Healthy Happy Blog
Healthy Happy Blog
What’s the longest period of time you’ve been single for?
I'm a serial monogamist and a habitual dater. Most of my friends have settled down, but like many, I'm still single in my thirties, and am burnt out from over-use of dating apps. Dating is supposed to be fun, but for many of us it's become a joyless habit, like food shopping or a dull job. I want to stay mindfully, purposefully single for one year - no kissing, no sex, no dating - to detox my love life, cure my dating fatigue, and find out how to be alone and happy.
After my last relationship ended (via WhatsApp - WHAT A GUY) I headed straight to my friend’s place for prosecco and sympathy, downloading tinder on the way there. I necked an all-men-are-bastards sized glass and spilt all to my good mate Bert, while his wife Steph gleefully swiped right and left on my behalf. Not by any stretch a measured or dignified response to heartache, but a common one, I assure you. Over the next few weeks I chatted and flirted and stalked social media, and eventually I arranged a date with a sweet creative type at a trendy local bar.
On date nightI took my time getting ready, curling my hair and doing my makeup just so, but something felt wrong. What could it be? I changed my outfit. I put on a pair of heels, something I rarely do but thought the pain would give me an endorphin boost. But something still wasn't right. And on my way to the bar I realised what was missing. Nervousness. That delicious discomfort that indicates excitement, butterflies, that spark of curiosity as to who this man, how the evening would go, whether this would be the first of many dates. I was bored of this date before it had begun. What a bummer. I( want to clarify that this is nothing to do with the guy - a very sweet man. I just wasn't in the right headspace to date anyone, and I understand that now. We had a nice night, but I didn’t contact him again, nor him me.)
The next day I deleted the apps.
I was unhappy. Why? Natural down-ness after the end of a relationship. Clinical depression is always present too (not to be conflated with the natural, normal response to trauma. We mad folk can tell the difference). What else? Unfulfilling pub work, a result of a slow-moving freelance career as a writer. A stunted social life from moving to a new city where most of my friends are settled down. Not feeling my best physically - living on bread and not getting enough fresh air and exercise.
I didn’t like my life as it was. So why on Earth did I think it was a good idea to invite someone into it? Because I missed the structure that relationships offer. I was distracting myself from my real problems - problems which were wholly fixable, I just needed to start paying attention.
I devised a strategy:
Natural end of a relationship sadness: Boo-fuckety-hoo. This was the easy bit. Talked to my mates, had a little cry, chatted shit about him for a day, got a drastic hair cut and colour: job done. The best thing I did was change my phone wallpaper from a cutesy-couple picture to one of 70’s Rod Stewart in a pair of tiny little pants that don’t leave much to the imagination. It was meant to be a short-term measure but I’ve grown quite attached to his knowing smile and his terrible hair and his cheeky little hint of pube. It made me smile, and it still does.
Depression: I’m an old hand by now, so when there’s a shitstorm brewing I know to batten down the hatches. Keep taking the meds, start eating and sleeping better, get some fresh air and, crucially, start talking therapy.
Job shit: Crack on. Apply for stuff. Talk to mentors. Things take time, and this is the life I chose.
Social life: Spend more time tending to the friendships I already have. Form a Gym Bitches WhatsApp group to get us all together for a spin class, and keep us all accountable and motivated.
Physical health: sign up for a half-marathon (that’ll do it).
I want to challenge myself to a year of being mindfully, purposefully single to focus on these areas of self-improvement. I will attend therapy sessions, volunteer (I’d like to look into the befriending services at Age UK). I also want to talk to experts about the financial implications of living alone. I want to examine the social implications of planning a life alone. I feel excluded by that tired political rhetoric of "hard-working families", which only adds insult to the injury of the tax-breaks I’m not entitled to.
Social media is packed with "it's better to have loved and lost" and "strong independent woman" platitudes. But can we really plan a happy, fulfilling life alone? I want to be single for a year. After that I'd love to meet a life partner, but the reality is that I might not. Do we always need to be open to the possibility of finding The One?
While the last 20 years has seen a 50% increase in single person households, today 25% of Brits use dating apps. We are the first generation to have the freedom to fully embrace the single life, but we have no idea how to be alone, and under the influence of social media, we rarely are. What does modern life look like when you temporarily remove the pursuit of romance, sex and love? How would that impact our career? Our money? Where we live? Our health?Is it really possible to be happy alone? How do we prevent loneliness? How do we navigate conflict, disappointment, grief or illness without a partner?
I’m excited about my Single Year. I tell my family and friends. A couple of my friends snorted derisively (thanks guys, love you). My Mam winced: “You can’t put a timeline on something like that, love. You don't know what could happen”. Undeterred, I put it to the internet: what’s the longest you’ve been single for? The response was gorgeous. I heard from women in their fifties, with children and grandchildren, who don’t miss romance (one lady said “He has to look at me like I’m dipped in gold” which I think is glorious). Other women like me are just realising that they haven't spend a significant amount of time only needing to please themselves (one lady was 39, and had only been single for three months in twenty years).
“I’ve got my house, I’ve got money saved for the first time in decades, and a passport I’m not afraid to use”.
“I was stood up yesterday day and £33 out of pocket for the experience. I’m exasperated, fed up and discouraged”.
“If I hadn't spent two years dating myself I wouldn't be the person I am today”.
“I was single for 3.5 years, wracked with low self esteem, I feel so sad when I think back to that time”.
‘I was single for three years following a really hard break up. Took that long to feel ready to give up my time for other people”.
“I’m getting married for the first time at 46. I knew he had it all”.
“I have learned to go out and have fun alone”.
“Single for eighteen years when bringing up the kids. Started dating two years ago, and am fed up already. Sex is easy, relationships are not!”
(Most of these responses are from cis/het/white women, and a few men. I will definitely research and share more about being single in different communities. Watch this space).
This is what my single year will look like. The next twelve months will feature one or all of the following:
A book about mental health
Some radio / podcast work
A documentary about mental health
Travelling alone (budget allowing, more likely to be a weekend Whitby than three months finding myself in Goa)
So. I am two months single. Ten months to go. No dating, no flirting, no kissing, no nowt. How hard could it be?
P.S. Jen Kirkman (fabulous comedian) just released a line of necklaces with OVERFORTY, SINGLE, and CHILDFREE pendants. I want them all.