Peter McGraw’s new book (Solo: Building a Remarkable Life of Your Own) is about to come out. To talk about it and reflect on Solo’s episode, he invites two familiar voices into the Solo Studio to talk about the Solo Movement. Join the conversation at: https://petermcgraw.org/solo
Listen to Episode #200 here
Solo Episode 200: Book Launch!
Welcome back. This is a big episode. Not only is this the 200th episode, but this one precedes the launch of my new book by a few days. In order to welcome new readers and recap all that is going on, I welcome back two familiar guests. These are guests who’ve been with me from the very beginning. We discussed some of the basics of the Solo movement, what they like about the new book, which is available for order on Amazon, and how you can support the Solo movement beyond purchasing and gifting the book to a proud Solo.
Half of adults in the United States who are single are not seeking romance or casual dating, whether for now or forever. Perhaps this would be a good Valentine’s Day gift for them. I’m excited to announce that bonus material is back and available to the Solo community, which you can sign up for at PeterMcGraw.org/Solo. In this episode’s bonus material, we talk about the last-minute change to the subtitle of the book and the irrational consternation that change caused me.
Here we are. We’re going to talk about the show. For new readers, I’m an optimist that there are going to be hoards of proud singles.
They will be wondering, “What the hell is going on here?”
They’re like, “Where has this show been my whole life?” This episode’s going to come out a few days before the official launch.
Of the book?
Yes. It will be waiting for people when they discover the Solo movement. Ready?
Welcome back, Kym Terribile.
Thank you, Peter. I’m glad to be here.
Welcome back, Julie Nirvelli.
Thank you. Exciting times.
You have been with me for a variety of episodes, but you consistently join me every 50 episodes. You were in episode 50, episode 100, episode 150, and 200. It is about four years with the Solo project.
That is so crazy.
Let’s assume these hoards of new readers come. What do they need to know about the Solo movement?
I was reflecting on that a lot. We’re on episode 200. In episode one, we sat down, the three of us, and talked about what this show was going to be, what it was going to look like, and what it meant to be Solo. For me, personally, being Solo in the Solo movement is about choosing to live the best and most authentic life that you can for yourself. I feel like when you’re single, it’s what society calls you. When you say Solo, it’s what you’re choosing to call yourself.
What a great summary.
I love that.
That notion of Solo was a clever term at the time. It felt good. It felt more positive than single. This notion of Solo being a mindset has been an evolution. One that is a big part of this book is I talk about these three elements of being Solo. It’s to be wholehearted to see yourself as a complete person, to embrace your autonomy yet remain connected to others, and to think unconventionally about relationships and life more generally. That allows you to choose a path through yourself. That path may be riding the relationship escalator. It may be some other form of romantic or sexual relationship. It may be, like many readers, living a life with friends, family, and community but not necessarily a focus on romance.
Thinking back to episode one, it’s amazing what it has turned into and the content that has developed. I know you had a lot of ideas for episodes at that time, but 200? That’s amazing.
I’ve got a huge list. I feel like we’re not going to run out of things to talk about, in part because this is not a relationships show, not at its core. We cover relationships, but it’s about navigating the world in a remarkable way. In that sense, you never run out of topics to cover.
You’ve covered a variety from money to health to friendships. There’s something in there for everyone who is choosing this path.
Let’s see what else people should know. We’re going to cover a few must-read episodes if someone’s new or even must re-visit episodes for a person who has already read it.
I feel like people discovering the Solo movement is their chance to reinvent themselves with fresh ideas and a supportive community around them. It is realizing that other people think this way, believe these things, or are questioning how we were raised to think about relationships or do things. It’s such a cool opportunity when I think about how much I’ve evolved since episode one.
I know. Me too.
I feel like a different person.
I do too.
Kym is having a love affair with the therapist.
This is a great example because it depends on your readiness. In episode one, if I remember correctly, you are still wanting to be in a relationship as a big focus. Peter and I were already not there. It’s readiness and understanding. You and I haven’t talked in a while, but even if you hoped for a relationship, you would come at it in a different way now than you did. You’ve evolved tremendously also.
Thank you for saying that.
Kym quit her job. She worked as a server for all these years, and then she started this magnificent, big business. She’s embraced her creative side and her entrepreneurial side. It’s a radical change.
I would not have been able to do that if I wasn’t the focus of my life. If I did have a significant romantic relationship, I wouldn’t have been able to build it the way that I have in the last couple of years. I’m my only focus.
That’s so cool. That’s such a great recognition of the amount of love and energy and giving you’ve put into the business, if you had somebody pulling at those things also, you wouldn’t be where you are.
I want to say that I want new readers to start to recognize the opportunity to have different styles of relationships. What we call the relationship escalator, this traditional long-term relationship that’s modeled in every way and valued in all these ways, may not be the right fit. You have some other way that you can have romance or sex in your life should you want to. You may lean into your friendships and community in a way that you weren’t before. You have the opportunity to reinvent yourself. I love that word. I love a good reinvention. There’s always time to change the way you’re living and seek out a new path that might be a better fit for your temperament, values, and lifestyle.
One of the very nice things about being single is it’s easier to do in a lot of ways. You have mobility. You have flexibility. You have autonomy. You don’t have to put off these things until the kids are out of the house or until you’re hoping your partner approves them, is able to retire, or whatever that thing is. I’m not saying that single life is easier or married life is easier. They’re different and they provide different opportunities. One of them is the chance to reinvent and, in many ways, be more unconventional because there’s not someone that you have to be accountable to in that sense.
