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Friday, September 25 2020

The Upside of Single

 

When someone asks me if there is anything that good about being single, my immediate answer is: freedom, which immediately causes me to picture Mel Gibson in Braveheart gathering the Scottish clansmen and riling them up with that famous “FREEDOM!!!” scream.  I usually then say something like, “what’s not to like?  I can sleep spread out like a starfish in my bed, I don’t have to worry about falling into a raised toilet seat when I have to pee at night, and I never have to share my snacks!”  All joking aside, there are some real perks but also some downsides to being single.  As a long-term single in my forties, I’ve adjusted and made peace with being alone.  However, it wasn’t easy getting to this point.  I spent a lot of years questioning my choices, questioning myself and essentially feeling sorry for myself.  After a relationship, which was an absolute disaster, left me at the lowest point in my life, I finally decided that enough was enough. When I crawled out of my hole of self-pity, and started working on being happy regardless of having someone or not, I came to the conclusion that being single wasn’t so bad.  The more years I have spent single, and the more accustomed I have gotten to it and I’ve realized that my happiness isn’t contingent on whether or not I am in a relationship. 

During the time of being single, take the opportunity to work on some of the things that you may have pushed aside while being coupled up.  Start examining some of the things that you don’t like and address them.  There are some AMAZING self-help books out there.  I’m a huge fan of Brene Brown and how she addresses issues of shame and vulnerability. Do some research and get reading! Also, start noticing the ways you respond to certain things.  One of the big things that I had to work on was that I always thought the grass was greener in someone else’s yard.  I would look at people I follow on social media and see how perfect their lives looked and I would fixate on all of the things I wanted and didn’t have, which cause me to feel depressed and sad.  I had to consciously choose to unfollow certain people or groups and really work on understanding that no one has a perfect life, what we see are snapshots in time that are staged to look perfect.  Honestly, it was a long journey to get where I wasn’t envious of those things anymore.  Another thing to do is to think back on your prior relationships and try to see some areas where you need to work on before entering another relationship.  Do you have codependency problems, self-confidence issues, a difficult time being vulnerable?  Now is the time to fix those so they are not a problem in your next relationship.      

A good way to get started on the journey of self-discovery is to start dating yourself.  That may sound crazy to you, but how else are you going to get to know yourself?  Go to the movies alone, treat yourself to dinner at a fancy restaurant, go on vacation by yourself.  Sit in the quiet and really just let yourself think about things, without the distractions of cell phones, tablets, TV’s and computers; just be totally present in the moment. Really become invested in yourself during this time by finding out what you like and don’t like.

 Another really important aspect of being a long-term single is your network of support; family, friends, groups, people you can depend on.  When you don’t have a spouse to help with things, lean on those you can count on and do the same for them.  Invest in your relationships with family and friends because you will have days where you feel sad and lonely; you need to have people to reach out to and fill those moments of loneliness. If you’re struggling to find a support system, start by getting out and doing new things. Find new ways to integrate doing what you love and connecting with new people.  I promise you, there is a group for everything; from people who like to read to others who want someone to hike with, there are ways to meet new people and make friends.  Fill your life with loved ones and you will never have to worry about not being loved.

For those of you newly single or those who are worried that they will never find someone, remember this:  your happiness depends on you.  When you come to the realization that you don’t need someone to make you happy or to complete you, that you can be happy on your own because you are a whole person; you will feel free.  

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This project is supported in part (or in whole) by grant, 03215VAGX006403 from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Office for Victims of Crime through the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute. Views contained herein are those of the author and do not represent the position of USDOJ or ICJI.