The decision to stay single was not a hard one to make when my husband passed away. Not at first, anyway. I was mourning. I knew I was not ready to be in a romantic relationship at any point soon.
That period of mourning varies for everyone, though. Even when I knew that it would be socially acceptable for me to date again, I knew that I wanted to stay single for a significant period. And not just because I wasn’t ready for a relationship.
I decided to stay single for myself.
For most of my adult life, I was crushing on someone and thinking about being in a relationship, or in a relationship, or married, or getting over a relationship. I wanted to find out who I was without all of that going on.
I committed to staying single for the unknown future.
I learned to accept the quiet.
At first, I was always looking for ways to have background noise and distractions. I had the TV going all the time. If it wasn’t the TV, it was music.
Also, I looked for distractions. I scrolled social media endlessly. I chatted with people I didn’t even know. Usually, it was people I met through dating apps (because I wasn’t looking for a relationship really, but I wanted someone to talk to). I talked with friends on the phone or on Messenger or text. That chatter was constant.
At some point, it got to be too much.
I limited time I chatted with people and I stopped talking to strangers. I mostly just talked to my best friends. The funny thing is, I felt less anxious.
I realized that most of the time that the TV was on, I wasn’t even watching it. I watched five seasons of Grey’s Anatomy and barely remembered a thing.
I started putting away my phone and leaving the TV turned off. Sometimes I would listen to music, but mostly I just enjoyed the silence. The sound of the birds outside, the breeze going through the trees, and the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard were all strangely relaxing.
If you’re feeling anxious or not sleeping well, the constant noise in your life might contribute to that.
Meanwhile, numerous studies have shown that noise contributes to sleep disturbance, to the development of arterial hypertension, ischemic heart disease, heart failure, arrhythmia, metabolic syndrome and stroke (for review see ) and also to learning, respectively emotional difficulties in children . — Noise Annoyance Is Associated with Depression and Anxiety in the General Population
This study showed evidence that “The rates of clinically significant anxiety (GAD-2≥3) and depression (PHQ-9≥10) and medical diagnoses of depression, respectively anxiety, also increased steadily” with noise annoyance.
I learned to define my boundaries.
I’d heard of having boundaries, of course. But boundaries were not something I set. I lived for my kids for a large part of my life. When I was dating someone or married or otherwise partnered, I would put aside my own needs every time to take care of theirs.
I didn’t set boundaries. I just tried to respect other people’s boundaries.
Setting boundaries makes it possible to help others without ignoring your own needs, and this is essential to both your mental and physical wellbeing. It’s much easier to stay positive when you’re feeling good about your relationships with yourself and others. — 6 Unexpected Benefits of Setting Clear Boundaries
Honestly, I’m still figuring out what my boundaries are. I’m learning to communicate them to others, without feeling guilty about it. The more I practice setting boundaries and explaining them to others though, the happier I am.
My friendships are better because when I am with friends, I am truly with them. I don’t have resentments. I am completely in that moment and I enjoy my time with family and friends more.
I learned to take care of my own needs.
I spoke with Mel Cassidy of Radical Relationship Coaching about being single, un-partnered, and solo polyamorous. Even if you don’t identify one of these ways, Cassidy has a wealth of useful advice for anyone that wants to live a more independent lifestyle.
One of the things I learned is that taking care of your own needs all starts with the process of defining them. It’s an ongoing process and most people will learn that it takes some tweaking over a significant period of time just to figure out what those needs are.
One of the first things you can do is learn what your love language is. This is helpful for both learning your own needs and for interacting with people in your life.
There are five love languages, according to 5lovelanguages.com.
- Words of affirmation
- Acts of service
- Receiving gifts
- Quality time
- Physical touch
These are things that everyone needs at some point, but there is usually one need that stands out more than the others.
For me, my main love language is words of affirmation. Knowing that has helped me with my friendships and family members. I can ask them for time when we can talk or chat.
How can I take care of that need myself if no one else is available to help me fulfill that need, though?
One thing I do is keep letters (yes, I get some of my friends to write me letters) and re-read them. I also re-read chats that have meant a lot to me. I take screen captures of them and save them to read later.
I also journal and use social media as a form of finding words of affirmation. Writing in my journal is like writing a letter to myself. I can say things that I might not be ready to say to someone in person. On social media, I can express myself and get feedback from friends on their own time.
I also take care of my own needs by doing things like taking myself out on a date, cooking good meals for myself (and even taking extra time for presentation). I listen to music that makes me happy. I connect with nature.
Committing to staying single helped me connect with myself.
Although I date now, my commitment to staying single is still strong. I am not sure how long I will want to stay single, but for now, it is a priority. I need to learn to love myself so that in the future if I decide I want to be in a relationship again, I will be a better partner.
I have learned to connect with myself in a way that I never thought was possible. That connection has changed the way I look at life and relationships.