Not bumbling along because that’s what we were taught. We were taught that relationships and life look a certain way. We’re talking about two different things. We’re talking about how you can do relationships differently, but how you can do your whole life differently when the focus isn’t finding a partner.
I’ll preview this idea. I’m working on a Solo Thoughts episode. One of the things that happens to me is that a member of the community will often push me on an idea. They often see something that I’m hovering around that I haven’t quite nailed. They’re very good at pushing me. For example, the definition of Solo came because a member of the community was like, “You are not being clear about what it means to be Solo.” That was a great gift. I had another member of the community say, “You’re talking about reimagining relationships, but I want to push you. This model that you’re using is that you can reimagine everything as a result.” I’m like, “Yes.”
This comes up in the book. Humans are very good at making rules and following rules. The rules that we often make are designed for the group. That makes good sense when you’re living in a tribe, but when you’re living in a nation of 300 million people or a city of 1 million people or you’re working in an organization with 10,000 people, those rules tend to be designed to satisfy the nation-state, the city, or the organization and may not be well suited for the individual.
We happen to live in a time, in part because of technology and in part because of progress, that you can bend the rules. You can break the rules in order to create a more remarkable life for yourself. I’m starting to play with these ideas more and try to create a little bit of a model by which to talk about this and the challenges of doing that. Kym, you’re a nice example of this. You feel a little unmoored in life. You are undergoing so much change with regard to your professional life and personal life that there are no rules for this.
There are rules if you decide you’re going to marry someone. Those rules are laid out for you. People follow them and they generally work. We’re good at following rules, so we make them work. It’s very exciting for the next 200 episodes to start to explore this as a more general model by which people can think a little bit about, “What are the rules that work for me and what are the rules that don’t? How can I be comfortable making good choices and living with the fact that other people in my nation, city, and organization might look at me side-eyed?
You have the guardrail of do no harm.
Obtain consent when consent is necessary.
For breaking the rules or changing things up.
It’s a limitless opportunity.
In some ways, that’s difficult for people. One of the examples I have been playing with, and this will sound familiar if you tune in to Solo Thoughts, is to think about our diet. For much of human history, our diet, depending on our culture and geography, was pretty limited or at least pretty predictable. It was the things you ate, how you got them, and so on.
We live in a world where, if you’re in the Western world, you go to a supermarket and it’s overwhelming. That’s both exciting and problematic because you can optimize your diet, for example. You can cut out dairy if you want if that doesn’t agree with you. Your body will respond positively to that versus many years ago, you were drinking milk and you didn’t even know that was a problem in a sense.
We have this opportunity that you can create this customized diet that’s perfect for yourself, but you could also go and eat pizza, drink Big Gulps all the time, and ruin your body. We have this problem, which is, on the one hand, you can live a much better life in modernity, but you can also live a much worse life in modernity. The responsibility lies on the individual to try to make better choices. We know that society’s not doing a good job of that for us, at least at this moment. That’s both very exciting, but also demands some enlightenment around how much responsibility people end up having. You can apply this to lots of other types of elements of life.
Also, you’re going to get a lot of pushbacks if you’re going to create a diet that works for you. This is something that this reader was talking about. She’s able to eat a diet that works very well for her physiology. Think about all the headaches you get if you’re vegan. The people are like, “Ew.” They make fun of you, tease you, and all this kind of stuff, but that may be truly the best diet for you in a sense. You’re going against the grain, pun intended.
Vegans eat grain. You’re going against the cow.
That’s right. I’m pretty excited about those ideas. Are there other things new readers should know?
This is a little sidetrack. A couple of years ago, you called me up and were like, “There’s this thing. It’s Singles’ Day. I want you to run a promotion on your website, collect some data and tell me about Singles’ Day.” I was like, “I’ve never heard of this.” You’ve been pushing it for a couple of years, celebrating Singles’ Day. Do you want to say what that is?
Sure. It’s 11/11, so November 11th. What started as an informal celebration of singlehood at a Chinese university is now the world’s biggest day of eCommerce. Alibaba, the big online retailer in China, has taken this idea and run with it. There are a lot of single people in China, sadly in part because of the one-child policy. There are television shows about it. Brands have specific Singles’ Day-related products. There are lots of social media. It’s a full-on day. Think of it like Valentine’s Day for single people. It’s creeping into the United States and Europe very slowly.
This was the first year I got two major brands that I subscribed to their emails sent me emails to celebrate Singles’ Day. I thought of you and was like, “I wonder if Solo is responsible.” You were talking to Maria Shriver on TV. I brought it here. That was exciting. I feel like the movement is catching on a little bit.
There is certainly a lot more chatter about singlehood now than several years ago. I found Bella DePaulo. For people who are not familiar with Bella DePaulo, you should look at her work. She’s written more than a dozen books, many about this topic. She’s done some of the most important research, debunking myths of single living. There wasn’t a lot of media coverage of it. As we’re taping this, I’m doing a lot of reaching out to journalists, pitching the book, and trying to get some PR for the launch. I have a document about singles-related articles, and it’s a pretty long document. The world’s starting to catch on to this global rise in single living.
I’ll say one other thing. This will come up often, and this is related to the point earlier. We have this tendency to think in this universal sense that there’s one way of doing something. What I like to say is there is no one remarkable life. There are remarkable lives. That’s one of the exciting things about contemporary society. It is that you can choose a path as an artist, a creative, a person in business, or someone in education.
