We’re not starting a cult but some followers on Instagram would be nice. Thank you.
I don’t think I spent much of my 20s being single.
In fact, I remember being chronically monogamous, going from one relationship to the next in a matter of months.
While most of them were uneventful, the last one that led to a five-year cold turkey from romance was particularly tumultuous.
As the echoes of our last screaming match faded, I had to face the fact that things had been going wrong for a long time, and we were hanging on to a failing relationship because neither of us wanted to be single.
Coming out of it was hard. After almost two years together, our social lives had almost completely merged.
I had no idea what to do with myself during the weekends or our usual date nights.
Doing things by myself felt empty and weird, and I realised how much of my identity hinged on being their other half.
I resolved to take time to begin work on myself, by myself.
I never planned for it to go on for this long, but I can’t say I’m hating the single life.
Since I am now such an expert, here’s a few things I learnt over time.
1. Block your ex
I absolutely wanted them to be as miserable and lost as I was. It would be even better if they got less attractive and became an alcoholic because, well, they deserved it.
On hindsight though, that’s an awful thing to wish on anyone, especially someone that you’ve loved for a period of time.
And when I found out that they’d moved on a lot faster than I did, I began to wonder what was wrong with me. Why couldn’t I make it work between us?
When you find yourself thinking that way, it’s time to use this amazing modern invention called the “Block” button on social media.
Recently, their name came up as I was searching for someone else in my WhatsApp contacts.
Out of curiosity, I checked out their profile picture and thought to myself, “These two look good together.”
There was no resentment anymore, just genuine happiness for them.
Looking back, I realise that relationships sometimes just don’t work out for no reason at all.
We just have to be comfortable with the fact that some questions have no answers, and accepting this makes life a lot easier.
2. Going at it alone is overrated
Once I got over the denial phase of grief, the anger came, and with it, the overwhelming desire to shut out everyone and work on processing my hurt alone.
I’m glad that even when I was at my wettest-blanketest (yes, this is a term I just made up), my friends never stopped reaching out.
Some of the incredible things they did in the months that followed include:
- Taking me out for drinks
- Cutting me off when I started drinking too much
- Introducing me to their other single friends (too soon)
- Going to fitness classes with me even though they hate exercising
- Downloading dating apps on my phone and swiping for me (0/10 would not recommend)
While their methods were sometimes questionable, it made me realise that I had people who cared for me and whom I could rely on.
That made figuring out what to do on weekends and date nights a lot easier.
But more importantly, it made me realise that I didn’t need a romantic relationship to be loved.
3. Learning to say yes is just as important as learning to say no
At some point, I decided that I was going to try something new—I would say yes to anything that the Universe threw at me (within reason) before I made a decision on whether I liked it or not.
This was mainly to distract myself from being sad but also to push myself out of my comfort zone.
During this time, I:
- Got a gym membership.
7/10 – I used to think these were for suckers who would pay thousands a year to never use the facilities anyway, but as it turns out, it’s a great way to spend time when you suddenly find yourself having lots of it.
- Made a whole bunch of new friends as a result of going to the gym.
11/10 – I love my friends.
- Climbed more mountains than I could count or name in the Balkans.
6/10 – It was fun but I would also probably never do this again because after a while all mountains look the same.
- Conquered my fear of the deep blue sea and took my PADI open water diving course in Taiwan.
7/10 – What made this even more remarkable was the fact that I did this in Mandarin, which I’ve never been confident in.
- Cycled 45 kilometres on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur with one guide, zero prep and only a vague idea of where I was.
3/10 – Not sure what I was thinking. Would do it again though.
… and many other things which old me would not have done.
I realised that while I used to make decisions based on whether I thought I would like the experience, my new approach to life helped ground my preferences in some kind of reality.
For example, that I much prefer looking at the mountain from the comfort of my AirBnB than actually getting on it.
4. You can’t hurry love
From time to time, the idea that my biological clock is ticking and I should probably start looking for a partner spurs me to download yet another dating app and give it a shot.
It usually ends the same way—I meet one or two really nice people, but there never really is a spark and the conversation eventually dies.
I like my own company a lot, and keeping someone around just to make sure I don’t die alone with no one to mourn me but the pets I’ll leave behind just doesn’t seem like a good enough reason.
That’s not to say that I don’t think true love exists. It may just never find me. And I’m surprisingly okay with that.
All images via Natalie Teo
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