Wednesday, 19 October 2011

A Guide for the Newly Single: 16 Ways to Find Yourself When You're By Yourself

Image thanks to haojan

“My aloneness catalyzed a deep commitment to working on my own personal development. With no romantic partner or relationship issues to distract me, I was able to focus intently on learning about who I really was, where I came from, where I’d been in my life, the choices I’d made, and the impact those choices had on my life... Aloneness itself became my greatest opportunity.” 
– Lauren Mackler, author of Solemate

Many of you will know that an important relationship ended for me earlier this year. It has meant an enormous mental, physical and emotional shift back to being single after nearly four years of being in a couple – a shift I’m only just getting into the groove of, more than six months on from the split. Here are a few of the profound truisms I’ve realised, changes I’ve made, and lessons I have to share from the experience of re-finding myself now that I’m by myself.

1. You are in a relationship with yourself, always.

To have and to hold. For richer, for poorer. For better, for worse. Get back to your ultimate commitment: your relationship with you. Because it is a commitment, and one that people give up on all the time. But you can decide not to. Take an oath to honour yourself again.

2. The power of one

Lots of things that are amazing exist as independent entities: like the earth. And yet, they are not independent – they hang in the beautiful balance of all things, just as you do. You are from the earth and out of the atmosphere and a piece in the puzzle of the planetary system. Delight in your part in all things, as well as your own autonomy.

3. Admit the pleasure of a relationship

Something that I touched on in my How to Get Over a Break-Up post is the ‘independent women’ fixation of modern female culture. But I loved being in a relationship, and I will love being in my next relationship, and I feel that to snap my fingers and say “who needs men?” would be sending the wrong message out to the universe. Yes, I’m enjoying my time as a single entity and, yes, I am supremely independent, but I’m also ready to sync up again in an even more powerful and important relationship. Don’t be afraid to admit to yourself that you like being in a relationship: it doesn’t make you weak, and it doesn’t have to mean your heart is broken every morning that you wake up alone; it is just honesty. Admit you’re open to it; trust that it’s down the road for you, and then focus on enjoying the interim rather than wishing it away.

4. Don’t let the temporary lack of a partner stop you being sexual

You can use your imagination for this one...

5. Kind of linked with the above: bookmark this.

(Warning: it is a tad rude - in a good way - and also highly addictive.)

6. You have to treat yourself the way you wish to be treated

Not only does this enact a real sense of your own worthiness for this kind of treatment, it is good practice for spreading that love further afield. If you love yourself you have more love to give others. Love breeds, baby. Buy yourself a big bunch of flowers. If you think “nah, too expensive” – how can you expect a current or prospective beau to think any different? Pay yourself a compliment. If you think that’s cheesy, you can’t expect your next lover to think it worthwhile. You get me?

7. Write a song

..or paint a picture, or write a poem, or structure a dance, or stitch a quilt, or do a DJ mix – whatever your craft; use it as a medium to honour your ex and digest their loss, perhaps with a ‘moral’ or lesson that you want to take from the whole experience, whether you choose it to be a Beyonce-style shunning or a Damien Rice worshipping.

8. Be whole

You are not half of anything, and despite Sparksian culture to the contrary, 1 + 1 does not equal 1, it equals three: you, the other person, and the relationship. You may have lost the third portion, but the two of you have walked away as whole beings. Not acknowledging this may leave you drifting and with little to offer any new relationship. Work on being whole, rather than await your ‘other half’.

9. Enjoy ‘Alone’

Eyes closed. Head back. Breathe deep. You’re alone. A crisp stillness. There’s nothing like it, and yet, for some reason, it terrifies us. The silence. The absolute reliance on your own thoughts for stimulus. Only your own regime to direct you. We’ve forgotten how to enjoy being alone. Go out for a walk in some woodland and just listen to the ground crunch and the breeze whistle. Sit and have a cup of tea and just stare out of the window with your own thoughts. Indulge in your aloneness for a moment – and welcome the possibility that it might actually feel pretty good.

10. Learn to desire, and to be desired again

It isn’t always the most comfortable thing to feel desire or to be desired, especially if you’ve been used to that “radar” part of yourself being switched off whilst in a relationship. But the more we cringe at it, the less we invite it. There is a major obsession with over-sexualisation and objectification, mostly of women, in recent decades – a lot of which I can strongly get behind. I’m not asking you to get a boob job or wash your car in a bikini for the whole street to see; but it is okay to indulge in being desired. Be open to it – your own version of it – and don’t feel guilty for enjoying it. There is a new kind of electricity surrounding you when you are single; a different energy that you can now play with and send out in waves, sometimes completely unawares. Meet the eyes of strangers. Acknowledge a wolf-whistle with pride. Give a wink to the lovely person you see eyeing you on the train platform if you’re feeling particularly brave. Be aware that if you think you can’t, or shouldn’t; you can’t and shan’t. A little embarrassment is endearing – so don’t worry if you blush or feel silly, any onlooker will be pleased as punch just to be acknowledged. And, F.Y.I: the more you practice this in the everyday, the more confident you’ll feel when the time comes to get talking to your next potential lover.