You can commit yourself to raising a family. You can commit yourself to your community. You can make art or make science. You can contribute to the world in a lot of ways that are personally enriching. For many of these things, a person’s relationship status has nothing to do with their value per se. A lot of people want to know your relationship status because they want to know how to treat you. Knowing whether someone is married or single tells you almost nothing about them, especially if you’re single.
For sure. People make so many assumptions about someone who’s single.
They make assumptions of what they want, how they live, and so on. I don’t think it’s very useful. What is useful are some episodes, I hope. Where do you think a new reader should start?
You teed that up. We’re talking about building a remarkable life of your own. There is an episode called What Makes a Life Remarkable.
People love that episode.
That’s good. How do you gauge that?
I get comments a lot about it. There are certain episodes that keep coming up and that’s one. That’s an old one.
If someone’s embarking on this, that’s a good place to start to frame how to think about making a remarkable life.
Julie was a guest on that episode.
That’s why it’s one of my favorites.
It was with our mutual friend, Jill.
It’s fitting. If you’re going to start thinking about creating a remarkable life, that’s a good episode to start.
In that episode, we put forth some of our tips and ways to think about it, in a sense. It’s a pretty broad set of perspectives.
You bring research into it.
Both of you have always been about being very intentional about life. You happen to life. Life doesn’t happen to you. That’s a powerful idea. A lot of people feel overwhelmed by life. Sometimes, they don’t always feel conscious, but they’ve made a set of decisions and are living with the results of those decisions and it feels hard to undo it.
I’ll give you an example of this. Busyness. All three of us have a lot going on. We were joking about fitting this in. Our busyness is a result of our ambitions and our decisions, either to say yes to things or not say no to things. I have a friend who does not live a busy life. He’s a professor and he does not live a busy life. It’s shocking to me. Some of it is he happens to be good at the job, which helps, in a way that I’m not good at the job. I remember he nonchalantly said to me something. I was admiring how much freedom he had in his schedule. He said, “If you start saying no to nearly everything except the most important things, after about a year or two, you’ll have time in your schedule.”
I was like, “I’m going to start on that path.” I remember very methodically giving more thought to the things I said yes to and no to. I certainly have a lot more flexibility in my schedule. I happen to fill it with other things that I’d rather be doing. That’s the way I’m wired. It’s that idea of having an intention, which is I value having some space to think, read, sleep, spend time with friends and my dogs, or go to therapy. I value whatever those things are. I value having to focus on my health, for example, which is something I’ve done, and how that pays such dividends.
Have you done an episode on that?
Write it down.
I’ll add it to the list. Kym, what do you think? What episode stands out to you?
I have a couple that I wrote down. The series on friendship I thought was great. It kicks off with you and Julie. I thought that was a great episode. I feel like every Solo has different paths. People aren’t always in pursuit of relationships, which is a topic you covered. Most Solos, I feel like, have meaningful friendships as primary relationships in their lives. You started with that episode and then it was a series that you did about friendship. I love that one. I thought it was about the value of friendship, how to have hard conversations in friendships, and people who were choosing friendships to be primary relationships even when they had other partners.
It’s this notion of a platonic partnership. That’s very exciting.
I don’t know. I feel like my friendships, for me, are the most important relationships that I have. I live very far away from my family, so it’s friendship for me.
I’m not who I am without my friendships. My friendships have made me who I am much more than my romantic relationships have.
That makes sense. The romantic relationships can come and go. I think about my friends and how many evolutions of that they’ve watched me go through. My friends are there through and through, and that’s where the focus should be.
That’s true. Julie’s my soul sister.
You guys have a cute friendship. That episode was cute to see your friendship and how it started.
That episode was important because it also started to force me to think about what makes a friendship remarkable. Those were the beginning thoughts of that. We have arrived at these three elements. Do you want to give them to me? Do you want a quiz?
That’s right. A remarkable friend is trustworthy. They’re going to be honest with you. They keep your secrets. They show up when they’re going to show up. You can rely on them. That’s incredibly important.
That’s right. They practice compersion. A friend celebrates your successes and commiserates your failures, as opposed to a frenemy who is happy when you fail and unhappy when you succeed.
What is the third one?
The third one is the most obvious one. It almost is, by definition, what a friendship is, which is that your friends provide value in your life. Your life is better with them in it, and their lives are better with you in it. They add more than they subtract.
I love all of that. I feel like that episode is especially important for singles and Solos to check out. I feel like a lot of times, there’s potential in friendships where other people have partners and you don’t. It forced me to sit down and think, “Are these friendships adding value to my life? Am I getting taken advantage of because I have more flexibility because I don’t have the kids or the husband? Am I always the one giving?” For me, it was a good reflection to revisit that episode.
That’s an interesting puzzle. Mary Delia, who has been on the show a couple of times, talks about how as Solos, we can often step in and step up in a way that other people can’t because they have obligations. She said it eloquently. She said that we can choose to be uncomfortable because our lives are so comfortable. I like that idea.
What you’re highlighting, Kym, is I’m happy to support my married friends and my friends with children and accommodate their schedules because they’re often more limited. However, they still have to provide value in my life. They can’t take, in a sense. That’s where the friction lies. They are taught their husband or wife is the most important adult in their life. That person holds great sway over their behavior and their values. They often have veto power over what they do, who they spend time with, and so on. It’s very easy to take, in a sense, and forget that you also need to give. There are two ways. That’s a big insight.
