I Used To Think I Was Nothing Without A Relationship But I Was Wrong

There was a time when I made my romantic relationships my entire life. I lost myself to the guys I loved and when we inevitably broke up, I felt like I couldn’t function. Thankfully, I’ve since learned better than to define myself on my relationship status, but I’ll never forget the damage doing so did in my life.

  1. Like most girls in high school, I was obsessed with getting a boyfriend. Being in a relationship was synonymous with being cool, and being out of one left me automatically feeling out of the pack. I was desperate to find someone that would make me feel good about myself. More importantly, I wanted the rest of the world to see that I was worth getting to know.
  2. My Facebook relationship status truly meant everything to me. More than actually wanting a boyfriend, I wanted all my social circles to know that I was with someone. From the moment I began dating, I’d be wondering when the time would be right to change my status to ‘in a relationship’. I was desperate to take center stage on all my friends’ home pages and kick back to watch as the likes rolled in.
  3. Before I met anyone, I felt like a failure. I thought I was single because I wasn’t good enough. Never mind that the pickings of guys in my area were incredibly slim and even the most attractive of them still found fart jokes hilarious. Not being able to pin down one of these dudes left me feeling rejected right from the start of my dating career. I looked on with envy as people coupled up around me, wondering what I was doing wrong.
  4. Being in a relationship somehow validated who I was to the rest of the world. Having a boyfriend whose name I could drop into conversation every 30 seconds instantly made me feel more confident. I relaxed into myself, knowing that I didn’t need to constantly try and impress potential boyfriends new people. I was convinced that people who’d always thought I was a bit of a weirdo would suddenly change their minds when they saw how in demand I was with the opposite sex.
  5. I became someone who only refers to myself as “we.” It’s amazing how quickly I lost track of who I was as an individual. I spent all of my time with my other half and was planning our wedding in minute detail by date number five. Being part of something bigger than myself made me feel valued. I took on a vaguely condescending air towards all my single friends who hadn’t been lucky enough to find what I had.
  6. Being in a relationship didn’t automatically make me happier. Sure, there were good parts. I loved having someone to message all the tiny insignificant parts of my day and always having a date to do fun new things with. Still, my insecurities didn’t disappear overnight. I’d worry that my boyfriend found other girls more attractive/funny/sexy than me, or that I wasn’t actually making him happy. My whole personality revolved around being somebody’s girlfriend and whether or not I was doing that job well.
  7. The minute I was single again, my whole world fell apart. Once I’d made being a great girlfriend my “thing,” the prospect of being single again was even more horrendous than the first time round – that Facebook status was pretty painful to change back. So, I did what any insecure person would do and tried to make being young, free and single my tagline instead. The only problem there was that if I ever found love again (come on, I was a melodramatic young woman), I’d have to restart the identity-building process from scratch all over again.
  8. I realized that I’d forgotten how to be just me. Whether it was the perfect girlfriend, the holiday fling or the sassy singleton, I kept coming back to these relationship disguises to pimp my personality. Being little old me on my own just didn’t seem like enough. I realized that aside from being “so and so’s girlfriend” or “the single friend,” I didn’t know what it was that made me unique.
  9. Breakups hurt a whole lot more when you haven’t learned to value who you are as an individual. Of course, I did know but I hadn’t learned to value myself for all those qualities. As far as I was concerned, if someone else didn’t appreciate them, they weren’t worth having. Once I took a step back and realized all the things I had going for myself whether or not I was with someone else, my whole attitude towards the dating game flipped. I didn’t need someone to make me complete—whoever came into my life was lucky to have me!
  10. I can’t expect to be respected by a guy who knows I have no real life beyond him. When you define yourself by your relationship with someone else, that person suddenly holds all the power in your life. Without my boyfriend, I knew I would go back to being the single girl I hated being. I have to have a life beyond your relationship and know who I am despite the fact that people might come and go along the way, otherwise, I’m in for a nasty shock when that person I’ve built my whole world on disappears from under my feet.
  11. I’ll know I’m ready for another relationship when I’m having a great time being single. For as long as I want a boyfriend for the sake of having a boyfriend, I know I’m not ready to make that commitment. Falling back in love with myself might take time, but only then will I be ready to love someone else.
Isobel is a freelance blogger and writer for hire specialising in content for millennials who haven't quite got it together yet (i.e. herself). When not glued to her laptop, she enjoys eating cheese, doing yoga and spending time with family and friends.