I’ve been single for the vast majority of my life. Part of the reason is because I find social situations challenging and overwhelming, so don’t go out much or meet new people often. Another reason is that I enjoy spending time alone and can quickly become irritated when I don’t spend enough time by myself and can end up feeling claustrophobic.
Even though I enjoy my own company, I get lonely sometimes. I’m human after all and crave intimacy and closeness. That intimacy and closeness isn’t just available in romantic relationships of course. Any type of relationship can have those elements, but for today I just want to focus on the one type.
One question that’s been on my mind lately is whether I want to be in another relationship at some point, or if I’m actually single at heart and would prefer rather staying single? It was a hard question to answer, so I took some time to explore it. Questions like these are also complicated because our answers can change over time. So this is where I am right now…
I’m not planning on actively pursuing a new relationship, but rather just keeping my heart open to new people and experiences and try take more chances that I would normally shy away from. I’m willing to put my heart out there again, knowing that there’s a chance I could get hurt. But my previous experiences have also shown me that I get through that heartache, and come away learning more about myself, others, and relationships in general. I don’t regret any of my previous relationships, because I believe that what I’ve gained was worth far more than what I lost. All the shitty experiences taught me something. Not only that, but I received other things that I wouldn’t have otherwise. An example of this is that my 4 year relationship led me to start work with an amazing therapist, and start the process of changing my life from the inside.
A while ago I told C, my therapist, that I’m happier alone. But I don’t think that was the actual truth. It felt true in the moment, but when I thought about it later, I found that it was more complicated than that. Because I remembered… In the beginning of my relationship with Elizabeth I was happier and more content than I’d ever been in any of my previous relationships, and in life in general in a long time. It wasn’t Elizabeth or the relationship itself that made me happy. It was a combination of that, as well as still having space and time to myself and being content in my inner world.
And that’s what I need in a relationship. There are times where I would prefer doing something, or going somewhere, alone. I have an anxious attachment style, so I’ll also need someone who will be secure enough within themselves to be okay with giving me reassurance when I need it. Anyone, no matter their attachment style, needs reassurance from time to time. I sometimes just need it a bit more often. The strange thing is, in the first couple of months of my relationship with Elizabeth I felt secure with no need to be reassured. The more she started pulling away from me in the last months (as I mentioned in another post, she’s the avoidant type; also nothing much changed in the amount of time we spent together, but somehow it was suddenly too much), the more insecure I became and that anxious style reared its ugly head. A big difference in this relationship is that I learned to communicate when something bothered me. I could confront when needed. Whereas in the past I was a doormat and would keep things inside (essentially a people pleaser and afraid of conflict), I now felt more confident and secure in myself to make my voice heard. The therapeutic relationship was one of the things that helped me develop this.
Before my last relationship, with Elizabeth, I had been aware of the three stages of romantic love, and got to see the first two play out. The first is well-known as the Honeymoon Period. I’m sure most of us have been here before. In this stage, everything is still new and seems perfect. It’s where we present our best selves. I’ll never forget the day Elizabeth told me that she feels like we’ve become just friends. Saying that things were becoming too comfortable between us, and she wanted to go back in time to how things were in the beginning. I of course knew that the Honeymoon Phase doesn’t last, and that the next stage, the Individuation Stage, is a natural progression of a relationship, and that was probably where she was finding herself. The lndividuation Stage is where “the good, bad, and ugly” parts of ourselves starts showing, and more conflict arises as both partners try to balance who they are in the relationship with who they are as an individual. At least that’s how I understand it. Relationships take work, and this is especially evident at this point in a relationship. I’m not willing to be with someone who doesn’t understand or accept this. I should have taken it as a red flag that Elizabeth’s longest relationship was 6 months (ours was as well), and she never spent much time single. I’m only using Elizabeth in this post as an example, not to blame or point fingers. I wasn’t perfect either, and all I can do is learn from that relationship. Thanks to this relationship I’m now a lot more aware of what I’m looking for.
I don’t know if I believe in “the one”. Some people find that one person they’ll be with for the rest of their lives, and in that case, they’ve found “the one”. But for the rest of us there isn’t only one person out there that we need to find. I believe that if we keep our hearts and minds open we’ll meet someone who sets our soul on fire. Most relationships may not last, but to close ourselves off to love is, in my opinion, much more heart breaking.