I was thinking of an example. I have a friend who’s single. Her mom passed away and she needed to clean out her mom’s apartment. A lot of times, you’d rely on a partner to help you do that. I was like, “When can I come over? How can I help? What can I do?” Recognizing that she would need to lean on her friends to help her through this. It’s also interesting for people out there, whether Solo or partner, to think about your single friends or Solo friends as they’re going through maybe a time of need and stepping into that. A lot of times, the partner is the default support system for someone.
There was an episode on Being Single with Cancer. I had Tracy Maxwell on. It’s a heavy episode and a serious episode. One of the things that Tracy, I thought, was great about is she was like, “Ask. Do not wait for it.” The idea is that if you need help, there are times to say, and I say this to friends oftentimes, “Do you want me there or do you need me there?” I give them a choice. I’m like, “If it’s want, I may not be there, but if it’s need, I’m on the plane,” or whatever that thing is.
These are friends. They become more important when times get tough. It’s easy to be a good friend when things are okay or when things are good. People will reveal themselves to you. When you’re in distress or when you need help, ask. You’ll then find out whether these people have what it takes and whether you have what it takes to maintain this friendship. This is the way life is. It doesn’t always get better.
That’s such a good lesson. When I wrecked my mountain bike a couple of years ago, I hurt my left shoulder and right hand. I couldn’t use my arms. It was difficult. I should have reached out more to ask people. If I had a partner, it would’ve been not so hard.
I had a similar experience where I needed help from friends. I needed to have a surgical procedure and I was out. It was so hard for me to ask. Why do you think that is?
I know why it is. To be good at being single or to be a Solo is to embrace your autonomy. It is to have this strong sense of self-sufficiency. It ends up being maladaptive in certain circumstances. I’ll give you my story. I had a vasectomy. I went alone to this procedure. It was a bad experience, but I was like, “Everything is fine. I’m fine. Everything’s good.”
You took an Uber.
It was surprisingly stressful and emotional. I ended up sitting in the waiting room for an entire afternoon. I was the last person in the waiting room. It was the final procedure. For the doctor, this was no big deal. He does this stuff all the time. For me, this was a very important step in life. It’s a vulnerable position. I was starving, so I went across the street, ate at an IHOP, and took an Uber home. I was not in a good place. I remember a friend of mine. She was like, “You should’ve called me.” I was in my normal mode like, “I got this. I’m kicking ass. No big deal,” kind of thing.
You’re right. It’s being so used to doing it alone and being able to do it alone.
To your point, how do you recognize that opportunity before it’s too late? All three of us after the fact are like, “I should have asked for help.”
We’re like, “If I could do that again, I should have.”
It’s being more aware.
I’m much better about thinking these things through, having had the experience. What other episodes?
I know I’ve said this before. One of my favorite episodes is titled What is Ethical Non-Monogamy?
That was an early episode.
It was very eye-opening. Whether you adopt that or not, it helps you think about how we’ve been programmed and how that’s not the only way. That episode opened my mind to different ways of doing things and different opportunities.
It was a lot of new ideas for me. I was learning on the fly. That wasn’t even a planned episode. I had gone to dinner with a friend and the topic came up. I was like, “Can we talk about this on my show?’ She was like, “Yeah, sure.” One of the things I liked about her was how comfortable and confident she was with those ideas and how normalized that was.
I subsequently had an episode with a neuroscientist who studies sex. She has work that shows that the average person is not as monogamous as you think they are, at least in terms of their attitudes. A lot of people sit in this space between monogamy and non-monogamy, in a sense. It’s not as categorical as we tend to think. Between those two episodes, it can be quite normalizing for folks.
It’s also interesting. I’ve talked to people about this and you can get a little bit of pushback on ethical non-monogamy. If you’re on a dating app, people are probably dating lots of people and are not telling you that they are until you have a conversation. The great part about it is you talk about it upfront. It’s all honest and open. There’s communication. It’s better than the old version, which is to keep dating as long as you can until someone makes you commit or puts you in that position of having to decide to commit or not.
When you say commit, you mean become monogamous.
You can commit to someone in a non-monogamous way.
That’s a good point.
This is all very exciting. It goes back to my rules, which is where does the harm lie? Oftentimes, the harm lies in people being dishonest. We call it ethical non-monogamy or consensual non-monogamy for that reason because so much of non-monogamy tends to be cheating. Is there a consent? Do you allow someone to choose or not choose a matching lifestyle?
We’ve since had a lot of different kinds of styles of relationship. I’ve talked about asexuality. I’ve talked about romanticism and Solo polyamory. I have these four different types of singles, which are some days, just mays, no ways, and then this group which I call new ways. These are people who welcome romance and/or sex into their life, but the relationship doesn’t look traditional. Those people can, to your point, Julie, feel out of bounds or feel uncomfortable. They feel like, “Is it okay to bring my desires up with a potential partner? Are they going to be accepting of them even if they’re not a match or am I going to feel judged? Am I going to feel, in many, ways put down?”
A big mindset shift in that situation could be as you are developing your Soloness and maybe not so tied to being in a relationship, you have less to lose. When you want to be in a relationship and you’re on a date with somebody, you don’t want to say something that’s going to rock the boat or make them not interested if you like them. As you’re developing your Soloness, confidence, and, “I’m living my life on my terms,” then it’s much easier to bring your perspective to the table. If that’s not their perspective or doesn’t agree with them, good. It’s better to find out sooner than later.
