What I’ve Learned From A Year Of Being Single

This past week marked the one year anniversary of my first ever break up; I don’t know the exact date, but I can recall it was right after Joan Rivers died because I was a bit more emotional than usual. It’s also important to note that it’s now been a year since I last had “sex”, which is in quotations because I’m one of those awful people who doesn’t consider oral to be sex (so ignorant, I know). 

When I broke up with my ex, I felt incredibly guilty and ashamed of myself. I felt like I had toyed with his emotions, took his affection without reciprocating a single bit of it, and just told myself I was an incredibly awful person. The feelings that stemmed from that breakup bled into every other romantic endeavor I embarked on, and I continuously found myself in the same situations. I began hooking up with a boy and when he asked if I wanted something more, I told him no, only to continue hooking up with him despite it being quite obvious it was hurting him. 

When I went on a few dates with a boy I didn’t really connect with I ended up just ignoring him completely instead of telling him how I truly felt. I spoke with guys on Grindr and never followed through, went on dates with guys who I never contacted again, and pretty much became the ultimate fuckboi. Every time I went out with a new guy, or found myself talking to someone, I couldn’t help but think of my ex in the back of my head. I constantly asked myself whether or not breaking up with him was a bad decision, and I routinely stalked him on social media to see what he was up to and stay connected, and I began to wonder if my feelings of guilt were responsible for how I was treating other people.

I messaged my ex back in December, and to my surprise, he responded. The conversation was incredibly brief, about two or three texts, and it was strangely formal, but I thought it was nice that he at least got back to me. Reaching out to him made me realize just how over things truly were, and it forced me to accept that I had hurt him more than I wanted to believe. I had broken up with him out of the blue without trying to fix any issues, and didn’t give him honest answers as to why I wanted to breakup. And then I went ahead and wrote an article about our breakup so I pretty much did one of the most selfish things a person could probably do.

When I told my friend Grace that I had messaged him she couldn’t believe I had done so. I was surprised to see her so upset with my decision; I believed I had good intentions for reaching out to him, I wanted to check in with him and let him know that despite how we ended that I truly cared for him and that I still thought about him often. She told me that I hadn’t actually reached out to him for those reasons; I reached out to him because I wanted his forgiveness, and while forgiveness is a good thing, I failed to think about how reaching out would affect him. I was expecting him to give me forgiveness when I hadn’t ever truly apologized, and what I discovered then and there was the true reason for why we broke up- I have Generation Y, Lena Dunham manifest destiny type issues I need to deal with.

I’ve learned a lot about myself since the break up. I’ve learned that I have a tendency to withdraw and cut myself off from other people. I’ve learned that I understand empathy on an intellectual level, but that I struggle with producing any in a physical sense. I’ve learned that I am horrifically obsessed with my future and my pursuit of whatever warped American Dream I’ve invented for myself, and I’ve learned that all of that stuff combined makes it difficult to be there for someone in a romantic sense. Throw in my low sex drive and aversion to romance and you can get a clear picture as to why I think I’m better single.

Anyone who says they don’t keep tabs on their ex, for at least the year following their breakup, is a fucking liar. I still occasionally look at my ex’s social media accounts to see what he’s up to and how he’s changed. It’s impossible for me not to! He was my first boyfriend and the first (hopefully not last) person to ever say they loved me. But with each and every stalking, I learn that I know a little bit less about him. I don’t know what classes he’s taking or who he’s still friends with, I don’t know what he’s struggling with on a personal level, and that’s weird. It’s weird knowing someone so well and then not knowing anything at all; it’s weird having someone be so vital to you one day, and then them being gone the next as if it was all some strange dream. Part of me wonders if I should just unfriend him since it appears like we’ll never speak again, the other part of me wants to hold onto his profile so I can feel like what we had actually existed at one point.

It’s been at least six months since I last went on a date. I haven’t entertained any romantic conversations, or led anyone on (to the best of my knowledge), and I feel good about that. I’m glad that I had the relationship I had, but I’m also happy to have learned that I don’t need someone in love with me to be able to like myself. I don’t know when I’ll date again; I’m not against romance, but I’m not looking for it in any way shape or form. And sure, sometimes I feel lonely, but I know the kind of loneliness I occasionally experience is something I’d still have even with a partner. 

Right now I’m focused on my mental health and questions I have about my sexual orientation; I’m not worried about whether or not people think it’s weird I haven’t had sex in a year, or if they think I’m lying when I say I’m not interested in anyone at the moment. I’m not worried about how my ex is living his life or if he’s found someone who is way better for him than I ever was. 

