Originally posed on Bustle
For some people, being single comes really easily, while others seem to always be in a relationship. For people who are normally coupled up, learning to be single for the first time in a long time can feel like a major challenge — but it doesn’t have to be. If you open your mind and spend some time flying solo, you may just learn to love it. And really, it can be such a learning experience, regardless of whether it’s a phase or something more long-term.“I think being single is an exercise that every person should go through at some point in their adult life,” psychologist Dr. Nikki Martinez tells Bustle. “It is a time that gives us the distance and clarity that we need to get to know who we truly are as a person.”
You may also realize that you prefer being alone, and that’s totally OK, too. But no matter what you find out about yourself, spending time on your own and discovering your priorities is really important.
So if you’re used to being in a relationship and find being single difficult, give yourself some time to adjust. It may take some time to used to, but it’s totally worth it. Here’s what you need to remember to learn to be happy single, according to experts.
Be Aware Of The Sexism — And Don’t Buy It
Firstly, it’s time to change your attitude about women being single in general, because that could be influencing how you’re feeling, without you even realizing it. Remember that there’s a lot of sexism and socialization that goes into having an negative attitude toward being single.
“Society promotes, encourages, and rewards coupledom and particularly marriage,” relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. “This is particularly hard on single women because unmarried men are portrayed as ‘sowing their oats’ or ‘playing the field’ while unmarried women are considered to be old maids that are left on the shelf. The bias against [heterosexual] women is that they aren’t really valued and validated unless they have been chosen by a man. It’s self-perpetuation, meaning that the single women buy into this value judgement about themselves just as much as anyone else. I think that examining these stereotypes and breaking them down is the best way to eliminate them.”
It’s ridiculous, yes, but it’s also very, very pervasive. So when you’re having these negative thoughts about being single, remember where they come from, at least in part. You don’t want to be part of the problem, you want to be part of breaking down the stereotypes. So let go of the idea of being a spinster (because it’s nonsense) and try embracing independent womanhood.
Be A Little Self-Involved
Fun fact: you are fascinating. And if you’ve always been in a couple, you may have not gotten an opportunity to really get to know yourself and how fascinating you really are. “You are able to learn who you are as an individual, and not as a couple,” Martinez says. “This is an important differentiation. Who we are alone, as a unique human being on our own, is often very different than what we become, or what we allow ourselves to be in a relationship. This is your time to get a firm sense of self, and to promise yourself to never forget it, or let go of it, no matter who you are or are not with.”
It’s also the best possible time to be a little selfish because you can take advantage of being able to do what you want, when you want. “You can go and have any experience you want, whenever you want, and not have to worry about what someone else wants,” Martinez says. “This is the time to travel on your own, to take a class just for fun, to do as many activities that you want, as you will not always have the chance to just pick up and do what you feel like. It is not that a partner holds you back, it is that in good relationships, you make decisions as a couple.” Sounds great to me.
What To Do If You’re Struggling To Adjust
Finally, if you’re struggling to enjoy being single, make sure you keep yourself busy. Spend time with people who make you happy. Try a new hobby, make plans with friends, travel more — do anything that’s going to keep you occupied and exposed to new experiences. Even getting outside can be great first step. “Fresh air and sunlight are proven mood boosters,” Barrie Sueskind, MFT, a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, tells Bustle. The more you spend time doing things you love, the easier being single may start to feel. And soon, it might even feel great.
If you’ve always been in relationships, it’s totally normal to find being single a bit daunting. Give it a chance, make fun plans, and take the opportunity to spoil yourself a little. And most importantly, spend some time figuring out what you really want and who you really are.