I recently caught up with a friend who had separated from her partner of seven years.
I’ve been single for that same period of time, and it got me thinking about the seven-year itch. As I begin to develop an urge towards being in a relationship for the first time in a long time, I realize it’s time to have a look at the single life thing and share a story that helped me see that life is grand, whether I’m single or in a relationship.
In February 2009, I decided that my days of serial monogamy had to end. It was time to be on my own to find out what the “real Adrian” was about. I gave myself a 10-month deadline. However, I would go on to spend the next year enjoying every moment of celibacy and learning how to be with myself without needing someone to fulfill a requirement in me.
I was very fortunate to be with some amazing women throughout my 20s. Each one of them intelligent, beautiful and caring. Unfortunately my “stuff” never allowed me to fully accept their love, so off I would go to find some novel love which I vowed I would surrender to. But of course, that never happened—me and my “stuff” wouldn’t allow it.
Then when I was 29, I had an experience that helped me see that love for myself didn’t come through being loved by another, it could only come through me. And to do that, I had to be fully aware of myself and reconnect to that thing I had separated from. That thing was the source, God, a higher self—whatever we choose to call it.
I realized that I had to find these answers on my own. I would need to release my stuff, detach from cultural norms and attach to my purpose and my needs. Not the needs of the society and culture I was placed in.
The single thing. It takes guts. Only having ourselves to depend on, no one to fall back on when times get tough.
Sometimes we get subtle vibes from those in relationships that say, “What’s wrong with you?” and “Please let me live vicariously through you.” Dinners out with friends where we’re the third, fifth or seventh wheel, and continuously get asked why we are single (although we never ask people why they’re in a relationship).
And going to bed each night with only ourselves, alone—which, to be honest, I love.
My long period of singledom has taught me the upsides of being by myself: travel, love affairs, more spare time and doing what I want to do. I’ve also learned how resilient I can be. But I still believe that being in a committed relationship can have beautiful moments that allow for very different experiences than living the single life.
A few months ago, I was fortunate to have a “sliding doors” moment while catching up with a happily-married ex-girlfriend and her daughter.
We met at a playground near a beach and spent some time talking, while her rambunctious little girl ran around. It was a beautiful morning, one that would normally cause me to wonder whether my very enjoyable single life is better than the life I would’ve had if I’d committed myself to someone. Being there with my intelligent, beautiful ex and her amazing daughter, I realized that this could have been my life too. That this feeling of happiness is out there for me.
Granted, I got to interact with her daughter on a perfect morning and the weather was great. I have no doubt that family life isn’t always so blissful, but it showed me that life can be beautiful and enjoyable no matter what direction we take. Does it matter that I’ve spent so many years single or would settling down have been a better choice for me? The answer to my question was revealed as I walked back to my car that day.
My life wouldn’t have necessarily been better, just different.
At that moment, all my fears and judgments about being in a relationship dissolved. Being in a relationship doesn’t make us happy, neither does being single. We have to make our own selves happy.
I’d always known this as a theory, but that day I felt it as the truth.
Over the past few years, my understanding of what it takes to be in a relationship has changed a lot. Especially when I consider what it takes for me to be in a relationship. The time alone has allowed me to form deep connections with many women, based on a love that isn’t camouflaged by my sexual and biological needs, insecurities or jealousy.
It’s taken me seven years of single life to be where I want to be. For someone else, it may take seven years of being in a committed relationship. I’m grateful that we live in a time where both are more culturally accepted. Whatever our choice, we must do what’s best for us as individuals. I always think of the airplane analogy: when the plane is going down, it’s important to put our oxygen mask on first, otherwise we can’t help anyone else.
We must learn to be selfish with our love for ourselves.
This time has also left me with room to ask for what I want when the time is right. Getting ready to embark on a six month adventure through the Americas, I may have to wait a while longer to ask, but when I’m ready, I will ask the Divine Goddess to come into my life. Then I’ll do what I’ve learned to do over the past few years—accept, surrender and appreciate.
Author: Adrian Snary
Editor: Nicole Cameron
Image: Kelly Austin/Unsplash