Relationships

The Lessons I Learnt from Becoming Single in My 20's

By April Kosky | Friday 24th November, 2017

Being broken up with is the pits. Two months ago, the day after I returned from a holiday in Miami, my on-off boyfriend of nearly 8 years came home (to the house we’d been sharing for a year), sat on the sofa with a cup of tea, and sacked me and our relationship off.

Not surprisingly, I didn’t feel great about it. We have been there for each other through a lot: deaths and illnesses of family members, break-ups with other people, struggles with university and work. To make matters worse, we are both part of a large friendship group who have grown up and moved to London together over the last decade. Everyday since, I have thought about it in varying states of anger, upset, regret, relief and happiness. Generally, I’m just pretty confused about how I feel.

Breakups are tough. They make you feel alone even though you are surrounded by people and carefree at the same time as in despair. People say that you learn the most about yourself when you are single, especially if you are forced into that position, but so far, I haven’t managed to work out if they’re right.

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To begin with, just getting out of bed in the morning and managing to eat normal meals was a challenge. Now, I have kind of adjusted to the practical side of life on my own, it’s just everything else that I’m struggling with. There’s a weird, kind-of guilty feeling that I get lying in bed with someone else. I feel bad for myself, them and my ex, even though I shouldn’t feel bad at all.

Part of being single, as I now realise, is being constantly conflicted. People tell you all the time to go out "on the pull" - I have heard the time-old phrase, “you can’t get over someone until you get under someone” more times than I can count. While part of me agrees with this, the other part just wants to stay in, eat chocolate and watch countless Gossip Girl reruns. I think it’s fine to do both.

It has been a surprise how easy it has been to fill my time– I see way more of my friends, go out more, see my family more, do more work. The thing that I have struggled with, and no-one warned me against, is this non-descript, unsettling feeling of not being quite whole. It’s difficult knowing who to text when something insignificant but worth sharing happens, and a couple of my friends have definitely taken the brunt of that. This time period has shown me that there are some friends who you can rely on without question, and others that you can’t. This is one way in which being broken up with teaches you things.

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Luckily (in some ways), a few of my closest friends’ relationships have also ended recently. According to a study by Michael Rosenfeld, a Stanford sociologist, based on over 3000 people since 2009, there is a peak in the number of break ups in the autumn and winter months. Both of my previous relationships ended in the winter. According to Rosenfeld and other studies done in the US, this is because of the pressure of the ‘holiday season’. Whether this is the reason, there’s definitely something in the air around this time.

I want to be one of those people who shrugs off the pain and carries on with life as normal. Sadly, I’m not and although I am definitely doing things to help myself, I’m also doing things that make it worse (stalking your ex and their newly friended Tinder pals on Facebook is not a good shout). Everyone told me it would take time to come to terms with what has happened, and this used to annoy me, but now I get it. In the same way as allowing time for a physical wound to heal, you have to allow emotional wounds to heal too. No one is saying it’s easy because it’s not, it’s fucking hard, but there is only one way to keep going with life, and that is to try and let the past be in the past.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? I guess now I just need to follow my own advice.

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