Four years ago, I was in almost the exact same position as I am in today. I’d just gotten back from a life-changing summer in China, I’d convinced myself that I needed to break up with my high school boyfriend, and I decided that I would be single for a long time. I wrote a blog post about my self-imposed chastity, vowing to spend the next year doing a lot of soul-searching. Well, that didn’t work out so well. As soon as I got back, I spent most of the summer chasing unrequited love #1. As a completely irrelevant side-note, this unnamed person had the best pseudonym, hands down, of any blog I’ve ever written: Yeti. Yeti, I don’t know where in the world you are now, but I’d still love to grab drinks sometime for old time’s sake. Shortly after school started, I hooked up with unrequited love #2. After tiring of my drinking buddies around Halloween, I made a best friend. Unfortunately, I turned him into unrequited love #3, except I was the one this time who couldn’t requite the love.
Since that time, I’ve been physically single for a grand total of…three months? Emotionally single for zero.
Fast forward to now. I’ve just broken up with Hans. The details of why are unnecessary—every single breakup in the world can be summed up as such: something wasn’t working. If it wasn’t working for one person, or for both, that’s for the parties involved to figure out. I realized it wasn’t working and I told myself not to be a coward and did the right thing. Just like my breakup four years ago, though, this one is not easy. But I’ve learned quite a bit since then. If I could go back in time and give my 18-year-old self relationship advice, I would tell her the following:
“The hardest part of a relationship is figuring out if you actually want to be in that relationship. Because love is intoxicating and companionship is comforting, you are probably always going to be happier in a relationship than without. Even if, deep down, you know you’re not attracted to him as you should be. Even if the way he breathes, or orders coffee, or boils water annoys the shit out of you. Even if you don’t love him.
Sometimes, he doesn’t love you either. That’s almost easier. Because then you can enjoy your time together and let it fizzle out on its own. If he loves you, though, you have a responsibility to protect him. Not because you love him back, but because at some point you liked this person enough to commit to seeing him more than anyone else in your life. Because we have all been that person who loved more. The best way you can protect him is to let him go. And then, after that, don’t go back. Even if you’re lonely, even if you doubt your decision, even if you need a prom/wedding date, even if he just wants to snuggle. Don’t go back.
Except when you should go back. More than anything else, the rules of love are meant to be broken. If you do go back, though, do it out of love and not necessity. If you choose not to go back, then for the love of God, give yourself some time to be single. The obvious reasons are the ones that everyone and their mother tell you: rebounds never work out, you need time to heal wounds, focus on yourself. The reason that we tend to miss is also the most simple—do it just to know that you can. If you jump from relationship to relationship, you are enforcing your own fear that you can’t be single. That you will never be loved again. That you will never find love like that again. Fear is not an effective motivator for a healthy relationship.”
I do wish somebody had said these words to me back then. But the truth is that I wouldn’t have listened. Even if I had listened, I was nowhere near the level of maturity required to follow through. I had to learn this lesson the hard way, and I’m still learning it now. For the first time in my life, though, I think I have what it takes to be single. This sounds stupid to most people, who have been single for the majority of their lives. Single is the default status, and there’s nothing you have to do really to achieve it. For those of us who are serial monogamists, however, singlehood is the most terrifying motherfucker on this planet. I’ve gone through very difficult things in my life, and none of those things has been as hard as being single.
I think it’s important for me to recognize that. That way, if I suddenly become an unproductive member of society, I won’t chastise myself. I’ll let myself be lazy and self-indulgent and depressed for a while. But then I know that I’ll learn something critical—it’s not that bad to be single. In fact, I love traveling alone. I love knowing I can move to another city without considering someone else. I love flirting up a storm with strangers without having to drop a “my boyfriend” into the conversation. If I shed the part of me that is a BPD-driven identity crisis, I am the kind of person who thrives on singledom. I am strong, I am independent, I am free.
I can do this.
Are any of you serial monogamists? What do you find hard about being single?