Relationships

I Was Single For A Year. Here’s What It Taught Me About Love

By Thea Coburn··  10 min read
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I Was Single For A Year. Here’s What It Taught Me About Love

When I broke up with my ex-boyfriend, I thought the world was going to end. I felt an insurmountable hollowness, and I was nothing short of absolutely devastated.

Despite my devastation, I knew I had done the right thing. The breakup was the biggest decision I had ever made in my life. Looking back more than a year later, I have no doubts. It was time to close that chapter and to start a new one. 

Why I Took a Break from Dating

Not sure if you remember, but spring 2020 felt like the apocalypse. So it wasn’t exactly difficult to activate nun mode and semi-seriously accept my fate of being alone forever. The breakup left me broken, and it was time to put the pieces back together. I was still serious about pursuing relationships for the potential of marriage, but I had work to do to become deserving of the kind of man I wanted to have as a spouse.

I knew I had work to do to become deserving of the kind of man I wanted to have as a spouse.

I stayed busy to keep my mind off the breakup. I would leave the house for my daily run with tears in my eyes, but heck, it was better than just wallowing in self-pity. For about a month, I gave myself grace and allowed myself time to mourn. But after about a month of going easy on myself, I knew I had to take action to get over this heartbreak. 

What I Did Instead

I left self-pity behind and went into full self-improvement mode. I saw this breakup as a failure, so I was determined to do what I could to prevent something similar from happening in the future. I could have easily pointed the finger elsewhere, and at times I did. But as much as my ego could handle it, I looked inwards. Looking back, I may have been a bit harsh on myself, but I wouldn’t trade the growth I made during this period of my life for anything. 

I created routines. I started sleeping better, eating better, and exercising better. I think I read more books that summer than I had during my entire college career. I opened the Bible for the first time. I immersed myself in nature. I learned how to live slowly, breathe better, and coexist with my thoughts. I picked up new hobbies and cherished time spent with my family.

Healing through Reading and Writing

I read some phenomenal books about love, relationships, and womanhood. They all possessed one common theme: You need to look inward as opposed to outward. You see, I could have made a list of things I didn’t like about my ex. And I did. But I knew that an evaluation of myself would be much more beneficial. It’s easy to look at a breakup and believe that everything wrong with your ex won't be a problem when you meet the next person. But what happens when you run into deja vu in the next relationship? It’s a good idea to look at the common denominator before you multiply the problem. 

As much as my ego could handle it, I looked inwards.

Journaling was my main source of therapy. I did a post-mortem of the relationship. I wrote about the qualities I was looking for in a partner. I wrote about things that I liked about myself when I was feeling down. The more I put pen to paper, the more the pain went away. I wrote about my weaknesses. I made a list of things I could change about my character. I asked myself: What couldn’t I change about myself, no matter how hard I tried, that would require grace and forgiveness from a future partner? I asked myself the hard questions because I wanted to become the best version of myself for the people around me.

What I Didn’t Do

At this point in my life, I had already rejected the radical feminist narrative, so I knew better than to blindly follow mainstream advice. Sure, if you google “how to get over a breakup” (not that you’ll find that in my search history), you’ll encounter some pretty good advice. But that doesn’t account for the influence from advertising, social media, and pop culture – which don’t always have our best interest in mind. In the mainstream narrative, there are two destructive cultures that are interwoven with singleness which are promoted unashamedly: hookup culture and self-love culture. Neither of which I would advise you to participate in. 

You Don’t Need To Get Back Out There

You don’t need to rush back out onto the dating market. I would argue that you shouldn’t. Healing takes time, and it’s best done on your own. You should lean on the people who love you the most for support, but it’s not right to get involved in romantic or physical connections with other people during the healing process. The culture doesn’t necessarily encourage you to get back out there and find your next boyfriend, but it does promote meaningless hookups.

The media bombards women with messages like “sex is just sex” or “my body my choice,” but what do the facts say? The facts say that hookup culture doesn’t align with the goal of marriage. Sure, it can numb the pain. But at what cost? A rebound certainly doesn’t need to be part of the healing process. But beyond that, I’m a mistake apologist and a redemption enthusiast. I feel passionately about forgiveness because it was an integral part of my healing process. I’m not sure where I would be without it. If you have ever crossed a boundary that you have later regretted, you can find forgiveness.

