Imagine this, if you will: you’re curled up at home on a Saturday night with Netflix on your mind and bacon cheese fries in your hands. You might be in an oversize hoodie and yoga pants or the pants might not exist at all, only socks. Just you, yourself and the “aw-hell-I’ll-let-the-18-seconds-go-by-and-let-the-next-episode-start” option.

Sounds great, right?

Well, it should, but unfortunately, not everyone thinks that way. Even by today’s standards, single women who enjoy hanging out alone are stigmatized as either sad and lonely or uppity and unwilling to settle down—neither of which is the case.

The truth is, not being in a relationship is okay. In fact, in my opinion, it’s important to not be in a relationship from time to time and for longer than two weeks or a month, especially after you’ve just broken up with someone.

There were a few years between my first love and my second love. when I thought I would never get over the first one, but over the years that spanned between the end of the first one and the beginning of the second one, I learned more of who I was as a person. I was 18 when the first one ended and didn’t get involved in the second relationship until I was 22. Those are the years where you really grow as a person.

Between those years, I learned how to be me. I learned how to be alone and be happy alone. I picked up and went to New York if I wanted to at the very last second, I sampled my way through the kissing buffet, stayed in for a weekend with my phone off to get myself back in order, read a book in one sitting and looked at what I really wanted out of a relationship. I learned how to differentiate between a passing fancy and having actual feelings for someone. I figured out what I liked and didn’t like in a person, what I wanted out of a relationship and how to be stable in a relationship. But most of all, I learned to appreciate myself; the way my hair curled, my ability to make anyone laugh without really trying, my love for books, my ability to cook. I became comfortable with who I was.

So, when the time came around for the second love of my life to come on in, I was ready and willing to be in a relationship. I felt that I had become the person I was hoping to be and felt that I could finally share that with someone else. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work the way we want it to. We think we’re compatible with someone, but we learn quickly that while we may feel we’re ready to be in a relationship, the other person involved may not be. They might still have reservations. They might not be in the place or frame-of-mind to be able to give themselves over in that sort of way. Therefore, the relationship ends, as it did for me.

In all actuality (despite the deep heartbreak that I actually thought I would never come back from), once I had recovered, so-to-speak, I was almost glad. I had vowed to myself that I wasn’t going to be in a relationship until I had found someone who I felt was worth my time. I didn’t want to date someone just to date someone because society deems it necessary that 20-somethings date like crazy or pass from relationship to relationship. I wanted it to mean something and I wanted it to be with a person that I truly felt a connection with. There didn’t have to be fireworks or grand gestures; there just needed to be something that gave me a shift in my feelings.

I waited two years between that whole messy debacle had ended before finding my current boyfriend. I had spent the last two years getting back into the groove of being alone and enjoying being alone. If I hadn’t had that time to myself, I wouldn’t have known how to properly appreciate the relationship I’m in now. When I was alone, I learned to appreciate the changes that inevitably happen to your body throughout college, to be able to weed out the people whom no longer benefitted my life without someone else’s opinion, to learn how to be comfortable with who I was.

Thankfully, I unintentionally found someone who is on the same page as I am. We have had numerous conversations discussing the point where we realized we needed to be alone in order to fully give ourselves and our all to our next relationship, a relationship we only wanted if we felt that being with that person was better than being single. I was happy to know that I wasn’t the only one who felt that dating just to date was stupid and that you should want your relationship to be with someone who benefits you in ways other than between the sheets. We have intellectual conversations as well as ridiculous hypothetical talks. We appreciate small things the other does and have a mutual respect when our opinions differ. Had I spent my time between the big relationships in small, meaningless ones, I might not have been able to appreciate the person I’m with now, who I’m choosing to share every part of my life with.

So, to all the single ladies out there, tell the constant “how are you still single?” and “are you seeing anyone?” and “why don’t you want a relationship?” buzzing to buzz off. The stigma attached to being single is ridiculous. Being single is great, not only because you can eat pizza during a Golden Girls marathon at 4:27am and not feel judged, but because it gives you the time to appreciate where you just were, where you are now, and where you want to be in the future.

You have the time to think about what you learned from the last relationship, take away the good, learn to avoid the bad, and be happy just waiting around to find the one you feel is better than being alone. Whoever that person is, they’ll appreciate the time you took to know yourself and you will, too.

Megan Mann is a writer from the suburbs of Chicago. She believes in solo dance parties, the problem solving prowess of cupcakes, and binge-watching any and all television. Jennifer Lawrence told her she was funny once at Comic-Con. If you need her, she’s probably working on her future novel and probably not wearing pants. You can follow her on Twitter @MissMeganMann.

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