How do I enjoy being single?
October 16, 2015 6:44 PM   Subscribe

My ex moved out roughly 2 weeks ago. I'm feeling extremely sad and alone. How do I not jump into another relationship right away?

My ex finally moved out 2 weeks ago. It was both a relief and a bit of a shock to me. I don't know how to get over this since he was pretty much my life for the past year. We lived together for a little over 7 months and spent a lot of time together. It's really difficult for me to be alone. I am the type of person who jumps from one relationship to another. Since I was 16, I have pretty much always been in a relationship with small gaps in between (a month or two). I am 25 now. How do I break this terrible habit I have? I will admit that I am terrified of being alone.

I think one of my biggest fears right now is that I am going to end up alone and not find anyone else. I don't go out very much. I am mostly home on the computer because I work from home. I don't have many friends. I mostly have a few guys friends that I've known for 5+ years. I haven't made any new friends in the past 5 years. I have tried to have girl friends but I can't seem to get along with them. I did have girl friends when I was in middle/high school but most of them ended up backstabbing me.

I have had a few of my guy friends invite me to hang out but I really haven't felt like it. I honestly would rather stay at home and be mopey.

I really don't know what is wrong with me. Before my last relationship, I had so much more confidence. I had been cheated on/lied to before but it didn't affect me this much. I feel so miserable and alone. I don't know how to move on. How do I enjoy my own company? I feel like maybe before I wasn't as miserable because I found someone else to fill the void. I don't want to do that again but I don't know how to be okay by myself.
posted by Nicole21 to Human Relations (20 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
There's something you have always wanted do, deep down. What is it? Can you do it now? If so, do it. If not, start planning how you're going to do it. Take a year and make it the year of you. I did this when I turned 35. I challenged myself to do the things I was too scared to do. It changed my life, and I wish I had done it sooner. I'm in an introvert with immense social anxiety, fwiw. I married (and had a kid) young, so I had a different sense of isolation. But I needed to figure out who I was as my own person. And there's no way to do that but to do it.
posted by Ruki at 7:00 PM on October 16, 2015 [24 favorites]

Breakups can really gut one's self esteem. That's totally normal.

The solitude you describe would make me quickly lose my bearings. In your shoes, I'd join a gym and start going daily and also sign up for some kind of ... community college art class? something where I saw the same people twice a week.

Also, traveling through space is a great activity for when you feel horrible but need to get out of your own head. Ride a bus to the end of its line, that sort of thing. Take a short road trip.

You're in Phase I of the breakup now, when you just need to hasten your healing by starting to get out of the house. Developing deeper friendships and finding meaning as a single person come in Phase II.
posted by salvia at 7:07 PM on October 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

What you're afraid of tends to manifest - ie you will be alone if you just jump from relationship to relationship without asking yourself if you really want to be with that person. You will just find placeholders and placeholders eventually leave. If you're not coming from a place of fear you are better positioned to evaluate potential relationships and decide if they're really what you want.

Why not commit to being single and only dating casually for the next 6-12 months. This will help you feel more in control of the singledom, since you are choosing it. Casually date a few people at a time even but don't commit to exclusivity unless there's some characteristic about the person you truly admire and things really seem to gel.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 7:41 PM on October 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

Go learn to paint or some shit.
posted by chrchr at 7:42 PM on October 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

I agree with @Ruki 100% (I also admire @Ruki's eloquence). I think the important thing in these situations is to just do something, but when I was in your situation, I found it impossible to decide what to do. A friend gave me a community college brochure, and I looked up their community classes. These are the non-credit classes -- the ones you take for 3 days or maybe 6 weeks to get an introduction to a thing, and there's no grades. I signed up for any class that sounded even remotely interesting. In a 6 month period, I took classes on dressing for my body type, collage, auto repair, home electrical repair, knitting, time management, home organization, and origami.

I learned some super useful things from those classes -- especially from the auto repair class and the electrical repair classes -- but that wasn't the important thing. What was important was having a reason to leave the house, other than work.

I didn't make any friends in these classes, but I talked to strangers and challenged myself. I shock up my routines. But mostly, I just got out of the house, out of my head and out of myself.

So look up your local community college and see what they have to offer.
posted by OrangeDisk at 8:10 PM on October 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

Specifically on the "enjoy my own company", there is a reissued book called Live Alone and Like It by Marjorie Hillis. It's reprinted from the 1930s, and while some advice is, um, nostalgic, there are two main points in the book:

1. You can and should have lots of pleasure in your single life, as long as you realize you have the freedom/responsibility to arrange your own pleasures. So don't tell yourself "Oh, I can't do/have X because I'm single." Don't deprive yourself of good meals, comfortable and pretty nightclothes, the occasional cocktail, etc. with the idea that such things are "for coupled women" or that they come from men. Arrange your life to have things to look forward to--since you work at home, I recommend arranging "times out"; maybe you can go to a movie or a coffee shop or a yoga class; you should also look at extension classes, etc.