11. Read Life Lessons by Leslie Garner. Seriously, lady knows her stuff.

12. Watch some early Sex and the City (before the writers sold out and paired them all off!)

13. Thrash around in a new group

"This is how it goes. You thrash around, then you meet people, and maybe you wind up becoming friends. You just don’t know where it goes. But I believe you’ve got to be out there thrashing around, creating ways for yourself." 
- Kurt Markus

Sometimes the best way to find ourselves is within a group of other people: because we show different shades of ourselves in every new set of circumstances – and the more circumstances you place yourself in the more you’re likely to find a shade you like. New friends lead to potential new lovers, and at the very least teach us new things about ourselves. Join your transition town group, meet local couchsurfers, join a language course, a local choir, a yoga class etc. Think outside the box to meet the kind of people you might not meet already in your everyday life – a macrobiotic cooking class? Capoeira?

14. Makeover your bed

Your bed was potentially a place where you spent a great deal of time with your previous partner. Now you have it all to yourself again and it should reflect that. Buy new sheets, perhaps new pillows or a new feather duvet. What about making some scented lavender pouches to lie on each pillow? Don’t neglect to makeover the space around your bed, too. On your bedside table or tables place a nice coaster, a selection of good books, soft lamp lighting, and maybe fresh flowers. Make it an inviting place where you love to spend time, and where anyone you choose to invite along will want to spend time too! You might also want to rethink what you wear to bed; try wearing something comfortable and breathable but that makes you feel more glam than an old threadbare t-shirt, perhaps a vintage cotton nightdress? (Heck yes I rock one of those.)

15. Change your routine

Perhaps you had a routine with your old partner: TV dinners whilst watching nature documentaries? Weekend drives? You probably had a personal routine that fit around your lover too: certain things you wore that they liked etc. Now is your chance to install a new routine. Go out for dinner once a week with a friend, or, if you’re at home, sit up at the table, play some music and light a candle. Join a cycling or running group at the weekends. Re-think the way you dress day-to-day, maybe by adding more colour or allowing yourself to wear something a little more ‘risky’ – whatever that may mean to you! Change a few of your regular cosmetics or fragrance. Remember that the way they liked you might not now be the way that you like you.

16. Learn a lesson

Whatever the heck happens to us in life and in love, be it hellish or heavenly, is never worthless if we choose to take a lesson from it. I’m a better person for going through what I have with my past relationship – from the great beginnings to the sad endings. In the most cliché- but-true way possible, I’m a better person. I’ve grown from it. It nurtured me somehow, rather than taking anything from me. And if you look at your past relationship close enough – at the person you were at the beginning and the person you are now – you might just be able to see things in the same light.

17. Listen to this. Such a sad yet empowering song. If you cry it's okay - we love you for it.

Has anybody else learnt any important truths in the transition from couple-country to sizzling singledom? Share all...

11 comments:

Amber-Rose said...

A really wonderful post. :)

I'm still trying to find the me as a whole part. I don't think I've ever been single long enough to do so properly. My bad.

And somehow I KNEW that No.17 was going to be Adele - Set Fire to the Rain gets me every time.

Elimy said...

Best piece of advice I ever got came from a girl I used to work with. The right person comes along when you stop trying to find him. The wrong person comes along when you're trying too hard.

PelirrojaBiu said...

I love it, thanks so much!

Sarah said...

Thank you - this came at just the right time

Kate a.k.a. The Secret Goddess said...

I too had a long term and powerful relationship end - or rather change form drastically as we have a child together so will always be in some form of relationship.

The finding myself in this new space has been incredibly beautiful and also deeply painful - like being born - as if I am doing both the birthing and the being born at the same time.

Now, I'm off to explore your links in this post and enjoy watching the snowfall from my window :)

Chelsea said...

Oh what a gorgeous and helpful post! I'm six months out of a 3.5 year relationship (and year + engagement), though only 3 months out from living with my ex. And it's been SO TOUGH but also SO AMAZING. To find myself again. And sometimes lonely, and that's okay. I'm digging all of your suggestions, but 3 really resonated with me.

Natalie said...

Thank you for this too, I've only been single a week and half after being in a 7 year relationship, but these are good thoughts to keep in mind going forward.

Anonymous said...

3 weeks ago I came out of a 6yr relationship that I feel should have ended 2yrs before then. Given this, I now find myself enjoying the peace but what to do with all of this new found freedom? This is the best read, its all so true and since reading only minutes ago I plan to start going for a morning instead of night after all and sundry have been fed and the dishes washed up, I'm going to take up golf again, begin a tapestry and get back into reading, all of which was put on hold for the relationship. Most importantly, I'm going to start a personal diary so I can reflect back in years to come and maybe give it to my kids if they find themselves alone.

Lorraine Gale said...

I just ended my 17 year relationship (2years married). Feel like ive fallen apart and whats left is a mess of emotions. Found this page from a google search.... thank you. I hope I can get to where you are, someday.

swanandfawn said...

I just want to thank you so much for this post. I broke up with my boyfriend of three years yesterday, it was a matter of loving each other, but not being in love with each other.

One of the reasons we also broke up was because I am have loved him since I was 16, and actually have no idea who I am as a person. I need to find that person, and this post has really helped me set out on the right direction. Thank you so much, truly and completely, this has just injected me with so much positivity and optimism that it will all be okay, and I will find who I am.

<3

Anonymous said...

I love your post it is very insightful and I literally had that ah ha moment.

Thank you! <3

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