That’s right. It’s an abundance mindset. A lot of the way dating feels, especially from a heteronormative perspective as a man, is very scarce. You don’t get many matches. They don’t go anywhere. You have a match. You’re sitting across from someone. They’re lovely. You’re having a nice time. It’s very easy to be terrified to ask for what you want because this lovely individual may be like, “See ya. No, thanks.”
Having an abundance mindset is sexy. There’s something interesting and exciting about someone knowing what they want, knowing what they like, being comfortable talking about it, leading with honesty, and not being afraid, in a sense. People will often be more receptive to you when you approach them in that way, which brings me to my episode.
Tell us. Drum roll.
It is the Relationship Design episode, which is relatively new. That is a winner. That’s with Jessalyn Dean. We have a conversation about this idea. I have a whole chapter in the book on relationship design, which applies design principles to your relationships. It is to co-create a relationship with your partner, partners, friends, family, or child. It’s not just about romance and sex, but rather defaulting into a script. The people decide on what are the rules, the agreements, and the expectations. They revisit as necessary and revise as necessary.
To your point, Julie, I remember I have a friend of mine. His friend was giving me some advice about my dating profile. I had put something in there about, “I’m open to a wide array of possibilities.” One of the possibilities I put was FWB, which there’s an episode on Friends With Benefits that’s very fun. She was like, “I don’t know if you should put that in there. That might scare some people off.” I was like, “I would be open to that. If I don’t put that in there, how do I know if someone wants it?” It’s not in there anymore. I’ve changed the way I do the apps, but you get to have a conversation.
What Jessalyn in the episode talks about is that she’s trying to create a Venn diagram with the overlap between what she wants and what her partner wants. You need to know what your partner’s interests are in order to decide what the nature of your relationship is going to look like. You might have an FWB, a Friends With Benefits, or a sexual friendship with one person, but you might have a different style of relationship with another person. The only way you can find out whether that’s a good fit is to talk about it and be vulnerable. Ask for what you want.
I love that. Does anyone else have to Google all the acronyms? Anytime I get on Hinge or Bumble, I’m on Google half the time trying to figure out what it is people want.
The nice thing about the apps for all their failings is that they have more categories. They’re not defaulting people into particular. For example, you can indicate if you’re open to non-monogamy or if you prefer non-monogamy or you prefer monogamy. That can make the sorting or matching process a little less fraught.
I wanted to make one more comment about honesty and communicating upfront. What I’ve noticed is when you start that way, it sets the stage for such amazing opportunities to communicate about all kinds of things like boundary setting or anything. When you start with that, my experience has been that so much easier to have communication throughout the relationship.
The nice thing about honesty is that it sorts. If someone’s like, “I want to be with you. I want to spend time with you,” they’re doing it because they have full information. They’re never going to be surprised. Breakups should never be a surprise. If there are some issues with the relationship, they should be brought up. You should be working on those kinds of things. If someone someday goes, “I don’t want to see you anymore,” unless there’s some unusual circumstance, that’s unfair. It means you haven’t been honest with that person about some of those issues that are there. You can give someone a chance to correct something that’s a problem.
It’s also important on the other side of things. If someone is being honest and saying, “This is what I want. This is what I’m open to,” do not shame them and be accepting of it. You don’t have to do it, but you don’t have to shame them. You have to acknowledge it’s okay that they want this thing that might be different than what you want. That’s because, then, it’s allowing people to move forward with their own authentic truth.
We don’t do this in other places in life, or I guess we do a little bit, but not to the same degree. Sex and romance have this weird moral element to it. I agree with you, Kym. I want people to tell me exactly the stuff that they like and want, so then I can say, “I can do this, but I can’t do that.” They can say to me, “I can do this, but I can’t do that.” If we can find that sliver of an event that Jessalyn talks about, then we have a chance to try something out. If not, it’s like, “You seem wonderful. Good luck.” You’d be amazed at the number of times I text the following line, “I don’t think I’m the right man for you.”
It’s a true statement. I’m like, “I don’t think I’m the right man for you, but thanks for considering me. I wish you the best.
What kind of responses do you get?
Generally very good.
People want clarity too. There’s nothing worse than wondering.
They want to know.
This is relevant to friendships too. This has come up with guests and then also in the Solo community where people are like, “There’s this person in my life who I am drawn to. As a friend, I’d like to develop that. How do I do it?” The best way to do it is, “I like spending time with you. I value our friendship. Can we spend more time together? What could that look like?” That is a relationship kind of design conversation to have. The person is certainly going to be flattered. If they feel the same way, they’re going to try to accommodate it. If they’re a high-integrity person and the kind of friend you want, they’re going to say yes and whatever limits they end up having.
I have this thought of shame and rejection is what’s stopping people from saying what they want. When you start to practice in other areas in relationships, in your job, or in doing some creative pursuit and you’re not afraid of that rejection, it spans into every other area of your life.
What you’re saying is to practice this in other areas that you feel more comfortable in.
As your self-confidence grows, it spreads. You become a more self-confident person.
For your situation, Kym, you quit this dead-end job that you could’ve kept doing. You were good at it. You were valued there, but it wasn’t fulfilling to you, so you started this new business. That’s a big win.
In comparison, asking someone if they want to spend more time with you is relatively minor, in a sense, so you build your confidence in this other way.
