I was a serial monogamist, but staying single for two years is what prepared me for a relationship

I used to aggressively avoid commitment because I feared getting my heart broken and going through the tedious process of getting over someone. Once I found myself in my first relationship, it ended in a painful split. While I was known to put up a confident front when I was on my own, my autonomy gave way to an annoying sense of neediness and codependence as soon as I fell in love. I reached some of the lowest points in my life when I was going through heartbreak.

After that relationship ended (on a sour note), I was lonely and miserable, craving some form of comfort or company. This made me get into another relationship only three weeks later with the next guy who showed a little interest in me. I knew right from the start that we were headed for doom—I did not love him; I only liked the attention he gave me. But the attention was only short-lived, and so was the relationship. We broke up a few months later, and I got into a new relationship. Rinse and repeat.

It seemed that as soon as I got into the dating scene, I found it impossible to be comfortable without a boyfriend.

Each time I got out of yet another fleeting, unfulfilling relationship, I was plagued with feelings of guilt, depression, and self-doubt. I figured that all of my relationships ended because of some fault on my part. For most of my life, I’d had some measure of confidence, but my self-assurance wavered with each romantic affiliation gone wrong. Was I not good enough? Smart enough? Pretty enough? I carried the sting of rejection around in shame.

But a quote from Jennifer Lopez in an old issue of Vogue rescued me. She had just gotten separated from Marc Anthony, and she told the reporter, “If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love anybody else.” Of course, I’d read and heard that line so many times before, but seeing J.Lo in the magazine with an assuring look on her face convinced me of my worth. Her expression seemed to tell me, “If I can do it, of course you can too, girl!” false

And I believed her. I made a conscious decision that day to stay single until I was sure–completely sure–that I knew who I was, and that I loved that person.

The journey to knowing and loving myself consisted of a lot of self-care and many lonely, tearful nights. On some days I praised myself; on other days I went hard on the self-criticism. It was a long, slow, and tedious process that took all of two years to execute. I went through a wide range of emotions during that time: happiness, sadness, anger, frustration, loneliness, and a persistent temptation to call my exes.

But it was worth it. I learned that I alone had the power to control my emotions. The decision to be happy in my own company was mine to make, and I make the right decision every day.

I am in a new relationship now, and I feel like a complete person.

I am with him because I want to be—not because of a bizarre sense of codependence.

I realized that I had spent my life prioritizing everyone’s interests but my own, so I lost sight of everything that was important to me. I have stopped trying to find what is important to me in other people, and I learned a lot in those two years I spent as a single person.

1It’s okay to be selfish.

You can be selfish with your feelings, your time, and your attention. Sometimes you have to be a little self-centered, and give yourself to others sparingly. I learned to make time for myself without feeling any guilt, and it was one of the most rewarding things I’d ever done. You don’t have to be single for as long as I was to do this—just for as long as you need to become your own person.

2I should be kind to myself.

From offering yourself words of affirmation to treating yourself to an overpriced breakfast at a fancy restaurant, being kind to yourself is important. I used to feel weird when I said things to myself like, “You’re beautiful,” or “You’re enough,” but saying these words with conviction actually helped to boost my self-confidence and encouraged me to focus on my strengths.

3Staying single didn’t mean being celibate.

Making the decision to stay single does not in any way mean that you must subject yourself to a life of abstinence from sex. In fact, it has been proven that casual sex can help boost your self-esteem, which is great news for everyone. Go on and get those orgasms, girl. Just be sure to protect yourself.

4Do. Not. Text. Your. Ex.

The first thing I had to do to break the cycle of toxic relationships was avoid texting my ex at all costs. If you’re going on this kind of journey, I suggest you do the same. You might miss them every so often, and wearing that old shirt of theirs may bring back memories of the good times. But remember: There were really bad times, too. You do not want to go back to that, trust me. Also, get rid of that old shirt right now.

5I decluttered my mind.

We’re all obsessed with Marie Kondo-ing our personal spaces right now, but we could also use some of that organization internally. When you’re calm and at peace, it helps you make better decisions. Clear up your physical space, meditate, exercise, eat right, think positive thoughts, form wholesome friendships, and watch yourself blossom into the best possible version of yourself.

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