Five Lessons I Learned From Being Single For Five Years
My first true love was with my college sweetheart. We dated for nearly two years and then broke up when I was 22 because our plans for after graduation didn’t match up. I wanted to follow my lifelong dream of moving to a big city, while he had some unfinished business he needed to take care of in our small college town.
He dumped me a few weeks before my graduation and then I ran off to the city as soon as I got my diploma, while he stayed behind. I was heartbroken, but it needed to happen because we ultimately just weren’t compatible. He freed me up so I could find a better match whose life goals were more aligned with mine-my big city Prince Charming.
But instead, I remained single for the next five years, from age 22–27. Sometimes it was awesome, but other times I felt incredibly lonely and insecure. Those five years got me some amazing fun memories though and also taught me some very valuable lessons. Here are five of them.
1. It’s Better To Be Single Than To Be In A Bad Relationship
I sort of learned this around age 12, when I started watching a lot of trashy MTV reality shows full of relationship drama. I remembered seeing couples on those shows constantly yelling and swearing at each other and I felt so confused as to why anyone would want that from their partner.
Then when I got older, I started watching my friends date losers who they would often argue with or who didn’t have any goals in life, and I would tell them to just dump them because their relationships looked so stressful.
But they wouldn’t listen to me, at least not right away. Instead they’d stay in the relationship for a few more months or years, only to end up regretting all the time they’d wasted on shitty guys.
I made a promise to myself to never let that happen to me, which allowed me to weed out a lot of guys who seemed like they might be losers fairly early on. By learning from my friends’ mistakes, I was able to able to avoid a lot of bad situations.
2. There Was Nothing Wrong With Me, Except My Mindset
One of the biggest issues I ran into while single was that I kept meeting guys who told me they didn’t want anything serious. Either they’d only want to hookup, or they’d act like a boyfriend and then ghost or dump me after one or two months.
After having both those situations happen to me over and over again, I definitely started to take it personally. I figured, there must be something wrong with me because I just can’t seem to find a good guy who’s willing to commit. And instead of blaming the guys I met for being jerks, I blamed myself for not being good enough.
I started coming up with all these excuses and developing tons of silly negative beliefs about myself, which really took a toll on me emotionally. Like I was basically depressed and convinced I’d be alone forever at one point.
But the truth is that nothing was wrong with me, except my mindset. Because I believed I wasn’t worthy of a relationship, I only attracted in guys who couldn’t see my worth either.
Once I started doing personal development every day at age 26 and working hard to love myself more, my dating life started to improve and I ended up in a relationship again about a year later.
3. Developing Independence Is So Important
Probably the best part about having been single for five years was that I learned how to be very independent and to never rely on a guy, or anyone else really, to provide me with the life I wanted.
If I wanted to buy something, I’d work to earn the money. If I wanted to travel somewhere, I’d go by myself if no one wanted to go with me. I basically planned my life around whatever it was I wanted, without taking any guys into consideration. And I learned to really treasure that freedom.
So when my last relationship ended, my only wounds were emotional ones. I didn’t lose any money or give up any of my career goals for him. I got my own place again after he kicked me out of our shared apartment and my life has mostly returned to normal.
But that might not’ve been the case had I not worked so hard to develop my independence beforehand. I could’ve ended up so much worse off and I didn’t.
4. It’s OK To Want a Relationship, Just Don’t Be Desperate
There’s this well-known concept in society today that wanting a relationship makes you uncool. Or at least admitting you want one does. This is especially true for women, who are often falsely stereotyped as being “clingy” and wanting marriage and babies ASAP.
So whenever a woman says she loves being single or doesn’t want a relationship, regardless of her reason, she gets praised for being cool and bad-ass, often in a problematic “not like other girls” kind of way. I’ve noticed myself and many of my friends pretending to not want relationships, just because we’re afraid people will think we’re desperate losers if we tell them the truth.
But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized how stupid that is. It turns out that pretending to not want a relationship only attracts in guys who genuiunely don’t want a relationship.
It’s way better to just be upfront about your intentions early on. Sure, a lot of guys might lose interest once you do that, but that’s actually a good thing because you’re quickly weeding out the ones who aren’t compatible with your goals. Your quantity of suitors may decrease, but the quality of them improves dramatically.
5. Don’t Let Anyone Make You Feel Bad About Your Sexual Past
I went through a major party girl phase when I was 23. The year was 2014, I was fresh out of college and newly single, and Tinder was this exciting new novelty thing that had just come out.
I tried joining Match.com first after my friend recommended it, but there were very few guys my age on there, so I ended up deleting my account after about a week. Plus Match is clearly geared toward serious relationships, while I just wanted to find hot guys to party with.
Which luckily, Tinder had an abundance of. I probably got drunk and hooked up with a different guy once a week for about six months. And it was awesome.
Now I totally get how that can seem reckless and irresponsible. But I was on birth control the entire time and I always used condoms, plus all the guys were single too, as far as I know. And everything I did was consensual. So no one really got in trouble.
I never got any STDs or unplanned pregnancies. I never cheated on anyone or helped any guys cheat.
But unfortunately, slut-shaming is a very real thing that many women still have to deal with, even in 2020. And some guys have been pretty judgmental toward to me regarding that phase in my life. It’s a bit frustrating, but I have zero regrets.
Because at the end of the day, I know I did nothing wrong. I had a lot of fun in those six months and I got some crazy stories out of it.
So was it all worth it? 100 percent.
Plus since I got it all out of my system then, being loyal in a relationship is easy for me now. That phase in my life actually taught me the true value of having a strong emotional connection with someone, and that I need to hold onto it tightly when it’s there.
Being single for five years led to a lot of ups and downs in my life. There were days when I felt like a strong and bad-ass independent woman and days where I felt like a lonely hot mess who would never be good enough for real commitment.
But I’m incredibly grateful for the lessons I learned in that time, especially when it came to developing my confidence and independence and realizing what I don’t want. If I would’ve spent those five years trapped in a bad relationship instead, I probably wouldn’t be where I am today.