2. Revel in the pleasures that you can have because you are single. Read in bed! Breakfast in bed! Dinner whenever the hell you want it--if you want it on a tray on the couch while you do girly stuff, great! Take five hours in the bathroom if that makes you happy. Stay out doing things if you get a kick from them. Get a pet if that works! Redecorate in your favorite style! Go for it. Hedonism!

Also, if you take some sort of class or join a group you are very likely to meet nice women who you can make friends with. Backstabbing is much less likely to happen outside of middle and high school.
posted by Hypatia at 8:27 PM on October 16, 2015 [10 favorites]

Here's what I know about living alone: though it seems very obvious to say this, you can't rely on another person also living in your home for company, therefore you have to make the effort of seeking out company. This can be a drag, but it can also be delightful.

1) Sometimes you have to go out even when you don't feel like it. Give yourself 30 minutes or an hour - if when time is up you are miserable and want to leave, then it's okay to leave.

2) Think of things you are interested in or have always wanted to try, and sign up for classes, volunteer groups, meetups, etc. Some people love having 2 or 3 different things every night, some people are happy doing 1 or 2 things a week. It's okay to find your balance. By showing up regularly you'll meet people you have things in common with who might be good friends.

3) Since you work from home, try meeting friends for lunch a few times a week, or work from a coffee shop if you can.

4) Really, you are going to be sad for a while, because break-ups suck. Be patient with yourself.
posted by bunderful at 8:43 PM on October 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Everyone else gave great advice but i want to add - don't move in together that early. While the financial argument "Why are we paying two cable bills when you're always here" is compelling, pace yourself a bit more.
posted by k8t at 9:11 PM on October 16, 2015 [4 favorites]

I liked this video on learning to be alone.
posted by escapepod at 11:07 PM on October 16, 2015

After my divorce I took up cycling, cut out drink/drugs and became more focused on my work. I rode 50 miles a day, ate well and stuck to a sleep schedule 90% of the time. My work improved, i was more heathy and it cleansed my mind. I only socialised when it was something I truly wanted to do. Just about the best 1 1\2 - 2 years of my life. I didn't date or desire to date the entire time - it was all about me. I was 26 at that time. After that 2 years i'd matured a great deal and was ready for a better life.
posted by Carbolic at 11:36 PM on October 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

The feeling you have of This is The End, it's just a feeling. It's not true at all. You are nowhere close to that. It feels like it's all foggy and you might step off a cliff? I promise there is solid ground in front of you. Give yourself permission to take time to be sad and mopey. And then go forward into the unknown future, full of limitless possibilities.

Do I sound like a somewhat rambling greeting card? This is why:

I am 44 years old. I have had this "well, with this relationship behind me, it's sure to be misery the rest of my days" feeling more times than I can count. And life changes SO MUCH and sometimes SO FAST. You will sometimes find yourself in a life you could not have imagined 5 years before. I wish I had been able to reason with myself, instead of living all those times convinced I was going to die alone. Please have faith that your life will be amazing, and don't live in fear.
posted by The Noble Goofy Elk at 11:49 PM on October 16, 2015 [12 favorites]

It is not easy to enjoy being single when you are broken hearted. But it's not easy to enjoy anything when you are broken hearted. Don't make the mistake of thinking that you are unhappy because you are single - you are unhappy because your relationship has broken up. As time passes, things will naturally fill the gap the relationship has left in your life. Staying at home feeling mopey gets old quickly, but you have my full permission to wallow for the meanwhile. Then when you are feeling a little better, start accepting invites, get out and meet new people and do things you wouldn't have thought of doing before, and see what happens.
posted by intensitymultiply at 1:57 AM on October 17, 2015 [5 favorites]

I always recommend to my clients who are looking to get out and about.

The mistake you made was making him your life.
No man should be your life, but should be a part of your life.
It's easy to get myopic when you're in love, but I want to you start to discover yourself and other facets of yourself that you can take into the next relationship.

I want you to dig in, and reframe this period of time as a great adventure!
Get out there, meet new people. Go to meetups for crazy things you've always been interested in.
Reach out, help new people. Volunteer and get out of your head and into your kind, compassionate heart.

I want the new you, the You 2.0 that you create in the upcoming months to be the person that you take into your next relationship, where you make the man a part of it, and they fit perfectly.

I hope this helps, and I wish you the best!
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 5:12 AM on October 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Mope your heart out! Honestly, staying home and being sad is entirely fine right now. It's only been two weeks. Two weeks is not a lot of time to process what happened and get into the swing of this next chapter in your life. Listen to sad music, cry really hard, watch depressing movies. Take your time being sad. The other stuff comes later.

As far as being alone forever, this is an unlikely outcome, unless you want it. There are plenty of singles in their mid-late 20s. Hell, even in your 30s and 40s there will be people to date, if you choose to date. I know a woman who divorced in her late 50s and met someone a few years later. There are people to date at any age.
posted by deathpanels at 6:19 AM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

Seconding Live Alone and Like It -- I've considered giving it to friends who have recently divorced.

