Spending time alone between relationships is the best way to learn how to be with someone else.
Do you move from monogamous relationship to monogamous relationship in an unbroken string of rescue from heartbreak? Do you start new relationships before your old relationships have ended? Congratulations! You're a serial monogamist! Serial monogamists are pain-avoidant, which means they start looking for new love at the first sign of relationship-ending trouble because that keeps them from having to deal with the trauma of splitting up. Serial monogamists are never alone—and that's, of course, the problem. It's also why they'll never be with anyone for the long haul unless they change: because they don't know how to be with—and love—themselves.
Lest you think I'm being judgmental, you should know that some of my best friends are serial monogomists. Or at least, they were. I've successfully talked more than one girlfriend of mine out of her S-M ways by convincing them that they were undermining their happiness by clinging to the need to be in a relationship. My friend Jenny had never been single in the ten years I'd known her, moving from boyfriend to boyfriend to boyfriend. So when her relationship of almost four years ended about a year ago, I told her it was time for her to finally face her fears and spend some time alone. "Trust me, Jenny. This is going to be the best thing that's ever happened to you," I said. "Better than the time you won the deodorant-sponsored comedy contest. Better than the time you smoked pot with Brad Pitt! Better than the time you begged and pleaded your way into the infamous NYC gay bar, Rawhide, and landed on the toilet just in time to avoid sh*tting all over your white skirt."
Jenny was skeptical, because as we all know not much in life feels better than the sweet relief of fecal freedom, but six months into her first solo journey she told me, "You were right, Carolyn. I love being alone. I go for walks! I enjoy the city! I even had a little chat in the West Village with Bono and Adele!" Because you know who doesn't run into Bono and Adele just hangin' out outside a restaurant on a tiny little Village side street? COUPLES. Because they're too busy fighting and getting fat at chain restaurants that remind them of their carefree youths. Not only is Jenny now happily single, she has also started a new career as a photographer. She's getting regular gigs with a neighborhood paper and recently published her first book.
Don't get me wrong: I'm not arguing for unending singlehood here. On the contrary, I think spending time alone between relationships is the best way to learn how to be with someone else. I've only ever been in monogamous relationships, and I've always taken time off in-between affairs. It wasn't a decision I made consciously, really. I just instinctively knew that I needed time to mourn the loss of the relationship that had ended along with time to find myself again. Every relationship that has ended in my life has provided me with an opportunity to find a deeper, better, more functional, healther and (okay) hotter version of myself. Because what's hotter than finally getting to a place where you can truly be vulnerable and enjoy emotional intimacy, am I right, fellas? Bring a condom that will fit over your heart, buddy, becuase we're about to exchange hugs. Really meaningful hugs.
I've been single for two years now after dating someone on and off for a year. During that time I've managed to fully recognize and completely break my co-dependence, come to terms with the root of that co-dependence and change a lot of habits that have held me back both personally and professionally. I recently started pursuing dating again seriously and I've noticed that the men I'm connecting with are also totally different than any of the men I've been with in the past. They're much more open and vulnerable and moving forward in their own lives ... just like me. To any serial monogamist, 24 months would seem like an unbearable amount of time to go without being in a relationship, but guess what? I did develop a great relationship during these two years I've been single: I finally have a great relationship with myself. And as trite as that sounds, it truly is the foundation for a lasting relationship with someone else.