As an extrovert, one of my greatest fears has always been ending up alone. For much of my teenage life, I longed for a boyfriend. That desire was mostly fueled by romantic comedies, hormones, and society’s practice of reminding us that we will never be happy unless we find “the one.” As an awkward, weird only child, I never quite fit in. Sensing my vulnerability, I was often teased until the end of high school. Imagine my amazement when I got to college and discovered that I wasn’t disgusting or unlovable – people could actually find me attractive. Maybe it was because of my need to always be loved and accepted or maybe it was because of my astonishment at being found remotely interesting, but the minute I found someone who liked me back, we stayed together for almost three years. Thus began my life of serial monogamy.
In the beginning, it was strange, awkward and new, but it was fun. I was dating! It was such a new, wonderful experience for me. Perhaps because it was so new, I didn’t want to let it go, or maybe I thought I had just got lucky and would never meet another guy again. Whatever the reason, we stayed together, despite the fact that we each studied abroad, making us long distance for roughly a year, even though it was clear mid-way through that we weren’t right for each other. We fought often and he once told me felt like “a babysitter” in the relationship. I’m sure I made mistakes too, but let’s just say we weren’t happy. It was clear that we were ripping apart slowly, but we continuously tried to patch the relationship up again and again. When he broke up with me without warning, it was like ripping a bandage off. I knew it was coming and it hurt, but I also drew a sigh of relief.
Though I was ready to be on my own, I also hated being on my own. It took a lot of getting used to. Casual hookups and one-night stands were just not my cup of tea. I had to face facts that I was simply too much of an emotional being. When I meet a new friend, if we click on the first day, I immediately want to become best friends. I fall in love with dogs I meet on the street. I decided I was done with that brief, semi-fun but also confusing part of my life. For many people, the next logical step would be to try that elusive, strange place known as the dating world. But for me – the serial monogamist – this meant that I reconnected with an old friend and immediately fell head over heels.
This is how I came to be with my current partner in a happy and healthy relationship, six years later. Let me be clear, I don’t regret my choice and I love being with him. I consider myself someone who is better when they are in relationships. When I’m alone, I binge watch entirely too much tv, I don’t go out very often, and I eat way too much mac and cheese. My creative spirit and energy thrive off of surrounding myself with people who love me and interacting with people on a daily basis. Being in a relationship for me means always having someone to spend time with who loves and supports me. But because I have spent much of my adult life in relationships, I’ve warmed to the idea of being independent and on your own. I enjoy my solitary moments more now because they are less frequent. It’s time that I can devote purely to my interests and well-being. This has given me the opportunity to think about what I want out of a relationship, out of life, and out of a partner. For some, dating (or not dating) is how they reach the same conclusion, but I just came about to it in a different way. Ultimately, I think it’s made me understand more about myself and that’s something worth striving for.
I would argue that being in a long-term relationship can help you discover yourself in an entirely different way. Getting to know a person – and really getting to know them – takes a long time. Navigating your way through this can also help you realize what you like and don’t like about yourself. It can also give you some insight into what you expect out of a partner. Working through this can be a bonding experience that leaves you more fulfilled and happy. Also, finding someone you click with so easily, someone who appreciates you when you are being purely yourself without any judgment is hard. If you do find that person, I think it’s worth sticking it out.
As to those who plan not to marry or just don’t see themselves with a long-term partner, I equally applaud you. We are so often pressured to meet someone and marry quickly that we don’t always stop to think if we are ready for it or even want it at all. Figuring out what works for you and what makes you happy is most important, above any relationship. That’s worth fighting for.