What Being Single Taught Me

I spent most of my young adulthood moving from one relationship to another, with brief patches of singlehood filled mostly by “hanging out,” which my generation had instead of dating. Hanging out tested the waters with one person for a brief time; eventually, for unstated reasons, you ended up officially “together”—or not.

Concurrent relationships and hanging outs lasted well into my midthirties.

And then a relationship ended. Though it needed to end, and we’d ended it together, its last few months and its tumultuous conclusion shredded my heart.

I dated a bit, mainly to stay somewhat in the mix. I kept romance at arm’s length—or further. After a daunting stint of on-line dating, I tired of courtship and shrugged it off for an undefined “while.” I settled into singlehood.

Four years passed.

Though I went through a stretch in which I enjoyed singlehood too much to really want to partner up, eventually the unfettered joys of the unattached grew a little ho-hum. The excitement wears off. And so there I went, back into the dating pool.

Anyone who dates me now has to deal with my rustiness when it comes to relationships: I should have asked you first? Wait, you want me to check in when I get to a different city? We talk every day? You want to see me how often? I have to attend that with you? Surely not. Really? (Really?)

I might have grown a little rough around the edges. Yet I’ve learned a lot about myself and the world and life through a long stretch of adult singlehood.

I’d recommend it to anyone.

I remembered things I love to do. My confidence grew. I stopped doing things only because they made someone else happy. I learned that I don’t need a partner—though I might want one, and that the wanting has far more merit than the needing. I learned how much I like myself. I learned the joys of singlehood, got spoiled by them, and realized that, after a while, compromising for the right person could feel more than worth it.

I learned that people will treat you differently if you don’t have a partner. People make assumptions about others based on their relationship status. (Gay. Frigid. Angry. Bitter. Lonely.) People ask you for favors that they wouldn’t ask of someone in a relationship. (After all, you have nothing else to do and no one to mind.) You get invited to different things—and not invited to others. (Couples prefer to mix with other couples.) When you extend an invitation, your friend won’t know whether she can bring her boyfriend or spouse. (“Will she feel badly about being single or like a third wheel if I do?”) Certain friends spend more time with you and certain friends spend less. (The coupled-up dedicate their minimal free time to their partners. And other couples. Single men feel they can spend time with you solo; they can't with a boyfriend in the mix.)

What did you learn from your longest stretch of singlehood?