I have been single now for the past 4 years. During that time, I’ve had a handful of really short-lived things and one devastating little affair, but for the most part I’ve been alone and single for 4 long years.
And for the first time, maybe EVER, I am finally happy that this is true. Like … happy happy. Like my life is so full, my-cup-runneth-over type happy. Ok, that’s a bit of an exaggeration but seriously I am truly, finally enjoying my singledom. And no, not in this I’m-single-so-I’m-on-the-prowl-dating-all-the-hot-men kind of way. But in the I’m-single-and-I’m-really-happy-alone-binge-watching-old-shows-and-reading-good-books kind of way.
I’m just … happy. Going out, staying in, whatever. There are the occasional bumps, because life is bumpy, but none of them have to do with me being single really. So here are my full-proof steps for getting to a place where you’re absurdly happy being single.
(Note: Ok so these aren’t full-proof, that’s an overstatement. And absurdly is a bit of an exaggeration too. These are basically ‘My unproven steps to getting to a place of general happiness most of the time being single’. Yeah. That’s more accurate.)
Step 1: Have your heart broken twice, preferably by the same man.
It doesn’t actually have to be twice, sometimes one will suffice. But get your heart good and broken. Like good and BROKEN. The more devastating the better. I mean, stop you in your tracks, staring-at-his-picture-and-his-love-notes-for-hours kind of broken. Tears, wailing, binge eating. The works. Sweat pants, no showers, serious weight gain. Like I said, the messier the better. Oh and if you can add in getting banned from his bar, then you’re well on your way to true happiness, my friend.
(Note: A devastating breakup is not mandatory. Neither is a bar banning. If not applicable, please proceed to step 2.)
Step 2: Date all the wrong people.
Date guys younger than you. Date guys who don’t text. Date guys who treat you poorly. Date guys who say you matter to them, while treating you like a 2-dollar-hooker. But don’t forget to also date guys that are really cool and ok but just not right for you. Date and then date and then date some more. Sleep with them if you want (a woman has needs). But date until you’re so tired from dating you need a serious break. Date until the mere idea of a date sounds like the most torturous thing on earth.
(Note: This is honestly really bad advice. If you can avoid step 2, you should try. But these are my steps, so I’m telling them my way.)
Step 3: Date yourself.
Ok so I’ve read a lot of these ‘how to be happy single’ articles and all of them talk about finding yourself, loving yourself, etc etc. Yes. I agree.
The most practical advice I can give is to date yourself. If your friends are all coupled up and have no time to go with you to the really cool places you want to go, then go by yourself. You’ve been DYING to see this band who only comes around once a year but no one can go with you? Then GO. On your own. Treat yourself to dinner beforehand too. Make it a date.
This can seem overwhelming at first. I know it can feel hella awkward if you’ve never done it before. But once you get the hang of it, dating yourself can be very liberating. Suddenly you don’t have to worry about who’s going to try that hot new restaurant that just opened with you, because it’s you. You’re gonna go with you. It’s a date.
The first date I ever took myself on was to the Majestic to watch Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally in their “Summer of 69” comedy tour. I had an upper-deck, middle-row seat sandwiched between one adorable gay couple in matching plaid (most likely as a nod to Ron-fucking-Swanson) and another cute couple who were all about the PDA. Just me, single girl me, long legs aching in the tiny seats. I dressed up, I looked cute and I felt .. awkward. But it was nothing a little wine couldn’t help.
When I walked home alone after the show, I got kinda lost even though it was only a few blocks away. I ended up walking under this highway which was very unsafe, nearly got ran over, then finally caught up to this random group of people (all likely friends) who were walking back to my neighborhood, chattering away happily. I decided to walk behind them, just a few yards back, the entire way home. To onlookers, it probably seemed like I was just the slow one of the group. To the group I was tailing, it likely looked like I was a creeper. I was ok with this. But yes, it felt awkward.
All that to say that the first time you do something alone you will feel weird. You’ll feel like you don’t belong. You’ll feel like everyone is judging you. You’ll probably be awkward. I go out alone all the time and I still find myself doing bizarre, totally awkward things from time to time. But trust me on this, you will be the only one noticing this. No one is watching you going ‘Oh look, it’s a single girl by herself doing something all alone. Let us gawk at her.’ And if they are looking at you? Well, they’re probably thinking ‘I could never do that. That’s brave.’ Because it is. It is brave to date yourself and go it alone. Not everyone is cut out for it.