I have friendships. I have one friendship in particular. We met at the end of my last breakup. Everything I never did in a relationship, I did in that friendship. It was like a trial run of a romantic relationship but with a platonic partnership kind of thing. That’s interesting. When you start to set boundaries and live authentically in one area, it overflows.
It’s a dominant strategy to approach life from a sense of opportunity, abundance, integrity, and honesty. You start getting rewarded for it. That’s so exciting. The other thing is, it’s impossible to avoid failure in life. It’s impossible to avoid heartbreak. It’s impossible to avoid loss. You can’t let your failures define you because they are inevitable. You’re going to take some Ls. What matters is the growth that we have and that we are a better person at the end of the year than we were at the beginning of the year. We’ve learned that those failures or those Ls not only do not define us, but we can use them to become better.
Those help us get to the next level.
When you’re getting wins, that does not spur change, reflection, and so on. They’re great to have, but it’s those difficult times when we become better people. It is like the stress of exercise makes us more fit.
One of my favorite quotes of yours is negative emotion creates positive change. It’s so powerful.
Here’s the thing. It’s hard to lean in when you’re having heartbreak, you’re mourning something, or you’re grieving, or when you feel anxious, when you’re scared, or when you’re angry. That’s your body and mind telling you, “There’s something awry here. There’s an opportunity here.” I know it’s easy to say this stuff. I’m previewing a lot of the Solo Thoughts thing. I had this mushroom trip. It was a heavy day. When I was going to bed, I had this voice recorder I was using and said, “I was alive today. I was so alive.”
I experienced the full range of emotions. I saw this sunset that brought tears to my eyes, and then I sat on the couch and wept over a relationship that had changed in a way that I hadn’t fully grieved. I danced and played music. I had a day. I think about that, and that’s what makes us human. It’s not that things are good, comfortable, or whatever. What makes us human is sometimes the things that are difficult. I was willing to live in those joyous moments and tragic moments all within the same day. I’m looking for, like, “How can I be alive today?” I feel alive. Last call for episodes.
You have the one where you introduce the relationship escalator. That one’s important. When you read the book, you’ll see that’s an important episode. You talk about that one. I also liked episode 68. It was you, Shane, and was it Kris?
Yes. Kris Marsh.
You guys sit down and workshop the relationship escalator. You dissect what each part of it means and where it all came from. There was a lot of humor and levity in that episode. It was pretty funny.
It was a little bit of a reversal. It was What Makes a Relationship Unconventional.
For people who are unfamiliar with the relationship escalator, it has these rules. It has the rule of monogamy, which we’ve already addressed. There’s this rule of hierarchy, which we’ve also addressed, that this is supposed to be the most important adult-adult relationship in your life. There’s also merging. You merge your life, often your finances, and even your identity. We call it the bifurcation of a relationship.
It’s a fun episode. We talked about what might an unmerged life look like, what might a life where you have a flatter hierarchy look like where your high-status relationship is a platonic partnership, for example, or what a non-monogamous life might look like, either romantically, sexually, and so on. We had a pretty good time.
It was hitting it from a different angle with a lot of humor, which I enjoyed.
It was fun. I have a table in the book that’s very fun. I give credit to Laura Grant, who’s been a regular guest. She helped me create the table where we list various styles of relationships and then we say, “This one contains monogamy. This one contains merging. This one contains status, and some of them don’t.” The bottom one is relationship design, and there are question marks all over those kinds of things, which is fun. I like that episode too.
With the relationship escalator stuff, I knew it, but I didn’t know it. Amy Gahran, who wrote a wonderful book, Stepping Off the Relationship Escalator: Uncommon Love and Life, changed my life. She gave me this model by which to understand what’s on Disney, what is in the love songs, what’s in Pride & Prejudice, and all these things.
It is this one thing that everybody, at one point in time, was in lockstep towards and is no longer. People can feel adrift because they don’t want that. It doesn’t work for them. They tried it and it was fine, but they’ve moved on. People are like, “Is there anybody special in your life?” They’re not asking about your friends. This episode is coming out right before the launch of the book. I am very excited about this. I’m working hard. I’ve been inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Arnold has a book out. I haven’t read the book yet, but I’ve heard him on podcasts talking about it. He, at one point in time, was one of the biggest stars of Hollywood. Action hero and A-List celebrity was his second chapter. His first chapter was to be one of the world’s greatest bodybuilders. His third chapter was public service, becoming the governor of California. One of the things that he said was part of the reason for his success was that he worked as hard at selling his movies as he did at making his movies.
I don’t like selling. I’ll be honest. I’m not hitting the social media very hard. I like making this show. I like making all the other things related to Solo, Salon, and so on, but I’m not hustling, selling, and marketing the way I could. Arnold would say should. I am committed to selling the crap out of this book. Hopefully, that will happen when it arrives. I’ll be busy doing interviews, answering emails, and whatever opportunities come up.
Your inspiration to sell is not financially driven. It’s your passion to help people out there who don’t know that this community exists and who are feeling lost or not supported. You shift that mindset of instead of selling, it’s helping.
That’s a good point.
Maybe you change the nomenclature. You’re passionate about it, so I don’t think it’s going to suck like it would if it was selling for you.
