Single And Looking: 5 Lessons In Love From 5 Years Of Being Alone

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Being single is a lot like being in a relationship.

There are ups and downs. One minute, you’re making your vision board, doing yoga and basking in your solace. The next, you’re eating your body weight in junk food and re-watching rom-coms on Netflix.

Being single is not always easy, but, just like a relationship, it can be totally worthwhile if you’re willing to do the work.

For me, staying single for five years was the best decision I could have made for my love life. When I got rid of the constant distraction of trying to find "the one," I was able to take a step back and see things objectively.

It took a minute, but I finally appreciate relationships for what they are, instead of what I want them to be.

1. Relationships are about decisions, not feelings.

The intense passion we feel when we first connect with someone is always nice. But it won’t be the only thing we’ll ever feel for them.

As time goes on, our partner might make us feel angry, sad, frustrated or confused. So, allowing our feelings to guide our relationship is not exactly a fool-proof plan, since feelings come and go.

Relationships work better if they’re based on firm and informed decisions, rather than a temporary mood. Remember: It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

You may feel short-term, but always remember to think and act with the long-term in mind.

2. It takes time to learn what you truly want in a partner.

When it comes to getting involved with someone, there is one very important question you should be able to answer: What do I want?

Five years ago, I had a very vague idea of what I really wanted (a nice smile with a cool personality, maybe?). Luckily, the single life gave me the freedom to meet many different kinds of people.

As I got to know different personalities, I took the time to carefully decide what I really wanted. I never had to worry about leading anyone on or hurting their feelings. It took me long enough, but now I know I want a strong communicator with a great sense of humor (among other things).

I also know what I’m willing to compromise on and what my deal-breakers are. By learning about what I truly want in a partner, I can avoid wasting time with people who are just not for me.

We all deserve to get what we want if we’re willing to do the work.

3. Use your words wisely.

I used to think a relationship was some kind of free-for-all when it came to expressing myself. After all, aren’t relationships all about communication?

During my self-imposed time-out, I noticed how carefully I spoke to people I had only just met.

In the beginning, we use our words to share and learn from each other. But as time goes on, our words can become weapons. Communication is vital in a relationship, but some things are better left unsaid.

Sometimes, we need to be sensitive in order to keep our relationship going strong.

4. Relationships come in all shapes and sizes.

As you might imagine, not having a boyfriend has freed up quite a bit of my time. I’ve spent some of it simply observing the different kinds of situations us 20-somethings find ourselves in. I’ve seen people become single parents, break up after 10 years, get married after two months and have extended one-night stands.

Not everyone chooses to meet, fall in love, get married and have children in that order. That’s okay.

Everyone is entitled to his or her own journey, whether you choose to spend all day on Tinder or stay single for five years.

At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to find what we’re looking for.

5. Your most important relationship is with yourself.

"Getting to know yourself better" is not as easy as it sounds. It takes patience, courage and humility. These traits will serve you well when you deal with others.

I learned if you don’t forgive yourself for your mistakes, you won’t be able to learn from your experiences.

If you can’t admit you’re unhappy, you won’t be able to change it. If you don’t stop and check in with yourself every now and again, you might lose touch with how you really feel and what you really want.

Most importantly, if you don’t have an honest handle on who you are, your relationships with other people will define you, when it should really be the other way around.

While I’ve gotten alarmingly comfortable with my singleness, I know I’m much better prepared to have a successful relationship (with someone other than myself) in the future. It definitely won’t be perfect, and I probably have much more to learn.

But for now, I’m just hoping it won’t take me another five years to get my sh*t together.