The dreaded “single” status can make the best of us feel unworthy. But what if singledom had a deeper, more-amazing purpose?
“I’m single.” It’s a phrase we’re taught to dread hearing, but why can’t it be a good thing?
Walk into any café or bar in the world and you’re bound to hear at least one group of women lamenting dating or telling their girlfriends about a terrible guy they went out with last night. What inevitably follows is something along the lines of:
“I mean, I just give up. There’s no one left. I’m going to be single forever.”
It’s a melodramatic statement at best—and also a terrible outlook in general.
Why not enjoy being alone while you have the opportunity? We put so much emphasis on finding someone the moment we get out of a relationship—out of fear—that we forget to enjoy being alone. There are so many valuable lessons to learn about oneself, without the emphasis of another person.
I’ve been single—really single—for about a year now. I was in an on-again off-again relationship for the better part of three years, so I spent the month after we broke up telling every friend I had that I was probably going to be alone forever and there was no hope for me. (I have a friend that calls me a walking hyperbole, for a little insight here.)
The next month, I decided I needed to start dating again, with disastrous results. This continued for another month or two, until I dated a guy for a little while. That didn’t quite work out, and since then I’ve been enjoying my free time.
Embracing the Single Life
Somewhere along the way, a switch flipped. I realized I was having fun by myself. I was having fun being selfish. We’re taught from a young age that selfishness is a bad thing—and it is in many areas of life—but not this one, while I’m alone. For the last eight months, I’ve done anything and everything I wanted, without thinking about anyone but myself.
Here’s why that’s a good thing: I am learning so much about my likes, dislikes, preferences, thoughts feelings, views, beliefs—and everything else under the sun. I’m getting to know myself better than ever.
If we don’t know ourselves fully and completely before entering into a relationship with another person, it’s bound for disaster from the beginning. Relationships, at least in the beginning, are for getting to know someone well enough to decide whether they are someone you can spend the rest of your life with. Without knowing what’s a deal breaker and what is a potential compromise for you, it’s impossible to tell someone else what those things are.
If you find yourself single—whether it was expected or unexpected—embrace it.
Spend time doing exactly what you want to be doing. Spend your evenings at yoga, because you can. Have a smoothie for dinner instead of cooking. Watch every episode of Sex and the City from beginning to end. Go for Saturday morning runs by the lake—then take a nap. Dance around the apartment while cleaning. Go on a vacation alone.
This is my list, if you haven’t noticed yet. Decide what your own list is, and then do whatever your heart desires and everything you need to do to get to know yourself. Learn everything you can—the ins and outs of your personality, every little idiosyncrasy.
Opening Yourself to New Relatinships
But don’t close yourself off because you’re enjoying being alone. Whatever you do, don’t close yourself off. Be open to finding someone once you’re done being alone. Because just like the first switch that flipped, I know it will again, and I’ll be ready for the next relationship. I still go on dates and meet people, but make sure to keep the things I’ve learned in the forefront of my mind. I remember the things I absolutely cannot compromise on, and think about the things I could probably let go. If my date doesn’t seem like a great fit, I keep moving on, keep being single and keep doing my own thing.
If you’re worried about forgetting what you learned about yourself, take up journaling. Put post-its on your mirror or in your closet. Write it in your date book. Make notes on a calendar. Just remember what’s important to you somehow, and even take a minute to acknowledge the things you miss about being with another person.
Then, when the time comes around, take everything you learned from your time alone, and apply it to making the next relationship work better than ever. Use all the pieces, put them together and decipher whether your new partner fits into your life, and don’t be afraid to compromise on the issues that aren’t deal breakers.
Figure out what things are important for you to keep for yourself, and make sure you hold onto them once you’re not alone anymore. Make sure it’s clear you need 15 minutes each night to decompress when you get home; let your partner know that early Saturday mornings are for your weekly bike ride. Whatever those things are, make sure not to lose them, because ultimately those little things that belong to only you will help your relationship last. You’ve set boundaries based on the things that you learned while you were single.
Then think about all of the things you missed while you were single. See how a new person stacks up against the relationship must-haves for you. If all signs point to yes, then take a leap. Don’t be afraid to fall. But don’t forget what you learned from being single.
[image: via Jesus Solana on flickr]