Being single can be tough, especially for someone who really wants to be in a relationship. When I was single, I could be so envious of those in committed relationships and thought that if only I had someone, all my problems would go away.
The ironic part is that even if those relationships were full of drama and problems, I still thought I’d be happier. I just wanted someone to love me. I wanted it right now.
I used to rationalize the reasons why I was single and would convince myself that it was because of some defect in who I was. We can be so hard on ourselves.
I wish I knew more, when I was younger and single, than what I know now. It would have saved me many years of struggling to be happy as a single guy who really wanted to find true love. Now happily married, I look back at all the stuff that worked and all the things that didn’t when I was single.
In my mature single days, I’ve found that these 10 lessons to be the most helpful.
Love Yourself and Love BEING AROUND Yourself
This is perhaps the most important lesson of all. You may have heard this before, but the only way you can truly love somebody else is if you love yourself first. It really is true.
However, it continues to be a common belief that finding true love will somehow complete you. Remember the movie Jerry Maguire? I remember when I first watched that scene when Tom Cruise rushes in and boldly exclaims, “You complete me.”
I actually thought to myself, “Who can I complete? There has to be hundreds of women who need me to complete them!” I was so cool.
It’s as if we are a complicated puzzle and if we just find that one perfect match, all our problems will go away.
The truth is, nobody can love you more than you can love yourself. A relationship won’t save you or fill some empty part of you.
It’s easy to think this way because we all want to be loved by someone. It feels good to be loved.
But, true love comes when two people love themselves first and can share that intimate love with each other. Love yourself first.
Here is something you can try.
I used to do this a lot when I felt uncomfortable being alone. In fact, it might make you uncomfortable at first, but it’s worth it.
Go out to eat and treat yourself to a nice dinner. Yep, that’s right you and YOU only. Proudly request a table for one and sit by yourself. Don’t worry about what others think and make sure it’s a sit down restaurant. It can’t be at an airport either! Enjoy the meal and spending time with yourself. Savor the meal you have. Feel uncomfortable? That means you need to do it again.
Love being around yourself.
Find Ways to Lift Up Your Spirit
Ask yourself this, what sort of things get you excited? In other words, if you had a free afternoon to do what you enjoy, what would it be?
You can also think of something that really excites you that you may have neglected when you were in a relationship. Often, in toxic relationships we tend to lose some of who we are and what we enjoy doing.
It can even be as simple as catching up with some old friends.
I used to make “singles mix tapes” (MP3 or Playlist for the younger crowd) of songs that really would lift up my mood.
Find songs that really lift up your mood (I will not go into all the songs I picked but one of them was by a band called Chumbawamba)
Already do things that lift you up? Do more of them. Try something new.
Stop Wishing What Could Have Been
It is so easy to think about the past, especially the good stuff. The good memories take up way more head space than the bad, or at least we don’t remember all of life’s minutiae (life’s minutiae = awesome rock band name).
Many of us figuratively go to that “happy place”- a faraway land where we hope we can live some day.
Have you ever told yourself,
“If only I was still in love with (ex or at all) things would be different. I would be so happy”
I know I have.
When you find yourself thinking about the “what if’s” in life, try the following:
Ask yourself, is this actually useful in helping me be happy right now. Is it helping in any way? Probably not.
It is very easy to think of ideal situations and what could have been. But, when we live in the past, it cripples us from living in the present.
We begin to hold ourselves back feeling stuck in another time.
Take this Time to Figure Out What’s Really Important
This is the time where looking back at past relationships can be beneficial. Try to look at it as objectively as you can.
What really didn’t work in past relationships? What was something you thought you really wanted but realized that it wasn’t really that important?
Decide for yourself what you truly want out of that relationship. You’ve heard the old saying, “don’t settle for something less”. But, what does that mean for you?
Write it out if it helps. It’s helped me become more objective because it is no longer trapped in my mind.
PLEASE, don’t be the person with “the list”. You know who I’m talking about.
They’ve made a checklist of their “perfect” mate and if that person doesn’t meet exactly every one of those 27, it’s a hard no.
If you tend to do this, I encourage you to ask yourself why all of these are important- the deeper meaning. You may find that it may have something to do with you instead.
Spend some time on this.
