What’s the point of friends w/ boyfriends if they won’t do the salt, pepper & cumin couple costume from HIMYM w/ me pic.twitter.com/MxVpPbvLxs
— sydknee (@onionboii) October 7, 2015
I was well into my 20s when I had my first “proper” romantic relationship.
Plenty of people choose to wait until they are financially and emotionally stable, and have left behind the chaos and confusion of adolescence for good, to begin looking for a long-term partner. However, this was not exactly the case for me. I didn’t stay single for so long out of choice—in fact, quite the opposite.
All throughout my teens and early 20s, I was desperately lonely. I had plenty of good friends, but nobody seemed to want to date me and my romantic life was nonexistent. My friends would always say things like “don’t worry, it’ll happen,” but it’s hard to believe this or feel much better when everyone around you is coupling up and you feel unwanted and left on the shelf.
Although this time period was painful and I spent many nights alone crying myself to sleep and wondering what was wrong with me, in hindsight, I learned some valuable lessons from this experience.
Here are some of the things that always being the single friend taught me about relationships, and about myself:
Dating is not easy.
Of course, not being able to land a date in the first place certainly made the concept of dating seem impossible and overwhelming. However, it was not just the problems of singledom that I learned about. Through observing friends and hearing them talk about their dating problems and horror stories, I reduced my expectations of dating and started to wonder if it was even worth it at all!
Although it (thankfully) didn’t put me off trying to find a partner, it certainly destroyed the common myth that everything in life is perfect and rosy when you find the right person.
You have to make time for friends as well as dating.
This lesson I learned the hard way—by being on the receiving end. It’s hard to describe how depressing it is to spend every Friday night alone because your friends are all spending it on date nights with their partners. What’s even worse is when you helped those same friends with their relationship problems when they needed it.
These feelings of abandonment and betrayal led me to promise myself that I would always make time for my friends even if I found a partner—and I have done my best to stick to that.
Sometimes everyone else can see what you can’t.
When you have spent hours consoling a crying friend who feels undervalued or betrayed by their partner, you realize that there are a lot of people out there who just aren’t worth dating. Unfortunately, your friends often can’t see this at the time and will say “he’s not a bad guy; he’s just misunderstood.”
Learning that the expression “love is blind” at an early age taught me not to dismiss other people’s opinions on my partners, because being the one in a relationship can often blind you to its shortcomings.
You can’t take any relationship for granted.
I lost count of how many times friends would say to me things like, “I really think he’s the one,” only to be single again just a few weeks later. One of my friends thought it was a done deal that his partner would stick by his side forever, but she ended up leaving him because he was always ditching her to hang out with his friends (you see, it goes both ways!).
Seeing friends take their relationships and partners for granted made me determined not to make this mistake myself.
You have to value and respect yourself.
The most important thing that I learned in all my years of singledom was that you cannot derive your sense of self-worth from dating and relationships. I knew plenty of people who were always a complete wreck when single and were so desperate to avoid the loneliness that they would rush into relationships with the most unsuitable partners.
When you don’t have the option of simply jumping into a relationship, you are forced to learn how to build your self-esteem from within. The process sucks, but I’m infinitely healthier for learning how to do it.
I have been in a happy relationship for a few years now despite thinking that it may never happen for me. In fact, I attribute the continued success and stability of my relationship with my partner to these lessons that I learned while single.