What I've Learned About Myself From Being Single For 5 Years

I recently gave my friends an opportunity to give anonymous — yep, totally blind — feedback to me about my dating habits. It was in an effort to allow those closest to me to be candid and vulnerable, without worrying about offending me or hurting my feelings. After several years of being single, I was interested in hearing what they really thought about how I date, who I date and my attitude toward finding love. While I learned a lot of things through this process (I highly suggest trying it with your squad!) — one of the biggest takeaways had little to do with the people I meet (or hope to meet) and more to do with myself.

One of my friends commented that while she knows a lot about my deal-breakers, my good and bad experiences, what I want out of a future partner and all of my hopes and dreams, what she wish she knew more about was…me. What do I bring to a relationship? What makes me a strong, supportive, loving partner? Where might I struggle within the bounds of couplehood? What sets me apart for potential suitors and partners? What do I bring to a relationship? What makes me a strong, supportive, loving partner? Where might I struggle with the bounds of couplehood? What sets me apart for potential suitors and partners?

It’s actually something that most of my single friends and I never exercise, even though part of being single is learning how to self-soothe and love yourself, flaws and bonuses and all. Her comment especially stuck with me because I realized I’d never considered those things about myself — instead, I always just thought, well, hey, this is me, and someone will love me for that.

But… who is that person? Not as a writer. Not as a professional. Not as a friend or a daughter or an athlete or a traveler or a New Yorker. But as a partner. What has being single actually taught me about myself, as a partner? I’m still thinking about it, but here are a few things I know for sure:

I’m A Loving Person To A Fault

Being a very kind (and tender)-hearted person that’s full of lofty ideas, optimism and (mostly) good vibes is usually a positive quality. In most of my relationships and all of my friendships, it’s served me well. I remember birthdays. I remember favorite colors and cake flavors. I know the super-secret, bear-your-soul type of experiences and I keep them close, while also checking in to make sure they’re OK. I find love stories to be incredibly inspiring and I’ll snap a photo of an old couple as secretly as I can and post it on Instagram.

There’s no denying that I’m a loving person — and in a relationship, I would be the same way. What I would struggle with is balance: how much do I give without getting the same attention and care in return? How do I put my heart completely out there, hoping someone who is equally as romantic will love it back in return? For something that I consider to be one of my most deeply-rooted and most sincere qualities, it’s sometimes tough for me to date because I want to put so much love forward, so soon. Have I learned how to tame it over time? Yeah. But it’s really who I am.

...But I’m Not As Addicted To Love As I Seem

For those who don’t know me well — and maybe even those who do — I might come across as someone who wants the fairytale type of wedding. The big dress, hundreds of guests, doves released at the altar… but that couldn’t be further from what I actually want as a person. I love love, sure — but I’m much more practical about it. One of the biggest reasons I’m tired of being single? I really want children one day — and as far as fertility goes, I know, as a woman, I have a limited time frame to make that happen.

What I love about love is how it transcends so universally and how I see it everywhere I go. It’s what keeps me going, what makes me a better friend and a stronger listener, it’s what gives me hope and renews my faith. It’s not the over-the-top gestures or the ridiculous song-and-dance that I want. It’s a lifelong partner because that’s what I also bring to the table.

I’m A Little Stuck In My Ways

While I might struggle with confidence when it comes to my ability to find the right person, in all other aspects of my life —I’m pretty rock solid. I have a nice savings account, a job that I adore, a freelancing life that is bountiful. I have solid friendships, I get to travel, I have a cute pup, and I’m happy with my body. I don’t doubt my ability to be healthy, to be successful or to lead a happy life — I’m already doing that. And because I’ve spent so much time alone, I’ve developed quite the routine. I like my bed. My bedtime. I like my morning workout classes and my evening ones. I like that I get to see my friends on a whim and book a plane ticket when I want to. One day, I know I’ll be able to map out a structure and organized way of living for a future partner… but it can be a big disadvantage now, as being single and building a relationship requires compromise — and it’s not my greatest quality.

I’m Naturally Pretty Spirited

I drink coffee every morning, but I don’t need to. I also come into work each and every day with a big smile on my face and annoy my friends with cheery ‘it’s a new day!’ Gchats. Within the bounds of a relationship, I’ve always been an encouraging, positive force that has made my partner raise his spirits and brighten his day. It’s an easy thing for me to do — and one that I’ve done for myself my entire life — but it’s also easy to take for granted. I’ve struggled with dating ‘fixer-upper’ type of men who want a cheerleader, not an equal partner who will be by their side, through thick and through thin and who they respect and admire.

I’m Hopeful

What gets me through realizing what’s good about myself and what’s not? My sense of hope. I go through periods of feeling drained. And ones where I want to throw in the towel. More often than not these days, I feel a little frustrated and jaded. But no matter what, I find a way to pick myself up, remember the things that make me me and do my best to understand how I can put my best self forward on yet another first date.

One good step that I’ve taken though? This very article, where I actually consider who I am within a relationship, what I worry about and what I contribute to a love affair. It’s always a work in progress… but one that I’m more than willing to put in the time for.

Images: Author's own