It’s not right to get involved in romantic or physical connections during the healing process. 

So don’t rush back out there onto the dating market, because healing takes time. It took me multiple months to look in the mirror and confidently say that I was over it. It took another few months to get comfortable with being on my own. It took an entire year for me to be genuinely excited about the prospect of dating again.

No, You’re Not Perfect Just the Way You Are

Self-love culture promotes the idea that you’re perfect just the way you are. How often have you heard that you shouldn't change for a man or the famous Marilyn Monroe quote, “If you can’t accept me at my worst, then you don’t deserve me at my best"? No offense, Marilyn, but I think we can add a little more nuance to the conversation. 

Whether you have a man or not, you should change for the better when presented with the opportunity. If you have a flaw that’s hurting your romantic relationships, maybe you should fix it instead of expecting to be accepted for it. I’m glad that after my breakup I favored self-improvement over self-love. Sure, it may be more painful in the moment to face your flaws and weaknesses, but it pays off in the long run. 

You Can and Should Change for a Man (If the Change Is for the Better)

I personally had excellent experiences with changing for the better in a relationship. My ex was a great person. He had a strong sense of self, and I admired him for it. When I expressed to my family and friends how he changed me, I was met with concern. Even when I emphasized, “no, I changed for the better," I still got confused looks. This is how ingrained it is that a woman should never change for a man

It’s better to partner with a man who inspires you to be better than a man who worships the ground you walk on.

I’m glad I wasn’t stubborn about being open-minded to growth. Even though the relationship is over now, I’m happy to say that I have kept the positive changes. And it taught me a valuable lesson about love: It’s better to partner with a man who inspires you to be better than you were yesterday than a man who worships the ground you walk on.

What I Could Have Done Differently

If there’s one thing I could go back and do differently, I would have leaned more on my family and friends. I wanted to appear strong and I didn’t want to be a burden. But as I’ve gotten better at expressing my emotions and I’ve practiced it more leisurely, I have learned that people actually like me more for being vulnerable. Funny enough, this weakness of mine was one of the reasons for the demise of my relationship. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries to learn from a mistake. I take full responsibility for that. 

What Singleness Taught Me about Love

I wish I didn’t need a dedicated period of time to be single, but I did. I reject the idea that everyone needs to be single at some point in their adult life. I think it’s beautiful when young couples blossom together. So don’t break up with your perfect person just for a season of singleness. Trust me, it’s not worth it. 

Love Isn’t Selfish, but Singleness Is

My self-improvement journey gave me a glimpse into the selfish nature of being single. Love isn’t selfish, but the way we approach singleness is. Yes, take time to heal. As you already read, I am a big proponent of that. But it’s a common notion that you should “find yourself” before committing to another person. The problem with this approach is if you spend too long finding yourself, building your perfect career, abdicating responsibility, and fulfilling all your worldly desires, you risk shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to love. 

If you spend too long finding yourself, you risk shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to love. 

On average, a woman will have 7 romantic relationships in her life. Considering the high rates of divorce, it makes you think: Is serial monogamy just practice for divorce? What if we healed our wounds, dated with purpose, and took more of a sacrificial approach to love? Maybe the problem isn’t marriage; maybe the problem is us. 

Somewhere along the line, we traded “two halves make a whole” for “two wholes make a whole.” We traded “grow together or grow apart” in favor of “grow apart and then come together.” Call me old-fashioned, or maybe a hopeless romantic, but I much prefer the former definition of love.

Closing Thoughts

There’s something so appealing about the drama of falling in love as portrayed in the movies. The turbulence of love we experience in our relationship world, which prioritizes hookups and feel-good moments over commitment and meaningful connection, leaves people broken. I’m happy to say that being single helped me put the pieces back together.

Singleness taught me that no one is beyond being loved and no one is beyond being forgiven. A year off from dating enlightened me on the selfless nature of love. I’m grateful for this time in my life. I look forward to continuing to be imperfect, and perhaps soon I can be imperfect with someone else.

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