On Being Single.
I have been “single” now for just over 3 years. Woohoo! Here’s to single life in my 30’s. What a trip! Haha! I have friends who want to set me up with online dating, hook me up with friends or family and take me out on the town to “find a man”. I get the question often, are you ok being single? Yes. Would I want to be in a relationship? Yes/maybe. Why am I still single? Because I haven’t found that person who is both available and I want to be with. (It’s not like picking out a new shirt at the store).
It seems like our culture very much values being coupled. Like there might be something wrong with you if you aren’t coupled or that you’re only half a person if you are single. The truth being, that I am a whole person on my own, though it took awhile to figure this out.
I didn’t know that I would be ok being single coming out of my relationship with Nat. We were together for 12 1/2 years. That’s being 100% committed to someone for 1/3 of my life! I absolutely felt like 1/2 of a person. Ok, possibly less than 1/2 a person. Since going through this myself, I see the same pattern so often in others who are getting out of long relationships as well. Sad, but slightly comical in the sense that you can just see it coming. It goes something like this: You didn’t think you’d ever be single again, you don’t remember who you are without that other person so you’re kind of freaking out inside. You keep as busy as you possibly can with anything, everything and taking care of other people’s stuff so you don’t have to think about your own life EVER. It’s a great plan as far as a kind of harm reduction model goes for short term purposes.
I have no idea how I survived that 6 month- 1 year period. I don’t really know who the person was who took over the driver’s seat during that time, but she looks much different than the woman I usually know. Once things quieted down a bit I still had to figure out who I was and deal with the grief. I tried as hard as I could to wish away having to do this work and hoping it would go quickly. I tried to take shortcuts and skip parts, but at the end of the day it was still there. Painful, intense and oh, so much work every day.
So, I could really take this in many directions, but a few of the themes that stand out are: building a foundation of self-love after a divorce/death, being emotionally available for a new relationship and what I’ll call “filling a space with any warm body.”
Loving myself is one of the top 3 most difficult experiences of my life. I rank it up there with losing my grandma Karpinske at age 11 and losing my husband between the ages of 29-33. I knew immediately upon Nat and I splitting up that I had to learn to love myself before I could be happy and in another relationship. All the compliments and external validation doesn’t add up to loving oneself. It just doesn’t. You have to believe in your own awesomeness in order for it to count. At the end of the day if I don’t respect and trust myself and if I am not taking care of my own needs then how can I offer love to someone else.
I am a recovering people pleaser. I am a caretaker, a fixer, a social worker, a woman. I commonly will put other’s needs ahead of my own. At my expense. I found that I needed to start dating myself and putting myself first for once (Yes, being selfish. It’s not a bad thing.) and treating myself as kindly and lovingly as I would a friend or a partner. Accepting myself and all my beauty, flaws, quirks and everything in between. My therapist had told me one time that I hadn’t met a new partner yet because it wasn’t time. That I am working on building a foundation of self-love. That this step cannot be skipped or hurried because without self-love, I will continue to compromise future relationships. Truth. The hard truth.
Emotional availability is another thing that comes up often when I’ve gone out with men, talk to single friends, people who are dating and have looked at my own availability. There have been men I gone out with who I really did enjoy spending time and could possibly see myself in a relationship with, but they weren’t actually available to be present in a relationship with me at the time. It is important to be emotionally available in a relationship and not still hung up on the last one, hoping you and the ex might get back together some day or have so much unresolved baggage that it hinders your ability to open your heart to the person currently in your life. There are people who are available to go out on dates, spend time together and do all the things that dating people do, but when it comes down to it, they are not actually available to be in a relationship. They may appear to be available in the sense of going out and having fun on a very superficial level, but not for an actual relationship.
I would like to think I am open to a relationship, but when I take an honest look at things, I am really hesitant to get into a relationship. Being in a relationship is work. Even when it’s good, it is work. There’s compromise and collaboration. And it can be worth it with the right person, for sure. But since I’m new to being ok with being single, I’m not in a hurry to give that up. It’s not fair to give half effort in a relationship or to give the idea that you’re up for it when you just aren’t. Either go in with a “Hell Yes!” attitude or don’t mess around with someone else’s emotional life. People are complicated, messy and sensitive and deserve respect. Actions speak louder than words, so act with care and in a way that is true to your intentions.
The last theme that comes up is, that it can be really easy to want to give up on the two previous themes and just find a warm body to snuggle up with for the winter. Northern MN winters get pretty long after all and sometimes life does get lonely and it would be great just to fill that empty space with someone…anyone… Yikes! (Let’s not get desperate.) While this might work for awhile, the cold winter nights come to an end and in all fairness, loneliness is not an excuse for filling space with any warm body. I’ll just loop back around to the last paragraph on this one.
I know that I won’t be single forever. Not even worried about it. I don’t worry anymore that I’ll never find that person. Or that I should settle. Not be so picky. Or be in a relationship with someone just because they want to be with me. I get to decide who I enter another relationship with at a time that’s right for me. I get to be picky and I will be. I had a very loving relationship with Nat. It was a huge act of love for both of us to end the relationship when we did. I know about hard work, commitment and sacrifice in a relationship and I’m not scared to love that deep when I find the person who is available to love me back in the way that I want and need. In the meantime, I am committed to this relationship with myself and I’m all in. I’m giving it a “Hell Yes!”