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Daisies 1966 dir. Vera Chytilovà

22 January 2023

Love-sick: Why I'm respectfully signing out of the quest for love

GENEVIEVE STEVENS

It is January 2023 and I have now officially been single for a year. 

 

It’s the longest I’ve ever been single since the age of 15. In fact, I have just turned 22 and I’m lucky enough to have been in love twice. Not silly, puppy-love playground flirtations but full-blown picking out our baby names kind of romances. In fact, when I really stop and think about it, in the seven years since my very first kiss I’ve been in a relationship for five of those. And I’m not here to boast about my miraculous luck in love, or tell you “hold in there, you’ll find it one day too”. I’m here because, as much as I will cherish the precious time I spent with both those individuals, I am absolutely done with love for the foreseeable future.  

 

There is no greater feeling than falling in love. It is undeniably exciting, incredibly scary and totally all consuming. It starts obsessively; waiting for their texts, scrolling through their Facebook updates from 2016. It is playing down your interest to your friends, just in case it doesn’t work out- first dates, first kisses, first...  

 

Falling in love is absolutely brilliant. It’s the other stuff that I’m less sure about.  

 

I’ve spent most of my life being “that girl with the boyfriend”, the self-confessed serial monogamist, the one who would leave early to go see her partner, the one who lived vicariously through her friends and their comparably chaotic dating lives. My first stint at love, at the age of 15, was so glorious I ended up going out with him twice. It was the perfect trial run at adult love with a man I am proud to still call a very close friend. But then came uni, the inevitable death knell of long distance, and things gradually fizzled out. We agreed to be friends, went our separate ways and put a reluctant pin in our wonderful three years together. An incredibly functional break up for an incredibly functional relationship.  

 

But three years in the world’s most perfect relationship had left its own traumatic legacy. Left with the feeling that I may have missed out, I was spurred on by the chaotic compulsion to make up for lost time. Like many freshers who have ditched the shackles of high school romance, I prepared myself for the start of my obligatory hoe era, beginning what I thought would be a period of singleness, personal growth and sexual exploration. Ten days into this odyssey something would happen that would stop me in my tracks forever. I met a boy. How incredibly predictable, I know. And I don’t usually subscribe to this kind of horoscope, everything happens for a reason bullshit, but I can really say that it was love at first sight. I remember it clearly, I passed him in the corridor of our uni accommodation, and immediately ran upstairs to my flatmates, proudly declaring “I’ve just seen my future boyfriend”. 

 

And so began my second relationship, one that can only be described as two years of complete and utter chaos, good chaos, but chaos nonetheless. The kind of love that is so all-consuming you will put up with just about anything. The kind of love that blinds you to any flaw or fault.

  

That relationship ended a year ago. Now, at last, after five years of monogamy, I can finally bask in the unclouded reality of singlehood. And as if a veil has been lifted from over my eyes, I can suddenly see the damaging aftermath of bouncing from boyfriend to boyfriend. Willfully ignoring the voices in my head telling me to “take things slow”, I had jumped into monogamy, once again, with absolute dedication. The biggest realization I have had is that whilst I was largely very happy, that relationship made me a complete and utter bore. I was flaky with friends, fell into tedious habits and completely abandoned the hobbies that had fulfilled me for years. My close friends and family, though they never showed it, inevitably got bored when I brought up one of our countless arguments. I even bored myself with the ever so predictable ways he found opportunities to disappoint me, and for me to forgive him. And I guess it’s obvious enough, that he got bored too and eventually had the foresight to end it all together.  

 

Being dumped is one of the most painful experiences a person can deal with. Trust me when I say that nothing compares to the feelings of hurt and betrayal that follow a completely unexpected break up. No one tells you how to learn to unlove someone, it is a process of trial and error, a seemingly never ending waiting game. There were times I never thought I’d feel the same again. A year on I am still grappling with the fall out. It’s fair to say my Spotify wrapped this year was almost exclusively angsty break up anthems. And despite all this, being broken up with is the single best thing that could have happened to me. 

 

Now that I am on my own my life is infinitely more varied. I have had the opportunity to travel, to write for Sleaze, have put time into fostering new and old friendships and I fill my time with an array of exciting hobbies - yeah guys I play football now! Being single has taught me more about myself in a year than five years in long term relationships.  Think of a relationship as a pair of stabilizers on a bike, they are the easy option, they make the journey comfortable and far less scary, but who knows how far you’ll go when you take them off.

 

And so if you find yourself entering 2023 heartbroken and alone, please believe me when I say, in the words of D-ream themselves, “things can only get better”. 

  

Now that I am on my own, I have realized how much I was giving up being in perpetual relationships. Because a relationship is about putting the needs of another on parr with your own, often sacrificing little pieces of yourself for someone else’s happiness. And although the process is gradual, suddenly one day you will realize that the person you are with is a whole different person altogether. And sometimes this person is a better person, an improved you. Because maybe your partner has helped you grow, has nurtured you and inspired you to be better. Maybe these compromises are not really compromises at all, but rather opportunities to learn new and exciting parts of yourself. If you are in one of these relationships - congratulations - but you can stop reading; this piece isn’t for you.

