After being with my partner for four years, we both knew the end was near. We weren’t happy and we couldn’t make each other happy. But that relationship felt like all I knew, and I had been miserable single, so I kept my head in the sand. Finally, my partner said what we were both thinking, and we broke up.
I never doubted whether it was the right decision, but it was still heartbreaking. My relationship had left me with a lot of wounds and baggage, and I needed to heal myself. I had lost the person I placed my self-worth on, and it was so tempting to look for a quick-fix, something casual to fill my self-esteem. But I needed to be okay alone. I needed to learn how to be happy alone.
I was determined that I needed to stay single for a while. I needed to appreciate being alone. I needed to ensure that I would never stay in something that’s wrong for me again.
So I chose to stay single and not really date. I chose to spend time with myself instead. Along the way, something pretty incredible happened. I stop needing to be single and reached a point where I wanted to be single. I found that I loved the freedom it gave me. Finally, I became my own priority. I was learning how to be a whole person alone.
I had reached the point where I could start dating again, but I no longer wanted to. I was choosing to be alone, and this was the best thing I could have done. And doing so meant that when I finally did enter a new relationship, I’d be better at it.
When people complain about being single, they’re usually complaining about dating. The only times I hear something negative is when you’ve had an awful date or you’re drowning on the dating apps. Those aren’t necessarily things about being single, they’re about dating. There’s a difference between being single and dating.
I’ll admit that it can be frustrating to not have a date for functions. I try to see it as a chance to focus on catching up with people and not have to ensure my partner is having a good time.
But actually being single is a great thing. You get to choose how to spend your time. You get to focus on your friends. When planning trips or events, you don’t have to check with another person. You get to be a whole person without the influence of someone else. You can question what you like and what you liked for them. You can have opinions that no one else influenced.
If you don’t enjoy being single, then you’re always looking for a way to end it, and so you’re entering a relationship for that reason. You’re looking for anyone, rather than someone.
Being single should be so great that you have to give it up for someone. You should feel like you’re sacrificing it because someone is so great. You should never enter a relationship just to be in one because that is never the path to happiness. You should choose a person, not a relationship.
If you’re unhappy alone, you’ll never know whether you’re in a relationship for the right reason. You’ll be with someone to avoid being alone, rather than being with someone who makes your life a better place.
You need to be a complete person alone so that a partner is an addition, rather than a missing piece. You need to enjoy being single so that you’re in a relationship for a specific person, rather than to fill a void. People should never be used to fill voids, as you’ll both end up hurt in the end.
You’ve got to choose to be in a relationship, and you can’t do that if you think you need one; a need is never a choice.
It isn’t always easy. And there are definitely days where I have doubts or think how great a cuddle would be. But learning to be happy alone is one of the best gifts that you can offer yourself. It’s a chance to practice self-love and to appreciate who you are, so you know exactly what you deserve and want.
Like anything, it takes practice. You take things day by day. Here are some tips I’ve gathered over the years:
1. When you’re newly single, avoid the temptation to ‘get over it by getting under someone’. That’s a bandaid on your healing. You need to feel good without someone else’s approval, which is the hardest part of a breakup. Hold out and focus on yourself.
2. Be present in your emotions. If you’re upset after a breakup, then allow this, embrace it. Don’t feel embarrassed to be sad. Be honest with yourself and others, so we can fight the stigma surrounding how long you can be sad after a breakup.
3. Date yourself. Ever see something fun you want to do and wonder who you can get to come with you? Yourself. That’s who. You shouldn’t invite a person for the sake of it. Do great things alone. Go for long walks, go to markets, go to the cinema, go to a cafe. Take baby steps and build it up. Don’t miss out on things because you’re single.
4. Read! There are great books about being single that don’t focus on dating. Learn more about it and realise you’re not alone.
5. Travel! If you’re up for it, then definitely travel alone. It can be daunting, but it’s so worth it. Remember that you don’t have to be constantly making friends when you travel alone, you can do it for your own company. If you’re not quite there, travel with another single friend! Find your travel soulmate and enjoy exploring new places with them.
6. Say it with pride. When someone asks if I’m dating, I can happily tell them I’m not. If I’m feeling really cheeky, I’ll even point out that this is the first question they’re asking me, and there are far more interesting things to discuss about my life. Be proud of your single status. Refuse to wear it like a scarlet letter. If more people said they were single by choice, it wouldn’t be such a shameful thing.
7. Catch yourself when you have the thought that something would be better in a relationship. Why would it be better? If you want something to cuddle, get a plushie. If you want company, see a friend. If you want to go somewhere, then go. If you want to feel good about yourself, then practice self-love. If you want sex, have a one-night-stand or better yet, invest in a sex toy. If you want a Valentine’s Day gift, buy one for yourself. Tackle your thought process each time to see long-term effects.
When you’re happy alone, you know that you can always return to it. You’ll never stay in something that’s wrong for you. You’ll never have that grass is greener thought, as you know exactly what the field looks like. You’ll be choosing a person rather than a relationship status, and that’s how you find someone great.
Learn to be happy single and say it proudly. Learn your baseline, so you can only add to it and never take from it. Enter relationships by choice, not need, not convenience, because that’s what you deserve.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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