THE BLOG

The Problem of Long Term Singledom and Self-Reliance

06/03/2014 11:25 GMT | Updated 05/05/2014 10:59 BST

Most are familiar with the trope of the recently-broken-up-with taking time to adjust to their new reality, but the reverse can be equally problematic. When you have been single for a long period of time, the necessary machinations to find yourself in a relationship can seem almost alien.

Long-term singledom breeds self-reliance, for better and for worse. Too many see a relationship as a cure-all, and that if they can just find someone to fix them everything will be fine - the reality is that these problems are likely to be exacerbated in the long run by ignoring them. In the three and a half years since my last relationship, I have learnt more about myself than the entire two decades preceding, and as such have been happily single. After an amiable and necessary break up, facilitated by rapidly changing living circumstances, and an unrelated bout of clinical depression, I was able to traverse the depths of my self-loathing, translate this into self-awareness and begin the arduous and never-ending task of self-improvement - a task made much harder if seeking the tenuous validation of a relationship simultaneously.

The downside of such a commitment to self-improvement is that the magnifying glass of self-awareness can uncover avenues of thought that are simply not worth spending time on, and as a result one finds themselves living in their own heads.

One of the key aspects of getting over a relationship is a renewed commitment to self-reliance and to embark on activities with somewhat selfish outcomes to foster this belief. Too long spent in this mind-set can have you behave selfishly without even realising it, under the pretence of self-fulfilment. I have entered into engagements with women that I knew were only fulfilling a certain need for myself and found myself minimalizing the degree to which I considered the impact on the other person due to this singular focus. Even verbalising it can only go so far in terms of reducing the impact.

On the flipside of this is the conundrum presented by meeting someone you can see yourself with in a meaningful way. In this headspace of self-reliance and content singledom, to admit to yourself that you see someone in this way and you are open to the possibility of pursuing things seriously feels like a very big deal. So much so that the implied importance in your own head skews your outlook and impacts your behaviour. If you have extrapolated from "this feels different" and, due to this mind-set of self-awareness, designated for yourself that "this is different", it negates the other person's opinion on the subject and you bring an intensity to the situation that is unwarranted and undermining to the natural growth needed for something to blossom.

For all its upsides, it is important to let this mind-set of deliberate self-improvement subside from time to time, though this is a tougher ask than it may seem when you've spent a long period in this headspace. It is too easy, when giving such little emphasis to the idea of pursuing relationships, to forget that it isn't an all-or-nothing, black-or-white, binary system. Rather than encouraging people to embrace the "nothing", they should instead be encouraged to become comfortable with the shades of grey.