Also, if you’re REALLY introverted and this all sounds horrible, I suggest dating yourself at home. Plan a regular date night with yourself and a new movie or a frivolous fun book you never have time to read. Order in, but make it fancy. Bring the wine. Bring the vibrator.
Hell, the point is to realize that your company is wonderful and it is enough. Period.
To those who are seasoned at this, perhaps the advice is to up your self-dating game. Don’t just keep going to the same restaurant and same bar you always do, where the people always know your name. Try somewhere completely new, try things that make you nervous. Dating yourself is all about realizing how badass you are all on your own.
Step 4: Surround yourself with good people
Date yourself but make sure to have friend dates too. Single girlfriends (or guy friends) are the best. In fact, in my opinion they are far better than any person you might end up dating. They are your lifeboat during this time of single-ness and they’ll be your biggest cheerleaders once you do find someone. This is the time to have girls/guys nights with complete abandon and not feel like you need to rush home to your person. These kinds of connections are just as important as any connection you might find in a lover. Also, I encourage you to try and make new friends. Especially ones that can inspire and influence you. It can be hard to make new friends as an adult in the middle of a serious relationship, because so much of your free time will be spent with that other person. This is the best time to meet new people and make new friends! You are a culmination of the 5 people you spend the most time around, so make sure that sphere of influence is a good one.
But … if your friends are all coupled up and hard to spend time with I suggest you skip forward to step 5.
Step 5: Find an activity you love and do it a lot
This goes along with the whole ‘date yourself’ thing. But the really great part about being alone is the fact you don’t have to cater what you’re doing to anyone else. You like bowling but your pitiful ex didn’t? Now is the time to join a group that bowls competitively. You always wanted to dance but your ex was too uncomfortable? Grab your girlfriends and sign up to take a beginners class! Or go it alone! (Most of the classes I’ve attended I didn’t need to bring someone because the instructors will have you swap dancing partners frequently.) Maybe you just like to drink? Then become the pub crawl master. This is YOUR time. Hint: this is also a really great way to meet great new people you can surround yourself with. And let me tell you, I live in Dallas which has a nightlife that pales in comparison to most cities and yet, even here, there are so many things to do on any given night that involve a group of strangers getting to know each other for a bit.
Step 6: Stop waiting for your life to start
I have always wanted to travel. Always. I dreamed of Europe, most especially Italy. But when I brought up the idea of traveling abroad, my ex basically told me he’d been there, done that and wasn’t interested in going back. In addition, he just couldn’t see the sense in spending money on trips. And he felt like I was too uncultured and wouldn’t enjoy myself in a foreign country. Dick.
Flash forward to 2017. I’d been single for a while and had just gone through a heartbreak. I finally reached my limit. I was like ‘Fuck it. If all my friends are taken and can’t travel with me and I’m single and alone, I’m gonna just go by myself.’ And so I did. I did some research and chose Bali (which had a deeper meaning for me because of Elizabeth Gilbert’s book). It was one of the more economical places to visit for a single female and was also ranked one of the safest. It was INCREDIBLE. And I had adventure after adventure while I was there. (If you’re interested, I wrote about them here.)
So far that’s the only trip I’ve been on by myself because now I go on friend trips all the time, all over the world. I went to Thailand, Hong Kong and Greece this year, as well as Mexico (twice), Destin and Nashville. All with friends. And I think a lot of it has to do with the energy of attraction. If I sat around waiting for someone to be ready to travel with me before I took that first trip to Bali by myself, I bet I’d still be waiting. Instead I went by myself and the universe opened up and sent me travel buddies.
Traveling solo is so damn liberating. And honestly, I didn’t leave that trip feeling ‘oh woe is me, I had to travel alone.’ I left feeling brave and strong and oh-so-joyful after having experienced some of the most incredible things and after making some new amazing friends. I cannot stress this enough. LIFE. IS. AN. ADVENTURE. And it starts now, with you single and free and living life on your own terms. Don’t wait another minute.
Step 7: Remind yourself of this truth – relationships don’t guarantee happiness.
I’ll let you in on a little secret … most people are fuckups. Including those inside a really happy, super functional relationship. Which means you could meet the love of your life and feel the butterflies and the magic and it’s still going to be a journey to a solid and healthy relationship. It might make you really happy most days. But some days it’ll make you sad. It’s inevitable. A relationship doesn’t guarantee that you will be more happy than you are right now. True, lasting happiness is a fluid thing and a process. And it’s attainable without a significant other.
