I realized I had to live alone and finally discover my inner self.
Hi, my name is Iulia, I’m 30 years old, and I’m an introvert and a recovering serial monogamist.
Until now, I relentlessly fed my addiction in various relationships trying to make the shoe fit. Nevermind my legs were bleeding, and sometimes I felt disheartened and depressed — I knew this relationship had to work.
Fast-forward fifteen years, several men, and two broken engagements, and here I am, soul-searching after a relationship that made me think I should no longer try to fill the void left in my heart by yet another separation with the perfume, the voice, and the touch of a random man.
Soul-crushing, heart-breaking, dreary, awfully haunting days passed as I started discovering my newly single self, and thinking about my shortcomings in the love department.
My introverted side doesn’t help at all — all those thoughts and emotions kept bottling up.
This is what happens when a serial monogamist encounters loneliness. You feel like you don’t belong in your own life. While in a relationship, you live your life with a set of four eyes and four legs, like one of those creatures in Platon’s myth of the androgyne. Another pair of eyes filters your reality, and before you know it, your self becomes entangled in another person’s vision of who you are supposed to be.
You lose yourself.
For us introverts, relationships are never easy, and break-ups can shatter us to the core. I decided that I did not want yet another man to make me feel complete. I needed to take the bull by the horns.
I knew I had to live alone and finally discover that inner self so many psychologists and motivational speakers talk about. Here’s what I found out.
What I Learned When I Decided to Stay Single
1. Being newly single is not for the faint-hearted.
Soon after I changed my Facebook status from “in a relationship” to “single,” I started hearing a constant buzz in my brain. After listening to it closely, I discovered the buzz was a self-doubting voice whose only purpose was to instill fear in my bones.
What if I will be lonely forever? What if I never love again?
Who knew I was this anxious about finding my mate? And who knew to spoon, and to have another human being accept you could make it all better?
At first, the loneliness felt dreary and consuming (yes, even introverts get lonely). I could not stop myself from ruminating about all my past relationships and the mistakes I’d made in the past 15 years. I remembered how I once cheated on someone I was in love with just because I couldn’t muster up the courage to have a decent fight. I remembered the nights I cried myself to sleep when someone I loved didn’t reciprocate, and I kept trying to go back in time and save those sad relics and turn them into something meaningful.
Not talking about my feelings just made it all worse, and sometimes, I felt trapped in my other lives with these men.
2. Therapy gave me someone who would listen.
I have to repeat it: Until now, I’ve never been single. Well, at the age of 30, I’ve realized I had become a Cinderella-version of a woman — all my life, I had been waiting for someone to save me.
Well, guess what?
Single or not, nobody will save you. Sometimes, others rely on you to save them.
I had to be my own mentor, coach, and therapist.
Thank God, though, I found a decent therapist, and I no longer needed to act like I had it all together.
My therapist told me I was constantly blaming myself for everything. She gave me advice on how to stop ruminating, and most of all, assured me this stage of fear and crippling self-doubt would pass.
She acted like a tender mother whose daughter had a broken heart, except I felt like I had one heart for each relationship I had been in, and pain tore all of them to pieces.
Finally, my therapist helped me understand my relationships not as huge life failures, but as lessons.
If you are an introvert who is struggling with the loss of a relationship, going to therapy is the least you can do for yourself. If you don’t or can’t talk to your friends, your therapist will be someone who will listen.
Therapy and the whole process of rediscovering myself has been a hell of a road, and I am still struggling, but I know now I will never again make someone else responsible for the way I feel.
3. It starts with how you see the future.
I grew up in a culture where women enjoy daydreaming about their wedding day. Even though I’ve never been the girl who dreamed of a big wedding, and white dresses never suited me anyway, I have always imagined a shared future, and could never make plans by myself. Still, after months of being depressed and lacking any direction in my life, I found out nobody was coming to rescue me. I had to be my own rescuer.
How about that, Sherlock?
At first, I spent my days in bed, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook and feeling sorry for myself. I could not stop myself from comparing myself to other people. Seeing pictures of ex-colleagues getting married or having children made me feel empty and regretful. For a while, I even stopped washing my hair, eating, or doing anything I liked.
Until one day, I just felt hungry. I mean, I was starving. I felt like I could devour a dinner cooked by Pantagruel, and then ask for some dessert.
Then I realized I didn’t even know what to have for dinner since I’ve always cooked for two.
This was the first step in reclaiming my life — cooking dinner for myself.
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4. I had to learn to be comfortable in my own skin.
I was never comfortable with how I presented myself to the world. I relied too much on my boyfriend to complete me, and to feed my poor self-esteem. Nevermind the shoe didn’t fit.
Being single showed me the truth. I lacked confidence, and I depended on others to make me feel good.
I still don’t know a lot of things about myself. What makes me tick? What makes me feel good? Who am I when I don’t fit someone else’s version of myself?
The shoe might not fit, but in the meantime, I realized I would rather wear a comfortable pair of sneakers.
I even started dressing up for myself. I started wearing the make-up I liked and being the kind of person I would fall in love with, not the kind of person they would love.
5. I’m still a work in progress.
It’s the shared laughs and jokes I miss the most, the hugs and the affection. In the past, each time I met someone, I behaved like a malnourished soul desperately seeking validation. I acted like an orphaned puppy and expected my significant other to take care of me. Most of them did, but that kept me from learning how to be responsible for my life.
Lacking the care and affection of someone else, I felt worthless. Who was this sad woman who always needed to be the Sun and the Moon in someone’s life, or else she felt like she did not exist? Was it me?
Filling the void left by a relationship is not an easy task. Learning to love yourself might be the hardest part.
I started doing more things that nourished my soul. I now meditate, dance, sing, laugh, and write. I became my own best friend.
No, I don’t have a partner, but I have books. I have music. I have movies. I have a few friends I can talk to. I have passions and a therapist who does not see me as a failure of a human being — she sees me as a work in progress.
And this is who I am today. A work in progress.
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