How To Be Single For A Year (When You're A Relationship Person)
‘This is what being in your mid 20s is all about,’ I said, smiling, as we sat on the picnic rug he had laid out for us on the roof of a Finchley Road apartment block, looking out at the twinkling lights of the cars and street lamps below.
‘What?’ he asked.
I flashed a grin. ‘Kissing hot boys on rooftops.’
It was late July, 2016. Newly single, I was in the midst of a hot summer fling that would inevitably fade when September started.
Yes it was messy and I knew it wouldn’t last – but god damn, it was fun, and I finally felt like I was doing my 20s right.
Flash forward to today: June 21, 2017.
In the last couple of months, a Nice Thing fizzled out, a first date ghosted me and I managed to screw up something hopeful by being my too-keen self in a hideously embarrassing way (it may well get its own blog post).
My dating luck seems to have run completely dry, and I’ve temporarily given up the apps except to look for terrible dating profiles for this blog.
It’s a stark change from my last, hot summer.
And then there’s today: June 21, 2017.
A year to the day since I very reluctantly became single, and my heart started aching again.
It’s the longest time I’ve ever been on my own since my very first relationship aged 18.
Some people thrive when they're single. It’s that feeling of being alone, free, independent, not answering to anyone and living for friends, family - and themselves most importantly. It drives them. And they’re only willing to give it up if someone extraordinary comes along.
But if you, like me, are a relationship person – someone who thrives with a companion - then being single can be a hard, long slog.
How to be single, then, if you crave the company and intimacy of others?
One year on, and I’m still working it out, I’ll be honest with you.
But this month, and particularly today, being single finally feels like being me.
My first relationship was also my longest to date. I was with someone - a kind, loyal and very caring person - for five years, from the ages of 18 to 23.
We grew up together, became Proper Adults together.
But when it ended two-and-a-half years ago, I felt an almost physical pain, even knowing that we would both end up much happier apart rather than together.
A large part of the person I thought I was left with him. I suddenly had to work out who I was when I was alone.
I knew I had to be single to work that out. But I wasn’t brave enough. The void needed filling, and fast.
And so I jumped, from date to date, from brief fling to almost relationship – anything to try to patch myself up again.
It’s hard to explain, but for me, it felt as if someone had come along and taken a large chunk out of my right arm: the squishy bit, the bit you don’t really need for the arm to work, but the bit which makes you feel whole when it’s there.
Sometimes, it would grow back, when I dated someone who made my heart sing, and who put a stupid grin on my face.
It may not have come back looking as neat as it once did, and perhaps it was a little lumpy in places, but it was enough to make me feel almost complete.
But that feeling was easily taken away again: when I panicked at getting myself in too deep too quickly, or when romantic interest faded.
Then, one year ago today, I become single again. And things started to change.
Don’t get me wrong. In the last year, I once again flitted from date to date, from Fling to Thing, in yet another attempt to try and find the one person who might eventually walk with me through life, and perhaps fill the void that still ached.
But this month, and today - something has changed.
And this time, it’s not because of an almost relationship, a romantic connection, a Thing or Fling that will never become anything.
Somehow, this year, while searching for someone to help me grow into a whole, complete person again, I hadn’t noticed that I was growing back the part I had lost – and this time, all by myself.
Slowly but surely, I wasn’t searching for someone to date to fill a void anymore.
I was now searching purely because I wanted to find someone who I might eventually like to share my life with - a goal I’ll always have, as a relationship person.
But, importantly, now, I’m ok being single. I feel complete being single. I feel like me, being single.
It’s taken me a year - and really, a lot longer - to reach this point.
Along the way, dear friends and family members have given me advice on how to be single, or how to get over someone who was making my heart ache, with the best of intentions.
They told me to be single for a bit, without dating or looking for love, to give myself a break.
It’s good advice. I was just too scared to take it.
I didn’t get through this in the way the magazine columns tell you to, or how anyone advised me to.
But I did get through it. And I’ve done it in the way I needed to – even it was messy and awkward at times - so that I could reach a point that everyone should reach in their lives: being comfortable with yourself, as you are, whether single or in a relationship.
Even if you are with someone and completely in love - make sure you are comfortable being you, on your own.
Do whatever you need to do to grow back the part of you that may have lost along the way, for one reason or another.
There are no wrong answers. Mistakes and regrets? Well, you’ll probably find they’re pretty important in helping you find out what you want, and who you are when there’s no-one else beside you.
I’m on a break for dating right now, while I tone up my newly grown back bit of me. But I’ll soon start again.
The difference is now, I don’t need to – I just want to.
And that’s how to be single when you’re a relationship person.