Step 8: Remind yourself of this truth – loneliness exists even in relationships.
I am happy single, yes, but that does not mean I don’t have low days. Or sad days. Or days where I feel depressed. I am an emotional human being, as we all are, and sadness is on that spectrum of emotions. I used to get down and lonely and my instinct would be to focus on the one thing I was lacking – the love of my life. A relationship. A man to hold me when I was down. I assumed that would take away my low feelings, especially the ones of loneliness.
Here’s the truth. I’ve been in two serious relationships, one of which lasted 8 years. The guy (or girl) you’ll end up with is going to be a great listener and supporter, yes, but he/she won’t dispel every sad feeling that comes along. They’re not a cure-all. And those feelings of loneliness? You can feel them even when you’re with someone. Even in a good relationship.
There are ebbs and flows to a relationship. There are times of deep, intense connection and times when its like you speak another language. This happens to EVERYONE. The best relationships are with people who recognize this and continually work to cultivate their connection. But even still, there are times they feel more distance than others.
Ultimately it’s up to you (me) to figure out how to handle our sad days and depressed days. Now when they happen I take a moment and go … maybe this is just my hormones and nothing more. Maybe this is because it’s rainy and the rain puts me in a somber mood. Maybe this is because I haven’t seen my family in a while. Maybe this a deeper, existential sadness that I just need to experience but most importantly, maybe this has nothing AT ALL to do with the fact that I’m single.
Perhaps you’ve already come to this conclusion. Perhaps you have decided that you are super happy with yourself, but you still want to find that special someone and you’re not ready to give up on dating (though it has likely put you through the shitter), then on to the next step.
Step 9: Read this article.
And remind yourself that dating is a lot like middle school. In the wise words of Zeke, “In a few years, you won’t even remember these people. This is no big deal. It’s going to suck in a million ways, and that’s fine. It’s just something you have to endure without taking it seriously.”
So it’s cool. Dating is MEANT to suck. Well, maybe not meant to suck, but it’s ok if it DOES suck. It’s not a reflection of you. Most of the people you meet are going to be totally wrong for you. That isn’t on you either. Don’t let it get you down and don’t let it steal your joy. Dating sucks, but being single doesn’t have to.
Which leads me to the most important step …
Step 10: Stop seeing your single status as a disease or as a reflection of who you are.
The ultimate truth is we ALL have baggage. We all have pros and cons, eh? Being single doesn’t mean you’re damaged. Or, rather, it doesn’t mean you’re any MORE damaged than anyone out there. (See Step 7 above – we’re all fuckups. You’re just looking for your special fuckup.)
And this is coming from someone who HAS emotionally sabotaged relationships before. (Who’s a shit show? This girl right here.) But still, I know deep down that the relationships that didn’t work out weren’t all my fault. There were two people involved. More importantly, I know the ones I ended early weren’t the right ones for me. I knew it the whole time if I’m being honest, and instead of just facing it head on, I drug them out or pushed them too hard, trying to make them into something they weren’t because I thought ‘well, being in this is better than being alone’.
News alert: that is simply NOT true. It is not better to be in a shitty relationship than it is to be alone. Don’t buy into that. And don’t let that thought get you down. The crazy thing is I KNOW that’s not true. I have ended really important relationships because I knew this. But even though I’m happy now being single, I wasn’t always this way. It sometimes takes a long while to get comfortable being single in a world that is suited for couples. It takes a while to get excited about dating yourself when the whole world basically tells you that you’re nobody until somebody loves you.
Oh that’s another thing … remember that you are loved, just maybe not the love you’re looking for yet. Even if your parents are asses and didn’t show you love well, I’m sure you have friends who love you. And if not (because the world is full of shitheads, so maybe you’ve only met jerks) then at the very least YOU love you. And that love, my friend, it is enough. It really is. You are worth being loved. So love the shit out of yourself, weird quirks and all.
Who knows what the future holds? Maybe I’ll meet my perfect one. Maybe I won’t. All I know is I’m happy here, right now in this moment. My job, my friends, my writing, my doggies, my single life is pretty incredible just as it is.
Maybe my next adventure is a relationship. Maybe it’s just a solo trip to Panama. Whatever it is, I know it’ll be an amazing one exactly as it is … because I am amazing exactly as I am.