When my first serious relationship ended, I was 16 years old. I spent the next four years mostly single. Now that I have a new partner, I look back on those four most formative years of my life so far, and I feel grateful for them.
My current relationship is better than the last one in many regards, and one contributing factor is the fact that I have spent so much time being a single young adult. Everyone has their own journey, of course, so I can’t say that being single is a recipe for a perfect future relationship — it has taught me many beneficial lessons, though.
I don’t need you to fill the empty parts of me
When I was younger, I thought it was super romantic to see two people who are incomplete without each other, and who need each other to create one whole perfect entity.
This led me to feel completely consumed by my past relationship. As time passed by, I became less and less myself. I was very dependent on my boyfriend and his affection. When we broke up, my world shattered.
Who was I? I no longer knew. I felt lost.
But sometimes we need to get lost to find ourselves again.
I embarked on a journey of self-discovery, and I found so many parts of myself that had been overlooked in the past. I travelled, I researched topics that have become important pillars of my values, such as a plant-based diet and feminism, I meditated and met new people, I wrote and read and reflected.
And I learned to love myself. I realized that the romance of needing someone to be happy only strengthens deeply rooted insecurities and self-hatred that so many of us grow up with. If you only feel loved when someone else shows you affection, you become obsessed with them, and it doesn’t help you grow.
During my single years, I realized that all I really needed was myself. I was enough. I was my best friend, my lover, my parent, my savior.
No boy would ever save me.
No boy would ever make me feel like I’m loved enough.
Only I can save myself, help myself grow, and only I can unconditionally love myself to the point where I don’t ask for more.
What’s more, loving myself led to sharing the love with others. If all you want is to take other’s love to fill the empty parts of you, there is no space left for giving it back. When you find the source of love within yourself, though, you can share it indefinitely. Receiving love still feels wonderful.
But now I know that if someone doesn’t love me, that’s fine. They can leave. I am enough on my own.
I don’t need you to have fun
How many hours did I spend staring at my phone, waiting for his text message?
I got addicted to the twittering of my phone each time he texted me. I could have read, written, I could have spent my time with friends. Instead, I got overwhelmed by desperation.
Waiting for his message felt longer than waiting for Godot.
Every time I did something valuable, it still didn’t feel good enough when he wasn’t there. My thoughts kept coming back to him, I kept asking myself where he was, what he was doing, and why he wasn’t thinking about me.
Being single forced me to learn to have fun on my own. All my close friends are as introverted as I am, so I spent lots of time shut in my room, alone. It was horrible at first. I felt very lonely.
It got better in time. I learned to sleep on my own and actually enjoy it. I read more than fifty books a year. I learned to speak French and German, alongside improving my English and moving to a different country. I wrote my first novel. I had sex with other people and contrary to my initial fear, I actually enjoyed it. Life was good.
My current boyfriend and I are both introverted and enjoy doing things on our own. I invest time in my own projects, and I don’t mind being alone. We have fun together, and we also have fun separately.
Spending time with my friends is just as valuable as spending it with my boyfriend. The best part is that I don’t have to keep thinking about him — I focus on myself. And I have fun.
You’re a luxury, not a necessity
Cher famously said:
“Men are a luxury, not a necessity. Like dessert.”
I love being in a relationship. I also loved being single. It was great — every day, I invested time in myself. All my decisions basically depended only on me. Summer plans? All I worried about were some trips with friends. I could go to Indonesia for a month and not have a single care in the world about leaving a boyfriend behind.
I remember when I was in a very short relationship two years ago and my ex-boyfriend asked:
“What about summer?”
“Well, I’m going to France with my friend. I’d also like to travel solo to Spain and Portugal. I’m going to a meditation camp as well.”
“What about me? Where am I in those plans? Are we not going to see each other for a month?”
“Yeah, why not?”
Let’s just say he didn’t exactly love that idea. We didn’t click on lots of things, so go figure why that relationship didn’t last longer than a few weeks.
It’s a very different situation (a much better one) with my current boyfriend. There will be many times in our future when we won’t see each other for months. We’re fine with that.
And I’m okay with it because I’ve spent four years being single and it was fun. Having a healthy and steady relationship is beautiful — I love commitment — but it’s by no means a necessity for a happy life.
It’s a dessert I cherish.
These are the most important lessons I took away from being single:
In order to have a loving, mature and healthy relationship, I need to
- love myself first
- have fun spending time on my own
- cherish my friendships
- know that if this relationship ever ends, I’m strong enough to move on
- always know that I am enough.
I am enough. And you are too.
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