Since my later years in high school, I always had a boyfriend. That high school boyfriend and I were together until the end of my freshman year of college and then I quickly found myself with another boyfriend. And then another. Generally, these relationships lasted a year or so and I would usually, but not always, be the one to end them. In between my yearlong relationships, I typically dated a rebound, but we didn’t just casually date. Somehow, those rebounds also became boyfriends, and I dated them for a couple of months until the next yearlong-relationship came along.
I didn’t realize this at the time, but I was a serial monogamist.
I didn’t do this on purpose. I swear I didn’t. It was easy to meet new guys in college, and I got a lot out of dating them. I learned valuable lessons about myself as well as what I wanted in a partner from each relationship. I told myself I didn’t need a boyfriend. It wasn’t my fault guys wanted to date me, was it? But a few months after I graduated from college and ended my most recent relationship — to a very nice guy, by the way, he just wasn’t the one — I decided enough was enough.
I didn’t want to be in a relationship just because a guy showed interest in me. I didn’t want to end up marrying someone because we’d been together for so long that it would be the next logical step. I could keep telling myself I wasn’t afraid of being alone, or I could prove it. So I swore off serious relationships for a year.
And it was one of the best things I have ever done. Here are just a few ways I benefitted from my year of self-imposed singledom:
I strengthened and built long-lasting friendships
When in a relationship, I continued having friends, but I often found myself spending more and more time with my significant other. While flying solo, one the thing I immediately missed was that I didn’t have someone to talk to at the end of the day. I enjoyed going over the challenges, victories and whatever else happened with a boyfriend and hearing what was going on with him that day as well. During this year of self-imposed singledom, I enjoyed strengthening friendships I already had and building new ones, too. I made it a point to regularly call a few friends who now lived far away from me. It was a nice way to ensure we didn’t lose contact now that we weren’t in the same city. These friends supported and encouraged me, and I did the same for them. I also made several new friends. I realized being in a relationship all the time left me missing out on a lot!
I flourished in my career
During the year of no boyfriends, I started a job as a features reporter at a newspaper in a sunny California beach town. When I had a boyfriend, I spent a lot of time with the guy. Although I was busy in college, holding down multiple jobs, internships and extracurriculars on top of going to school, I found starting out as a journalist took even more time. I technically worked from nine a.m. to six p.m., but often in my off-hours I was doing something that would benefit my career. I read articles written by other journalists at my work. I read competing publications and newspapers and magazines in larger markets. I read books by authors I would interview and write stories about for work. Although it was related, these weren’t activities I could get away with at the office, since I was busy finding and pitching stories; interviewing business owners, artists, chefs, celebrities and authors; and writing about three features a week. If I had a boyfriend, I wouldn’t have had as much time to do all the extra research and may not have done as well as I did in that first year starting out as a reporter.
I explored my passions
Don’t get me wrong, even when I was in a relationship I made time for my passions. I always loved reading fiction, and in college I took a stab at writing it. It wasn’t until that first year after college, though, that I realized becoming an author could be more than just a pipe dream. During this time, I read and wrote like crazy. I stayed up all hours of the night working on my fiction, knowing I’d have to write the next day at work. I pursued learning more about the publishing industry and, during this time, I met the people who would later help me a great deal in this endeavor, including a mentor and literary agent.
I learned I could date casually without it having to turn into a commitment
I never said I would swear off dating all together, only serious relationships. During this year of singledom I went on a handful of dates with a few guys. I went out with them, enjoyed their company, texted them a bit afterward and kind of let it taper off naturally. At least one of the guys was someone I likely could have become exclusive with — he was interested in me, too — but I was happy alone. I realized just because you go on a few dates with someone doesn’t mean he has to become your boyfriend. What a concept!
I learned a lot about myself
This is probably pretty obvious, but I realized being single offered the chance to get know myself better. I learned how I liked to spend my time based on nobody else but me. I discovered I enjoyed being alone: It was nothing to be afraid of. I started running, learned I like singing karaoke (even though I’m terrible at it!) and enjoyed going on road trips with my friends. I learned more about what I wanted to do with my life and what kind of person I wanted to be. Sure, you can discover these things when you’re in a relationship, but being alone gives you a lot of time with yourself. For me, that was just what I needed.
It’s been years since my year of no boyfriends. Ironically, in the year after I ended my hiatus from getting serious with someone, I started dating the man who would later become my husband. He was different from all the guys before, and I knew he was the one almost immediately. The best part is I knew this man was what I wanted because of who he is, not because I was filling a blank space in my life where a boyfriend should be.
Being single was awesome! But so is being in a relationship when it’s for the right reasons.
[Images via HBO ]