 

For many of us however, the opposite is true. For many of us relationships are a process of personal attrition, a series of sacrifices and compromises that without us even knowing estrange us from ourselves. In my last relationship I spent almost no time alone. I could barely stand sleeping in a bed by myself, pathetic I know. I stopped doing all of the small creative things that I used to do, crocheting, writing, reading poetry. All the small creative hobbies that made me feel like me. For some reason I gave up a music taste altogether- alone time was more intimate in silence- plus the only band that our incredibly divergent music tastes shared was Tame Impala. 

 

It was by no means a bad relationship, some of my happiest memories were spent with him by my side. In fact it is precisely because I loved him so much that I found myself feeling increasingly shut off from myself, increasingly dependent. Without even knowing it we were holding each other back, stifling ourselves with our increasing codependence, molding ourselves around one another until we moved as a single cohesive organism. I gave up being me and became a counterpart in the quest for something larger. And the worst part is that I didn’t even realize. 

  

And so, I have begun to rethink my stance on relationships and for the first time in my life I am not looking for love at all. For starters, I simply do not have a space in my life for a boyfriend anymore. Because relationships can be all-consuming, they require immense amounts of time and dedication, both of which in my final year of university I do not have the capacity to give. What’s more, I don’t want to sacrifice even a single part of myself for anyone else. Turns out I’m pretty awesome being my authentic, independent self. After five years avoiding her it feels good to reconnect. And so, I guess you could say I'm a break-up sympathizer, because it took being broken up with to realize I am happier on my own.  

 

And it’s not just me spurting this kind of ‘dump him’ rhetoric. Florence Given’s famous “Women Don’t Owe You Pretty” and Chidera Eggerue “Dump Him” both reflect changing attitudes to monogamy and the increasing imperative to improve our standards for what constitutes a fulfilling relationship. I’m not always sure where I stand on Eggerue’s extreme form of feminism. She has come under fire for telling a woman on the internet to dump her boyfriend for asking her to split the bill, posting “Get a new boyfriend. There are richer, cuter, more successful, funnier, more romantic, far more interesting guys out there if you widen your network”. Eggerue’s cynicism is absolute; whilst I can’t confidently say going Dutch is a dumpable offense, there is something to be said for her call for individuals to take matters into their own hands when a relationship is not fulfilling their needs and desires. 

 

What’s more, many young people are choosing to reject monogamy altogether, pursuing polyamorous relationships or participating in consensual extramarital sex, ideas spoken about in Netflix’s popular “How to build a sex room” and destigmatized by new apps such as Field. Whilst some of these things may not be for you, it is clear that conversations about monogamy and sexual exploration are entering the media mainstream and our collective conscious in a way that challenges the status quo. 

 

But despite these efforts the dominant narrative still assures us time and time again that we would be happier as boyfriends, girlfriends and partners. Whether it be your grandma’s constant ‘are you seeing anyone’ at family gatherings, or just about the plot of every romcom, the world seems hellbent on making us feel lesser when we are on our own. Ariana Grande’s ‘Thank You, Next’ used to be my favorite guilty pleasure tune but now when I listen (only ironically of course), I can’t help but interrogate the concept of ‘Thank You, Next’. Why does there need to be a ‘next’ at all? Why not just thank you? 

 

So, if you happen to find yourself in a relationship that you are not confident makes you your best, kindest, most fulfilled self, it is not too late to reconsider.

 

Challenge the reasons you are in a relationship; if it is for ease, sex or because you’re just too scared to break up with them, then these are not legitimate reasons. Heartbreak is without doubt the hardest thing I have ever experienced and yet I am glad a man broke my heart. It has taught me not to give love too easily, to put myself first and most importantly to know my worth. Because being dependent on no one but yourself is the most liberating feeling of all. So if, like me, you have never really been on your own, maybe 2023 is the year to finally go it alone. 

 

Relationships can be amazing and I am forever indebted to the two wonderful men I am proud to call my exes but I am respectfully bowing out of the exhausting quest for love. I am taking 2023 to work on myself, enjoy my newfound freedom and pray to God that the love of my life does not walk round the corner anytime soon because, damn, wouldn’t that put a spanner in the works?  

 

And if that didn’t convince you here are my top ten reasons for being single in your twenties in 2023: 

 

  1. You have loads more free time  

  2. You have more energy to give to your friends 

  3. You are viewed as an individual, not as part of a collective 

  4. You have the freedom to explore other options 

  5. You don’t  have to factor a partner into your graduate plans 

  6. You are the sexiest you will ever be - don’t waste that power

  7. You can say goodbye to all the stupid, petty arguments you had with your partner 

  8. You can put yourself first literally every time 

  9. You don’t have to pretend to like their family or friends 

  10. You  are way more fun - since when is the girl in the relationship ever the most fun on a night out?

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This article is dedicated to three very special women, Erin, Izzie and my unbelievably amazing mother, Jenni. Thank you for helping me to feel whole again and for teaching me that love comes in many shapes and sizes.

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