When my son’s father died in 2015, I vowed that I would never love again. I probably made this very dramatic and finite statement to everyone that offered their condolences to me at some point, I was just that devastated. Even his very own mom, my “future mother-in-law,” told me that I would fall in love again one day and get married. I scoffed at her as I told her that she was wrong and that I would be single for the rest of my life. I probably flipped my hair indignantly too.
In my heart, I truly believed that I would never ever love another man the way I loved him. I truly believed that part of my heart died with him. I truly believed that out of all the men I ever thought I loved before him, he was the only one that I actually was *in love* with. That may be true. I often wonder if I loved him so much because he was the father of my child? Is that why in comparison I can’t confidently say that I really loved any of my other exes? I really do wonder and have yet to figure out the answer. I think I’ll know the answer the next time I fall in love, if and when that ever happens.
See, I’d been a serial dater since I was 15 years old. I always had a boyfriend, and even at that time, they were long-term boyfriends. I would have a boyfriend, we’d break up, and I’d have another one in the friend zone waiting in the wings, so I was never actually alone or single. There was a brief stint of singledom in my mid-twenties when I was living the “struggling artist trying to get discovered” lifestyle in Los Angeles. I casually dated a few really lame guys and then I got into a rebound relationship with one lame-ass bum for almost 2 years because my mind only understood boyfriend mode. After that one, I met the man that would take my breath away and become the love of my life in 2010. We spent the next 5 years in a very passionate, turbulent, labyrinth of love that resulted in our beautiful son being born and ended in a tragic car accident.
It wasn’t until 2015 that I found myself completely single. Not only was I a single woman, I was now a single mother. There’s something about death that makes you really dig deep and forces you to reevaluate everything.
Here’s what I learned about being single:
1. Being single will teach you things about yourself that you never really knew. You’ll have no choice but to start peeling off the layers, looking into the mirror and healing from your past wounds and traumas. If you miss this step, you’ll keep going around the same mountain over and over again. Self-awareness isn’t always the most comfortable, but it’s the most necessary.
2. Being single will teach you that you truly need to love yourself before you can love anyone else. People say this all the time, and usually with the airplane oxygen mask analogy (insert eye roll), but the truth of the matter is, nobody will know how to love you if you don’t know how to love yourself. We show people how to treat us. We attract what we put out. So if ever you’re broken on the inside, you won’t attract a person to fix you, you’re going to attract a person who will break you even more.
3. Being single will allow you to do whatever the fuck you want. Seriously, when you’re single you don’t have to explain anything to anyone like where you’re going or why you bought another pair of designer shoes, or who’s texting you in the middle of dinner and that’s quite liberating.
4. Being single will teach you that being in your own presence is actually quite peaceful. This may take some time. I know people who think sitting at a bar or a restaurant alone is “weird” or looks desperate, but it’s neither when you’re comfortable with yourself. The only time I felt a bit strange at a bar alone was this one time in Las Vegas, and that’s only because I may or may not have been mistaken for an escort.
5. Being single will teach you to make your friendships a priority more than ever before. I have a confession: I used to be one of those women who didn’t really get along with other women. I was a loner that had one or two friends at a time throughout most of my life. This all magically changed just this year, and I’m not sure how or why, but I’m glad it did. I met some of the most amazing women while working at this not-so-amazing company, and made lifelong friendships with a group of unique, strong, hilarious women who all taught me things about myself. We make each other laugh over Happy Hour drinks and support each other through trying times via group chats as we navigate through everything from career changes, to incompetent bosses to motherhood. This is a group of women that would probably have never met or bonded under any other circumstances but luckily we did.
6. Being single will teach you that being alone and being lonely are not synonymous. I’ve been alone for a long time, but loneliness is a choice. I seldom feel lonely because I stay busy. There’s the occasional longing to be in someone’s arms, but while I can choose to be entertained, I usually choose to be left alone and leave things uncomplicated. There are always options though.
7. Being single will allow you the time to do that thing you’ve always wanted to do. Travel, girls trip, get a certification, take a class, cut your hair short, lose 20 pounds, take up Yoga, etc. The sense of accomplishment you’ll receive afterward is priceless. Push yourself out of your comfort zone. Do that thing you’re scared to do, the good-scary, not the scary-scary.
8. Being single will teach you what your deal breakers are. This should be a living, breathing list and it’s hard to focus on it when you’re involved with someone, but a great time to get back around to it is post-breakup when you’re thinking through what went wrong with this relationship and looking for common trends. While I don’t think your list of deal breakers should be published somewhere for all to see or that you should feel compelled to tell everyone the 50 Commandments on your list because it will probably change as you grow and evolve. I do believe that it needs to exist for you and only you in a place that you can easily refer to when you’re getting to know someone. I approach this with as much privacy as I do my journals, very particular about what I share and who I’m sharing it with.
9. Being single will give you a new perspective on things that used to get you stuck. Like sex. I didn’t think I could function normally without regular sex. It was an adDICKtion. But after being celibate for almost two years, I realized that sex didn’t have the power over me that I once thought it did. Matter of fact, I’ve learned a lot more about my body and the things that give me pleasure by taking better care of it from the inside out. (Kegels, anyone?) I still love sex as much as before, but I just won’t compromise other things just to be in someone’s arms or feel the weight of a man’s body on top of mine. My peace of mind can’t be compromised for sex anymore.
10. Being single will teach you to focus on the things that you can control, and since that is only yourself, be unapologetically selfish. Do things for yourself. Keep yourself busy with new and exciting adventures. Keep your hair, nails, and waxing appointments. Do it for you. I hear women say, “Well nobody’s going to see my vag, so why should I get it waxed.” Umm because you’re going to see it and this is part of self-care, caring for your damn self because you can and you should. Just because you don’t have a man to impress doesn’t mean you have permission to let yourself go. You shouldn’t be doing any of these things for someone else’s approval to begin with. Impress your damn self because you deserve to feel good and love yourself.
Being single isn’t a curse, nor something to be ashamed of or to hide from. Life goes on with or without your participation, so you might as well participate and feel fabulous.
In January, it will be three years since that tragic car accident that took the love of my life and changed the entire trajectory of my life. I still haven’t found love. I’m still quite single AF. But I’m open to the possibilities again. I’ve dated a few men. Most have been very brief, only one went a little deeper. I even caught feelings for this one, until his actions and words stopped aligning. Since I no longer hold onto things when they start to feel odd or no longer serve my best self (thanks to that newfound self-awareness from Step 1), I’m very quick to cut someone out of my life. So I may be back to square 1 in the dating scene, but there’s nothing wrong with that. The new year is here, and it’s a perfect time to recalibrate what your relationship goals, needs and deal breakers are.
So embrace that single life for as long as it serves you. Trust the process, lean into yourself and commit to improving yourself, not just for the next person, do it for yourself first and always.
Love yourself. Always.