There’s that story of a kid. There are all these starfish that are washed up on the beach. He’s throwing the starfish back into the ocean, and there are thousands of them. Some crusty old dude comes along and is like, “You’re not going to be able to save all these starfish.” The kid says, “I can save this one,” and throws it back into the ocean. I feel that way about this project. I don’t like email, but I cherish the notes that I get from people who thank me for doing this. I only need a few extra notes.
Is it to keep you inspired?
Yeah, in that sense.
As you’re thinking about marketing, how can you do it in a way that feels fun to you? Even if you do some of the traditional channels, you’ll put your own spin on it. It will be fun. It will be light and entertaining. You’re going to do great.
I got emotional because I started leaning on the Solo community and asking for their help. They are stepping up. It has been good. I could hire people to do these kinds of things, but that’s harder to do in many ways. These people know me. They know the movement. Many of them have been with me from the start, like you folks. They’ve been incredibly generous and happy to help. That’s been good because that expands the scope of what I can do. I know that it’s going to get done well because the people care so much. They’re doing it because it’s meaningful work for them.
It’s organic too because they can relate.
Do you have a marketing plan or what’s it going to look like?
We’ll get to that in a moment.
He wants to stick with the plan.
Before we do that, I’m going to ask a question. I gave you a galley of the book, an early look at the book, which you have looked at at least. I want to ask. What did you think of it? This book happened so fast. I only had a very small number of friendly readers. I like to give advice. I like to take advice. I like to have lots of input. You both know this. I’m constantly calling you and asking for your advice about things, but I wasn’t able to do that. I luckily had a very good editor whose instincts I trusted, in part because she cut so much of the book. I want to get your reaction to it. For someone who has pre-ordered it who’s going to get it, what might they expect from it? I know the book, but I’m biased.
What I love most about it is that it’s a mix. It’s a mix between a little bit of memoir and a little bit of data, science, and history. I loved the Solo love letters because they brought the community into it. It’s not just your perspective. It shows many different angles and perspectives of being Solo and what that means.
In between each chapter, I have two Solo love letters. Though they’re from people in the community and diverse voices, I’m sharing their stories. Some of those letters are written by the people I got emotional about, who are stepping up and helping me with some of the marketing.
Where did that idea come from, the love letters?
I don’t remember the exact moment of inception, but I took this approach with the show, in which I knew that my experiences as a single person were limited. Knowing whether someone’s single tells you almost nothing about their life. It doesn’t tell you how old they are. It doesn’t tell you where they live. It doesn’t tell you what they do for a living. It doesn’t tell you about their desire for romance and sex. It tells you almost nothing, in a sense.
I certainly knew that my story was important to me, but it wasn’t going to resonate with most people, so I always have been looking for guests who have different perspectives and different experiences. When I went out to sell the book, first of all, and Kym and I have covered this, no one wanted this book. I had two interviews for the book. In the first interview, the editor said, “What makes you think you can speak for singles given your background?”
You’ve been thoughtful about it for many years.
I said, “I recognize that as a straight White man, my experience is quite limited. With that in mind, I have invited all these different voices onto the show and I want to include them in the book.” I thought that having people write their own letters was going to be much richer and more authentic than me trying to translate their experiences. I’m not a good enough writer to be able to pull that off. There are writers who can do that, and who can make people even more interesting than they are. I was like, “Let me give them a sheet of paper and a pen and let them do it, and I’m going to put it out there.”
That was one of my favorite parts, too. Those were cool.
It’s essential. I don’t think that the book works without it. It would be fine. I want someone who’s reading the book to say, “I can see myself in Darlene or Steve, or Carrie.” There’s a little something there for everyone.
One of the things that I enjoyed about the book, which we have covered a little bit, is the history of why society views relationships and the escalator of how that all came to be. It’s all made up.
It was invented. I know.
I learned a lot. I was reading all these books about the history of marriage, the rise of culture, and so on. Marriages are a relatively new invention. Humans have been around for a couple of hundred thousand years. Marriage has been around for many years. Marriage was invented to solve a problem. It had nothing to do with love, or very little to do with love at the very beginning.
This time, it has a lot to do with love, and that has been, in general, a benefit, especially for women because it gives them more choice. They’re not a piece of property being transferred from a father to a husband. I feel like the big insight is that if it could be invented, adopted, and changed, it can continue to change. To the degree that is not serving a valuable role in society, it can become increasingly optional. Choosing to forego it or choosing to delay it is okay by me.
You could be designing it in a different way.
Who says that your marriage has to have sex in it? Who says that you have to live with your partner?
Who says that your sex has to have marriage in it?
Amen. I want to finish with the following, whether a reader is new or old. If they’re old, they may not have stuck with us this far because so much of this is going to be familiar. I want to ask a question, and I alluded to it earlier. I am certainly not leading this movement. This is happening whether I exist or not. I’m joining it. There are lots of other voices out there. There are new podcasts that are popping up and the work that Bella DePaulo has been inspiring other researchers to do work on. Other people are writing books or memoirs out there. I’ve had these people as guests and so on. Frankly, I’m exhausted. If someone’s reading and they want to contribute and help the Solo movement, what advice do you have for them?
It’s sharing with your friends, sharing with your community, listening to the episodes, and doing what you can to put yourself on the path of living your best life. When people see that you’re Solo or “single” and you’re thriving, it gives more power to the movement.
I pitched this idea to Kris Marsh, who is a sociologist. I have it in the book that singles beget singles. When I was a boy, there was one bachelor on my street. He drove a Trans Am group and grew weed in his backyard.
We talked about him, didn’t we?
It’s in the book.
