile is an entrepreneur, and the solo founder of Wax Crescent, a candle company focused on the idea of self-care and intentional living (also a sponsor to the Solo podcast). Kym holds a degree in English Literature from the University of Hawaii and now lives in Longmont, Colorado.
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