I remember watching a movie some time ago – I can’t remember for the life of me which one – but one female character told another, after her marriage broke up, ‘At least I can now say “I’m divorced” rather than “I’m single” – it sounds so much better.’
This made me smile – I was single at the time. But seriously, what is it about being single that we find so hard? Is it just the loneliness? The pain of the last break-up? Or is it the stigma that seems to attach to being single – whether from society or from ourselves. Have you ever felt that if you’re not in a relationship, you must be unlovable? I know that I felt that when my long-term relationship ended. And yet, it hadn’t ended because I was intrinsically flawed. It ended because I had begun to recognise that something was missing in the relationship. And that something was me. Myself. My self.
Suddenly, overnight, I had the freedom to do what I wanted and to choose my own direction in life. And yet being alone made me extremely insecure. I was lonely. Desperately so. I wanted a man in my life. But I also realised that the fact that I needed a relationship so badly was precisely the reason why I couldn’t be in one for a while. Deep down I knew that that feeling of being loved was something I had to cultivate within myself.
In order to achieve that, these are the things I did:
1. I pursued the things I loved doing. My relationship with my ex had absorbed so much of my time (and even a chunk of my personality) that I struggled at first to recognise exactly what those things were. But when I thought back to my childhood and the things I had loved then, I soon reconnected…I walked, I swam, I sang, I started writing in a diary and found I enjoyed it. I worked hard at my career (I was in the publishing industry at the time) and before long I wrote the first draft of my novel “Swimming Upstream”. I also realised that I was interested in the law and in particular in human rights and I began to take evening classes and eventually began training as a lawyer. It was when I was writing, reading and learning something new that I felt the most inspired and least in need of a romantic relationship.
2. I made friends. Good ones. I invested time and energy in platonic relationships. I spent time walking and talking and having fun with my female friends (and one very good male friend). I nurtured those friendships and they in turn nurtured me.
3. I got in touch with my spiritual side. I have never been able to quiet my active brain long enough to meditate (I know, I know! Anyone can do it if they try hard enough. That’s something I still want to try and learn) but I read loads of inspirational and self-help books and became a good friend to myself. I also had some counselling to deal with the traumatic events I had experienced as a child.
4. I travelled. I went to new places. Again, travel and exploration was something that had excited me as a child. Not only had I pored over maps and looked forward to our first family holiday abroad, I could get inspired about walking a different route to school!
5. I concentrated a little less on looking good and more on feeling good – from the inside. I had an interest in nutrition - inherited from my mother - and made time each day to nourish my body (as well as my soul!) with big salads, soya products, fish and food supplements. I also gave up smoking during that time, and that contributed to my new sense of self-worth.
When I met the man who is now my husband I had been on my own (give or take the odd hopeless bout of dating) for seven years. But I was happy. Truly happy. I was well on the way to becoming a lawyer and I had got some positive feedback from a literary agent on the first draft of my novel Swimming Upstream. I was no longer looking for love as the solution to everlasting happiness. In short, I was the cake. My husband was just the icing.