Stop Idealizing Your Ex
Your ex is not perfect. Accept it. We tend to associate this person with all of the good memories when we are feeling lonely. The hard truth is this:
Your ex is a person that you are not in a relationship with any more. That is it.
They are nothing more, nothing less.
Your perception of your ex is in fact YOUR perception of who you think that person is. They may be a great person. That’s fine. There are people in my life who I think are great but don’t put them up on pedestals.
Try and let go of the idea of what this person represents and simply acknowledge their place. It also can be useful to ask yourself what you learned from that person. I’ve even written down why I’m grateful for that person and what they taught me about myself today.
The more you start viewing your ex as who they are, the easier it will become to let go of what you think they should be.
Feel Genuinely Happy for Others in Relationships
This includes your ex. It’s ok to feel jealous, but it’s important to really understand what jealousy is really masking.
It is human nature to feel jealous. But, next time you feel jealous, stop and ask what is that feeling all about. What is it in me that is missing that I am seeking externally? Am I insecure about something?
One way that has helped me get over some of this feelings is to verbally tell friends how happy I am for his or her relationship. In turn, they are happy to hear it and that energy will only bounce back to you.
The best part? The more you tell people how happy you are for them, the better you will feel about relationships. You begin to associate relationships as something positive even as a single person.
You also stop comparing yourself to others because it isn’t about you. It’s just about telling people how great you feel about them.
Your Life Isn’t Over
After a breakup or a long time living in the single world, I used to think I would actually be single forever. There was no hope.
All I could think about was my life as a long and lonely single one, because it was all I could see. We often put these blinders on and can’t see past what’s in our minds.
Someone once showed me a very simple tool that really helped me keep things in perspective. Draw a long line with a beginning and an end point with the day your were born as 0 and the age you think will be your last, respectively.
Then, draw a square from points representing ages when you have actually been single. You can even break up the square to smaller spaces when you’ve been dating or in a relationship. Or, when you believe you could have been in a long term committed relationship and/or married.
You will find that the space is actually quite small compared to your potential lifespan.
This is just to get you to view this moment in time as only a sliver of life.
Get Out and Meet People
The best time to do this is when you’re single- at ANY age. There are plenty of ways to find and meet new people. Join a meetup.com group or join a free dating site and meet other singles in your area. You may not find a relationship right away, but it’s always great to practice.
Go out drinks with some coworkers after work.
Earlier we talked about doing more things that excite you. What are some things that excite you that other people may also enjoy? Then, think about where you might find like-minded people. Maybe it’s an online group or local club.
You don’t have to make it your mission to find your soulmate but just go out and meet more people. When people want to be around you, you may find you start attracting more people you may be interested in, without even realizing it.
I don’t even suggest setting expectations for yourself. The point is to not try too hard and to just have fun with it.
Get out there!
Find People You Can Relate To
In my hardest times, I’ve always found it helpful to reach out to someone I trust. A friend, family member, or someone going through the same thing as you, can really help you make sense of how you feel.
It is a lot easier to joke about the challenges of single life with someone who is also single. In fact, it’s helpful to know that you aren’t the only one thinking some of those crazy thoughts.
Beyonce’s “All the Single Ladies” just popped in my head. You can even relate to that!
I also find it helpful to watch comedians talk about their failed relationships. They often have a great way of presenting their own lives as something all of us can relate to. Some of them are so open about their shortcomings. Even better, they make you laugh!
I caution you not to get too wrapped up in the negativity of others. There are some single people I know who constantly complain about their single lives. This doesn’t help you.
Find people who you can relate to but also can lift you up, not put you down.
It’s OK to be single
Embrace this time in your life. Don’t beat yourself up about being single. It is much better to be happy alone than miserable with someone else.
Just because someone is in a relationship, does not mean they are happy. It’s helpful to remind yourself of this.
Every day brings a choice as to how you can live the single life. Remind yourself that it is ok to be single and choose to live a happy single life by loving yourself first.
Despite what all of the sappy country songs tell you, you don’t have to be miserable, lonely, and desperate when you’re single.
I’m going to get a little mushy here- if you do feel bummed that you are single, just start to acknowledge those feelings. It’s better to feel them then hold more of them inside.
Actually, being single can be a lot of fun. Embrace it!
Come back to these lessons as a reminder that everyone is single at one point or another, and it’s how you choose to live the single life that is up to you.
Featured photo credit: Ryan Mcguire via gratisography.com