10 Ways Being Single for A Long Time Changes You (for better or for worse)

In my second year of college, I made a pact with God. I was going to stay single for three years so that I could focus on knowing Him and finding myself. I wanted to grow into an independent woman who understood her place in the world.

I made the assumption that after those three years, I would emerge from hibernation and rejoin the dating scene with much ease. I expected it would take me no more than a few months to be comfortably cuffed with marriage painting the horizon bright orange like the sun rising.

Most of my friends never went more than two months single so I figured finding a good match was not all that hard. Five years after making the pact and two years after rejoining the dating game, here is my honest assessment of how being single for too long messes with your head:

1. You put relationships on a pedestal

A lot of people, including myself, who have been single for a very long time tend to view relationships through rose glasses. 

Something I am not ashamed about is that one of my major goals in life is to be happily married and have babies. However, I cannot put dating or marriage as a determining factor of whether I am successful or not because, largely, it is out of my control. 

I cannot wait for a relationship to make me feel accepted, worthy and acknowledged and neither should you. There are real problems in your life right now that cannot wait for a relationship to solve them. It probably won’t. 

I have a male friend who kept moving from one girl to the next. He was consumed with conquests. He was also convinced that once he found the love of his life, he would be able to get his wild behavior under control. He did not. He cheated on her, repeatedly. Dating did not magically cure him.

2. You become cynical of real love

On the other extreme are love-phobes and cynics who have been disappointed one too many times. People who think they are too old or too fat or too hard to handle to ever find somebody.

After being rejected enough times or after going on enough dates with narcissistic lunatics, you either believe that there is nobody out there for you or that there is something wrong with you.

Instead of dealing with those thoughts, you decide that real love is dead and you are happy to live your life without it. Every time a couple you thought had it made break up, get divorced or give you a sneak peak of the mess and brokenness behind the scenes, you are ‘proven right.’

3. You cannot help but wonder if there is something wrong with you

If you are not a cynic, you still believe in love and you want it. Because you are not one to believe that there is nothing that can be done but wait and pray, you focus on the one thing you have control over: you.

You may actually find things about yourself that you can change to increase your chances like being more friendly or putting more effort into your appearance, but by and large, there is usually nothing wrong you. 

You wonder if you are not pretty enough, if you talk too much or if you talk too little and a host of other things. You cannot figure out for the life of you why you are the only person who cannot find anybody. Are you too picky, too intimidating, too much?

I believe that I am still single because it is not yet God’s time for me to meet someone. That is enough for me. Improving myself is not a mission to become more desirable to men because I know a ton of people who are in relationships, even happily married, and are not perfect or remotely near the best version of themselves.

4. You worry that all the good ones are taken

This one might actually be true above a certain age. Just kidding. You are a good one, you are not taken. Good ones are there, you just haven’t met them yet or if you have, you did not realize it. 

5. You get too attached to your independence

Whenever I am around people in relationships or my married friends (yes, they got married right after college), a sense of relief often washes over me at still maintaining my autonomy.

It is a very scary thing for me to let go of control, even a little bit, especially now that I have had so much of it for so long. Yet I understand that a relationship has two people and neither one should arbitrarily lead the other.

6. You cannot to pick up on signs

You are so rusty that unless someone actually says it, you may never pick up on any signs that someone likes you or is trying to ask you out. You tend to put so many potential partners in the friendzone because you are so oblivious to their advances that they give up. 

7. You become too picky

You have probably been disappointed so many times that you put your walls up. You are afraid of getting hurt and so you make up these ridiculous lists of qualities that you want. You figure that the perfect person will not hurt you.

Or knowing that you will get hurt anyway, you would much rather be hurt by the most attractive, richest, funnest person you can find. You want something that will be worth your while when it is over.

8. Or too accepting

Thinking that all the good ones are taken, you settle for scraps. Figuring that you are not worth a person who appreciates and loves you, you accept someone who is with you but looking for something ‘better.’

Listen, lowering the bar on superficial things like looks or money is not just necessary, it is what you should have done straight out of high school. But no matter how long you stay alone, you should never lower your standards on character and virtue.

You are not looking for perfection, you are looking for a decent person who respects you and wants to be with you. That is not too much to ask.

9. You are tired of working on yourself

If the only reason you want to improve yourself is for getting a relationship, you are going to get real tired real quick. This notion that relationships come to people who have worked on themselves is a lie.

I admit that you need certain levels of maturity to maintain a healthy relationship but you do not need to be perfect or to attain some sort of higher humanity to get someone that is good for you. It is all in God’s time.

I do believe however in working towards being more selfless, kinder, more mature, more giving, even fitter and so on. I believing in working hard and enjoying life. None of these things should be sought after as a pre-qualifier for relationships but simply as a way of improving the quality of the one life you are given.

10. You finally find real love

Whether you get into a relationship or not (you probably will because statistics indicate so), you become closer to your family and friends. A lot of people in relationships are in their own little cocoon and tend to meet each others social needs. They only come out for air when things get stuffy or difficult or they lose it all. 

As a person who has been single for long, you learn to lean on a variety of people for your social needs. Your mother for good advise, your best friend for unconditional support, your gym friends for motivation, your work friends for camaraderie and so on.

If you try, you will find a friend or a group of friends who will have it all. You will find true love, acceptance and family. When you finally meet someone, they will come into your world without the pressure of fulfilling all your social needs.

Being single for longer than two years generally sucks, but to be completely honest, I would not trade those years. I have learned many things about myself and I have created some rock solid friendships that I wouldn’t trade for a boyfriend.