Q: I hate to admit it, but I’ve started calling my exes and reconnecting with them because I am so lonely. When I come home from work, my house feels empty. I work on projects, and I have hobbies – but it feels flat improving my home, cooking, and watching movies all alone. Most of my friends have coupled off, and I have lost my friend support network. I don’t want to jump into a relationship unless it is with the right person, but I’m going crazy spending so much time by myself.
- Is Single and Happy an Oxymoron?
A: Being single and happy can be a trick in our society. It’s hard to avoid the not-so-subtle message that coupledom is a measure of success. Every time you turn on the radio, you hear love songs. Movies and novels typically revolve around steamy, irresistible romances. The billboard on your drive to work features a diamond ring. The sign at your bank reads, “Save for a sunny day” with a picture of an impossibly attractive husband, wife, and two happy children carrying buckets and tiny plastic shovels, presumably on their way to a magical day of sandcastle building and sunbathing. Where is your sunny day, you wonder? Where is the partner who will love and cherish you? The pressure to find “the one” can feel overwhelming. But don’t worry. It gets better.
Take a deep breath and follow these five steps to a new, happy you.
1) Get perspective. The fact is, being in a relationship has its ups and downs like everything else in life. Those days at the beach might include crazy, beautiful make out sessions, but they also involve sand in the eyes, cuts and scrapes from walking barefoot on seashells, and cranky kids who are in dire need of lunch and a nap. Your life will not miraculously transform into a glossy Hollywood movie the second you fall in love or get married. There will still be beautiful days, and crummy days.
2) Live your life right now. Don’t wait for that special person to appear on the scene. He or she will arrive one day, but you can’t sit around waiting. How attractive will that seem if you are all bummed out sitting on the sidelines? Take charge of your life and complete all the milestones that you hoped to accomplish by this stage. If you dreamed of traveling across the country with your partner, convince a friend to be your road trip buddy and start the adventure. Maybe you have been waiting to get a dog until you have a comfortable home life with your partner. Guess what? Single people can have dogs! Get your fluffy, scruffy pup and be happy. Whatever it is that you have been putting on the back burner for “one day”, bring it to the forefront and make it happen.
3) Connect with your support system. Your friends and family can be the best support system in the world if you let them. Even if your friends are married, they still need quality time with people other than their spouses. Plan weekly or monthly outings with each group of friends, and stick to your plans. Ask your friends to invite their friends who you haven’t yet met, and your social circle will quickly grow. You might just meet your match when you’re not even looking.
4) Take care of yourself. Eat healthy, exercise, and dress to impress. When you look better, you’ll feel better, and you will attract attention from potential matches. Treat yourself to homemade meals, and dinners out with friends. Get an extravagant haircut if you can afford it. Have you always wanted to take music lessons? Do it. Why are you waiting for someone else to spoil you? You can spoil yourself right now, no partner needed.
5) Give yourself credit. Accept that what you are doing is hard. Like it or not, you live in a society that prizes romantic relationships over being single. Couples have a sense of stability and direction that can be envy-inducing. As a single person, you can feel stuck in limbo, unsure about where your life will ultimately lead. Your single years can be challenging, but they are also a very special time in your life. You have more flexibility and more freedom than you will ever have again. Unless you want to remain single (and some people do), you will one day look back on this time with nostalgia. Summon the courage to believe that, like all things in life, this era will end. You will meet the love of your life when the time is right. Instead of pining for all the relationships that could have been – which is a waste of your energy – spend this time indulging in the pleasures of being single. Devote time to working on your passions, go out on dates, travel, learn a foreign language, do whatever it is that makes you feel fulfilled, and take pride in your solo accomplishments.