Sometimes when bad things like breakups happen, we ask ourselves if we did the right thing or panic about having wasted our time. We ask ourselves, “What was the point of it all?” and I like to think the point is that you learned something about yourself. Often times people think something only mattered if it produced tangible effects, but when it comes to self-growth there’s no such thing as wasted time.

How My Breakup Helped Me Realize I’m Not Broken or Inadequate

This past September my first real relationship came to an end. And as you can imagine the breakup wasn’t a pleasant one. In fact, the conversation ended with me sobbing hysterically in my bedroom as my ex walked out of the door and out of my life. To this day we haven’t spoken and while I think that there will come a time that we can, I don’t think that day has come.

My ex did not know that I had wanted to break up when I told him that I wanted to talk. Just a few days earlier we had gotten into an ugly fight but afterwards we had smoothed things out and appeared to be no worse for the wear. 

Unfortunately, that wasn’t true for me. I so desperately wanted to convince myself and him that I could make things work. I felt that after nine months of dating and after the kindness he showed me that he deserved my best effort in salvaging the relationship. 

I realized, however, that it would be impossible for me to salvage the relationship because I was no longer present in it. I was no longer the person I was when we had started dating. For whatever reason, I was no longer happy when we were together. I didn’t miss him when we spent weeks apart and I found myself snapping at him and acting like an all around miserable person. 

I was constantly anxious and irritated, overwhelmed by my feelings of confusion regarding the relationship as well as my growing depression. To put it simply, I hated who I was when we were together.

I’m not the romantic type. I don’t feel comfortable with PDA and I’m not one for adorable gestures or gift giving. My ex is the opposite. He’s the kind of guy who would drop everything for you if you needed him to and he loves showing people how much he appreciates them. 

And part of my anxiety stemmed from this feeling that I was always playing emotional catch up with him. When he first told me he loved me, I told him I didn’t feel that way yet. 

Whenever he showed me affection I struggled with being able to reciprocate it. And it made me feel like I was defective. I felt like something must have been wrong with me, that I was incapable of expressing love or giving love. I felt like I was broken, only capable of being loved until the other person wised up enough to know I’d never be able to return it. And worst of all, I felt like I was a waste of time. I can’t even verbalize the guilt I felt over our relationship, specifically how I felt that he deserved so much better than me.

My ex made it very clear that he loved me and that he knew it would take time for me to open up more. He said he was patient and willing to wait for me. But I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t let him wait for me to become the type of boyfriend he deserved, especially when I wasn’t sure if I’d ever even become that type of boyfriend. 

The last thing I wanted was to make him wait around for something that was never going to happen. And you know, when we first started dating, I always feared I’d end up the villain. And unfortunately I feel like I did. I feel that I wasted his time by not releasing him sooner. 

While we had good times, I knew early on that the relationship wouldn’t last forever. But I think I held onto the relationship because I didn’t want to end up the villain. I wanted to convince myself that I would make things work, that I would end up being as romantic and affectionate as needed, and that I wouldn’t have so many hesitations. 

That never happened though. But I find some comfort in knowing that my intentions were complex, not ill. I didn’t set out to hurt him, it was an unintended side effect of the issues I have going on. And just knowing that I didn’t try to hurt him, that I did have good intentions, reminds me that maybe I’m not as broken as I thought.

It is strange to no longer have someone in your life who meant so much to you. My ex was the first person I loved, the first person I had sex with, the first person who made me feel like I was desirable enough to be wanted. And while I’m sad how things ended and that we haven’t spoken, I am grateful for the relationship. 

Even though things ended badly I don’t regret being with him or let the breakup color my feelings about him. I’ve realized that in relationships we learn a lot about ourselves and while this was a painful lesson, I am thankful for it.

I’ve been on my own for almost two months and I’m finally starting to feel like myself again. I’m less anxious, more upbeat and feeling less existential about whether or not I’m “good” or “evil”. And while it would be nice to have a guy buy me dinner or tell me he loves me, I think I need some time to do those things for myself. 

This is my selfish stage, the time where I find out what I want and how I can go about getting what I want. I don’t have time to factor someone else into the equation and I’ve accepted that I don’t have the emotional energy to be with someone else. And that doesn’t mean I’m broken. It means I’m not at a place in my life to be anything else than a friend, student, son or brother. And I’m okay with that.