Welcome to the Ex Games: a content series about love lost. Whether it's the realization things need to end, the act of rejection, the reality of being single, or the resurrection that is moving on, the Ex Games has every stage of a breakup covered.
And to really bring these stories to life, we've launched the Ex Games podcast, where we delve into the two sides of a break-up story with a new couple each week, and aim to end up somewhere near the truth. Because when it comes to affairs of the heart, everyone plays, but does anyone win? Let's find out.
All right, it's time to fess up: When was the last time you were single for an extended period of time? And no, a few weeks doesn't count.
OK, so for whatever reason, you've found yourself relationship hopping — possibly with no break in between at all – because you're already lining up the next guy or girl the second you know a relationship is about to end.
It may seem like an ideal setup. You always have a date to weddings, you never have to answer nosy family members pestering you about your single status, and your Instagram is continually peppered with those enviable vacation pics with the SO. (#goals).
The fact is, though, that serial monogamy is just a coping mechanism for some much deeper issues. And if you continue to distract yourself with a string of significant others, you'll never get to the bottom of why you're so afraid of being alone.
Feel like you may be relationship-dependent? It's time to ask the tough questions. Here are some major problems that could arise from avoiding the single life like the plague.
You Don't Know What Makes You Happy
Sure, there's something to be said for feeling loved, but it's absolutely crucial to know what makes you happy outside of time with bae. In a relationship, your sense of self can start to get blurry because your interests, values, and goals start to merge with the other person's. A fulfilling life requires that you have your own individual passions, and if you never have the space to figure out what those are, your happiness depends entirely on an SO.
Relationship expert Audrey Hope asserts that serial monogamy is comparable to an addiction — love becomes the drug to fill a void. Alone time, she says, “should be considered a gift when it comes to attracting healthy relationships.” Take the time to figure out how to fill the void with other things before relying on another person to do so.
Ultimately, being self-sufficient means being conscious of your own needs and desires, as well as taking charge to fulfill them. It's worth noting that this kind of independence is undoubtedly attractive to both sexes, so in the long run, it's a quality that will be to your advantage when you're ready to start dating again.
You Never Reflect Upon Past Mistakes
The period of time after a relationship ends allows for a super valuable opportunity to reflect — in fact, the more distance you have from when it ended, the more honest you'll be with yourself about where things went wrong.
“In my personal experiences and my coaching experiences, it's often crucial to fly solo for a bit so that you can develop self-awareness and an awareness about your past relationship (what worked, what didn't work, what you need in a partner/relationship, etc.),” says Boston-based dating coach Neely Steinberg. “When you develop more awareness, you can start making healthy, conscious choices moving forward (rather than acting on impulse or unconsciously).”
Serial monogamists are typically so afraid of being alone that they're willing to date people who are all wrong for them. While being single, you may gain clarity around unhealthy patterns or cycles, making it more likely that you date people who are a better fit down the line. Ultimately, this all boosts the chances that the relationships you pursue in the future are more successful.
April Masini, a relationship expert and author of the Ask April advice column, explains:
Maybe dating someone much younger or much older is actually a good idea. Maybe dating someone with kids isn't such a bad idea after all. Or maybe dating someone outside your religion, race, or socioeconomic group is a path you should explore. When you keep jumping into the same types of relationships, you deny yourself these journeys that result in self-knowledge. Self-knowledge is what helps you make better relationship choices.
You Don't Give Yourself Enough Time To Grieve
Don't rob yourself of the necessary time to work through the confusion, anger, sadness, and other emotions that inevitably follow a breakup — that healing time is critical. Because if you avoid dealing with those feelings off the bat, they're more likely to spill over into your next relationship, causing major issues.
“Breakups are a loss,” says Steinberg. “If you don't give yourself some alone time to reflect, you may jump into another relationship for the wrong reasons.”
“It is like a spiritual 'feng shui,' where you must empty the baggage and the clutter of the past and make way for the new,” added Hope. “The emptiness is an invitation for new energy to enter.”
In a 2011 study, researchers monitored participants' brain activity via an MRI while they looked at photos of their exes. What they discovered is that the parts of the brain that lit up while they viewed those photos were the exact same areas associated with physical pain.
Clearly, a breakup — no matter who in the circumstances or who facilitated it — is worthy of a grieving period. You owe it to yourself and furthermore, to your next SO.