I feel like he’s come up on the show.
He probably has. People thought he was a little weird. You need role models out there if you’re going to live a remarkable life. Some people go, “Kym’s doing it. I can do it too.” Hiding away your life is not serving that person who wants and needs some inspiration, in a sense.
I have endless examples of being out in the world and sharing my experience with friends and how many of my friends have told their friends, “You should talk to Julie,” or, “You should check out the Solo.”
You hosted a networking event.
I hosted an event for entrepreneurs called Creative Sparks. We were plugging into the collective knowledge of entrepreneurs and helping solve problems. Peter attended. The participants were at tables of four. Peter was sitting across from this woman, Nicole. He starts talking about his book and the marketing around it, and Nicole says, “There’s this good show you should check out. It’s called Solo.”
Is that the best thing you’ve ever heard in your life?
It was jaw-dropping.
There’s more. The next day, she went to a meeting on a dating app and her date told her about the Solo show.
He was like, “There’s this show called Solo.”
She texted me and was like, “You’re never going to believe what happened.”
That’s amazing. I’m surprised she didn’t recognize your voice when you guys were sitting across from each other.
She said she had learned about it and read a couple of episodes.
I’ve had younger women ask me to do a seminar informally. They’re like, “We should have a girl’s night. Julie can talk about how she lives such an amazing, remarkable life.” I went to a concert by myself once and met these two women at the bar. They started asking me lots of questions and I was very open about how I live my life and what’s important to me. They were like, “I want to be you when I grow up.” I’m like, “Don’t wait until you grow up. Do it now.” It’s not being afraid to share. Sometimes, I would get a little bit like, “This is a lot for some traditional-minded people,” but don’t hide. Be proud of it.
I’ve got a few things. Join the Soul community. We have a new platform, which is very exciting. If you tune in to the show, you’ve read people refer to the Slack channel. We are no longer on Slack. We’ve moved over to a platform that is a little more user-friendly and has the kind of features that are good for a community. You can sign up at PeterMcGraw.org/Solo.
A few other things are even if you’re not interested in the book, there probably is someone who could benefit from it. It’s written for a broad audience. Is there someone struggling with their identity? Is there someone who’s looking for a chance to reinvent and looking for some inspiration? It could be a good gift, especially since Valentine’s Day will be coming. Is there a person who shouldn’t be partnered or is unpartnered who might want to enjoy the read?
Reviewing the book matters a lot. If people could write an honest review, that matters. The number of reviews helps in terms of giving it credibility. Another is telling a podcast host. If you listen to other podcasts about the movement, tell them about some of the guests we’ve had. I’m very happy to talk to anybody who has a podcast that has more than three listeners to talk about this. If you know a journalist, someone who’s writing about culture, relationships, or society, let them know about this. I will happily talk to those folks. It could be your city newspaper or your local radio station. I’m going to be available for that.
I had one other that is important as part of the community, which is being open-minded to all perspectives. Don’t yuck someone else’s yum. You alluded to that earlier, Kym. It takes all kinds. Be supportive. Be open-minded. Think, “I could see why that might work for some people, but it’s not for me, and that’s fine.”
You want to be accepted for being single. That willingness to accept should be extended more broadly. I’m not anti-marriage. I think it’s over-prescribed. I want people to find the path that works for them. If it’s super kinky and weird, go for it. Find the thing. If you want to have an unconventional relationship, go for it. As long as there’s no harm and as long as there’s consent, that notion of acceptance should be very broadly applied. Having a perspective of abundance helps. There’s plenty of space in the world for lots of different types of relationships in the same way there are lots of different cuisines, lots of different ways to work out, and lots of different geographies to live in.
It’s like going back to finding the diet that suits your physiology best.
The last way I have that people could help support the movement is if you’re on a dating app, put it in your dating profile. Not only would it spread the word, but since we’re hearing of these overlaps, it could create a bridge or a commonality with somebody. If you meet up with them, you’re going to have an interesting conversation if you both already know about it. It’s a great way. It’s part of the target audience.
I’m going to try that. I’ll let you know what happened.
I bet you’ll have some stories.
Thank you two for being with me from the start, supporting me in my good moments, my wins, and my less-than-desirable moments. I appreciate you two picking up the phone, coming to the Solo studio, and contributing to helping make this book happen.
My pleasure. It’s been so fun to be on this journey and watch you grow. It’s been amazing.
I can’t wait to see what happens next.
I love everything about this. I love your evolution and all the Solos out there.
- Kym Terribile
- Julie Nirvelli
- Episode 50 – Past Episode
- Episode 100 – Past Episode
- Episode 150 – Past Episode
- Episode 1 – Past Episode
- Bella DePaulo– Past Episode
- What Makes a Life Remarkable – Past Episode
- Mary Delia – Past Episode
- Being Single with Cancer – Past Episode
- What is Ethical Non-Monogamy? – Past Episode
- Relationship Design – Past Episode
- Friends With Benefits – Past Episode
- Getting Off The Relationship Escalator – Past Episode
- What Makes a Relationship Unconventional – Past Episode
- Stepping Off the Relationship Escalator: Uncommon Love and Life
- Pride & Prejudice
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 18+ years. As a strong, independent and fun-loving person, Julie embraces the solo life. She is also a Solo sponsor, with her company Bachelor Girl productions, which offers you 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 podcast). Kym holds a degree in English Literature from the University of Hawaii and now lives in Longmont, Colorado.