Hypatia mentioned two of the points the book emphasizes, but the third one I pulled out of it is that there's a lot of things that we often code as events to do as a couple that have nothing to do with romantic relationships at all. For example, it took me years of being single to realize that I'd thought of pretty much any kind of travel (whether to a state park or to Paris) as something I'd do with a romantic partner. I think it's a lot easier to not jump into a relationship when you see it as one component of your life rather than as something you build a life around.

And n-thing
posted by steady-state strawberry at 10:19 AM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I was a fellow serial-dater with pretty much only guy friends. I didn't know how to enjoy being single until I was about 26... the secret is staying busy outside your home as often as you can comfortably handle, and savoring simple pleasures in your alone time.

Spend a lot more time on the relationships you already have. Call your family and chat - your parents, your siblings, your grandparents. Call them often. Try hanging out with your male friends and their girlfriends more, befriend the girlfriends and invite them shopping to some specific cool store in a good area of town to continue browsing in. Reach out to acquaintances you have that could become better friends.

Try cultivating new female friends. Do this even if you're dating someone. Finding similarly-minded women requires going to where your interests lie. It takes a long time to cultivate female friends and requires regular reciprocation but it's worth it - good female friends stick with you for the long haul.

Distract yourself from loneliness by filling your time up with activities that take you out of the house. Join a local running club or some regular fitness class like yoga, karate, zumba... sign up for hobby craft classes like knitting/crocheting, volunteer for local festivals or some noble cause. Talk with people before/after classes, talk about the things that interest you, and ask people about themselves. If you find someone you click with, suggest a meet-up for coffee or going shopping, and if they're open to it, ask them about doing something next week.

And the down-time - savor a nice glass of wine while reading in the bath and doing sheet mask facials. Stay up late watching awful rom-coms in bed on the laptop. Spend hours in a bookstore reading anything you may possibly be interested in. Give yourself an elaborate manicure. Refine the art of pampering yourself.
posted by lizbunny at 12:12 PM on October 17, 2015 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thank you for all of the replies. What is an appropriate amount of time to mope? 1 month? 2 months?

There are a few things that I definitely have wanted to try. I'm gonna give myself some more time to just process my feelings I guess. I will try going out for a little bit and see how I feel. I've been trying to distract myself but it's been super difficult. I am able to do something for maybe 30 min-hour and then I feel like crawling back into bed. My emotions have been on a crazy rollercoaster ride.

Talking with people has made me feel better. It's when I'm alone again that I start to think about things and get upset. Before this relationship I did live alone for 3 years. I hated it at first and felt so lonely but eventually grew to love it. I am hoping I will grow to love it again. It's just hard to even remember what my life was like a year ago.
posted by Nicole21 at 5:54 PM on October 17, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've had several breakups ugh in the last few years that knocked me flat for various reasons and think you should do what I did - just go ahead and feel bad for x amount of time, and then on that deadline you do the next thing you feel like you need to do - learn how to be alone or whatever it is. But for x amount of days, weeks or months just go ahead and feel bad.
posted by zutalors! at 7:46 PM on October 17, 2015

You're going to feel sad because of the breakup and that's to be expected. Just don't forget that this also means you can do these fun living alone things again: put on a face mask and make goofy faces at yourself in the mirror, play your favorite song and dance like a complete dork, eat a bowl of popcorn for dinner, eat ice cream from the carton, starfish on the bed, create elaborate and more than a little ridiculous PMS rituals, talk to your pet (if you have one), watch Princess Bride twice in a row, etc.
posted by angelchrys at 11:08 PM on October 17, 2015

The way you're feeling is completely normal. You're only two weeks into a long process of learning how to heal from this relationship, build up your self esteem, face yours fears and learn how to build a happy life with or without romance. Congratulations on recognizing that you are afraid to be alone! Some people never have this realization -- or are too afraid to own it. You're already ahead of the game.

I recommend taking care of yourself.. whatever that means to you. For me that involves exercise, eating healthy food, taking luxurious baths, pampering myself, taking walks in nature.. Make a list of things that you enjoy doing - things that make you feel good. Fully own the fact that as an adult, it's your job to make yourself happy. You will need to come back to this realization again and again.. it is always your job to take care of yourself. Even when there are other people in the picture (e.g. partner, friends, family). Still, it comes down to you -- how committed are you to yourself? Focus on THAT relationship -- because this is the one relationship you will always have.

As far as how to enjoy being single? Well.. you're not always going to enjoy being single. And let me tell you, you are definitely not always going to enjoy being in a relationship either! Embrace the fact that whether you have a partner or not, you are going to have ups and downs, good times and bad, sadness and joy -- this has almost nothing to do with whether you have a partner. That's just life.

So, you don't always have to enjoy being single. Sometimes it's going to SUCK (!!) because you will be lonely, or heartbroken or disappointed or frustrated or angry or uncomfortable. And the funny thing is? You will also feel these things when you are in a relationship.

Accept your feelings. See them as an invitation to learn more about yourself. Do stuff you like. Help other people (because that will help you feel good, too). Things will get better.
posted by Gray Skies at 8:02 AM on October 18, 2015 [4 favorites]

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