If you’d have told 18-year-old me that I’d be single in my early 30s, I’m not sure how I would have reacted.
Perhaps, at 18, I hadn’t yet had enough exposure to the societal norm of ‘settle down; make babies; live a quiet life’ to feel the pressure to do such a thing. Anyway, such is the fact: I’m single at 32, which means I have a few ex boyfriends. The reasons why are a myriad of things, the largest of which being because, to a certain extent, I choose to be single.Yes, really. I’d rather be alone than with the wrong person. There are so many things I love about being single – I’m not giving that up for just anyone.
One thing I’ve always tried to do is learn and evolve from the relationships I’ve had that didn’t work out for one reason or another. That’s sometimes easier said than done, but a girl can try. So here are some things I’ve learned so far (I’m still learning).
I was 25 when I had my heart broken for the first time. We’d been together since the age of 19, practically babies, and although I wasn’t set on spending the rest of my life with the boy, I definitely wasn’t ready to say goodbye. Worst of all, I just didn’t see it coming. Me, a person who prides themself on their perceptiveness, is somewhat uselsss and naive when it comes to reading the emotions of the opposite sex. Lesson number one.
Swiftly followed by lesson number two, one of life’s hardest – even the people you think will never hurt you, might. But heartbreak taught me something that has helped me through my life ever since: that in our pain we find our greatest power. If I could survive that, surely I could survive anything? There was a way to find out.
I was 25 years old and suddenly single for the first time as an adult, so I decided to do something that I longed to do yet terrified me – I packed a bag and set off to travel the world. Alone. It was and still is the best decision I’ve ever made. I learnt how to be comfortably alone, something I cherish and relish to this day. So thank you to the heartbreakers for helping me realise I am unbreakable.
The Ones with Bad Timing
I once read in a book that relationships are 20% chemistry and 80% timing. This is a statement I fully concur with.
More than once I’ve met someone who seems just about perfect for me. But unfortunately, for the both of us, the timing just wasn’t right. In most cases either I was about to leave the country or they were, so they must forever be remembered as ‘not meant to be’ (or, if they were a bit special, ‘one that got away’).
I suppose I do have a habit of gravitating towards adventurous types who aren’t interested in settling down… it takes one to know one. That’s the semi-conscious commitment-phobe in me. Us humans often choose like-minded people to spend time with as we believe they have a better chance of understanding our true selves. Since two of my core characteristics are independence and a carefree spirit, plus I’m somewhat rootless, it’s hardly a surprise I’ve gotten into badly-timed couplings more than once. Apparently I didn’t learn the first time; I probably didn’t learn the last time either.
“I kinda always knew I’d end up your ex-girlfriend” – No Doubt
These relationships still have value, even if they are on the road to nowhere. Largely because they give us hope that there are people out there in the big wide world who are for us, even if the timing’s off right now. This reminds us of the unpredicatability of life and that we cannot control things, even if we might wish to stop time now and again. They also remind us that we can feel, and that’s important too – particularly if no one has made your heart sing in a while (mine has a tendency to lay fallow for seasons).
These are the best kind of break ups. No arguments; no surprises; just two people who like each other but know they aren’t going to make it.
The Ones You Wish Were ‘The One’
My unruly heart. How much you have to answer for.
I’ve had four and a half long-term relationships in my life (one was something of a grey area). One was my high school sweetheart; the second broke my heart; but the others… they were almost there.
I wanted to fall completely and hopelessly in love with these men. I’m an English graduate; I’ve read enough romance novels to believe that all-consuming, punch-you-in-the-stomach love is something I should be aiming for. I wanted things to end happily ever after. What I did not want was another break up or to admit that, as wonderful as these boyfriends were, something was missing in each relationship. Try as I might, I was never going to find ‘it’.
So I learnt that life is too short to waste your own or other people’s time. To do so to yourself is idiotic and to someone else is one of the worst forms of arrogance. Staying in a relationship that isn’t right is wasting two people’s time, whichever way you look at it. I’ve learnt it’s better to walk away knowing you gave everything you could; knowing you can’t control your heart and it knows what’s best for you.
The Ones You Wish You’d Never Met
I started this blog post saying we should try to learn something from every relationship we have, whether good or bad. But man, it’s hard to figure out what we’ve learned from a person who’s treated us like shit, or lied to us, or messed us around and wasted our time (or, sometimes, all of the above).
As someone who has spent a good few years on the dating scene, I have sadly lost count of the number of men who have given me the runaround – although I can thankfully say they are not the majority of those I’ve dated. A few do stick in the memory, though.
There was the guy who knew I was going through a family trauma and therefore fragile, but still let his dating app alerts go off continuously in my presence, cancelled dates at the last minute (or just no-showed) and then ghosted me (which was a relief by this point).
Or, the guy I started seeing who knew I liked him more than a little – personally a huge thing for me to tell someone – but decided actually he liked another girl better. Except forgot the part about telling me. I discovered the truth when I bumped into them on a date together. Ouch.
Or, the guy I spent a week with in India before I somehow fell out of favour and overheard him giving another man his permission to ‘make a move’ on me. Cue blazing argument on a beach in Goa and us never speaking again.
These are all things that have happened to me as I navigate the choppy waters of dating in the 21st century. No one is perfect, and I am sure there are times I have treated others in a way they don’t deserve. However, I’m a very honest person – a read through the back catalogue of this blog will tell you that. Time and again I have fallen into the trap of assuming everyone I interact with is as honest as me. Time and again, I’ve been proven wrong.
You’d expect men of a certain age to have the maturity and courage to just tell a girl they aren’t interested in her any more. Not all love stories have a happy ending; I’m okay with that reality… I’m not that naive. But I’m not okay with cowardice, dishonesty and disrespect. If we all just took a punt and told each other how we really felt all of this unnecessary hurt could be avoided. Wishful thinking, I’m sure, but I’ll keep wishing.
I think the bad times exist to make us appreciate and be grateful for the good times. Because I know from experience there are good guys out there and the bad ones just make the good ones even more wonderful when you meet them.
I can’t promise they’ll be the one for you. I can’t promise it’ll all be happily ever after in the end. I can promise that you won’t be the first person that’s been hurt by your lover, any which way. And, I can promise there is hope even when it all seems hopeless. Stick with it, singles of the 21st century, and trust the universe – it has a plan for us.