If you were in a relationship last year, it’s probable you’re among the many folks who’ve since become single on or around Dec. 11 – the most popular day of the year when couples call it quits, according to statisticians on InformationIsBeautiful.net.
Being single can seem scary at first but it isn’t something that should be feared, says matchmaker and relationship expert Shanny Tebb. Instead, that time alone should be thought of as a positive moment full of opportunity and valuable growth.
“I call it a dating detox,” Tebb says. “I always convince singles after a breakup to do one, where you just self-assess, do things that you’ve always wanted to do – like set new goals or reach ones you didn’t fulfill when they were in a relationship – and just look at themselves and see if anything needs to change or be improved. It’s taking a time out from everything, being on your own and on the way to feeling good again.”
According to the latest numbers by Statistics Canada there were 14,357,875 single people in the country in 2016 – 53 per cent of whom were men and 47 per cent women.
Despite popular thinking, researchers at the University of Auckland found that singletons are just as happy as those who are paired up.
“Being single has traditionally been associated with poorer life satisfaction, but this research shows that is not the case for people who try to sustain relationships by avoiding turmoil or conflict,” Yuthika Girme, author of the study, says in a press release. “This study found that people who want to avoid conflict may feel relieved when they don’t have to manage the inevitable ups-and-downs of being in a relationship.”
But if you’ve been in a long-term relationship and out of the dating game for so long, knowing how to be single again can seem like a difficult concept to grasp.
Global News spoke with Tebb who talks navigating the single life and makes a case as to why flying solo for a bit may be the best thing to happen to anybody.
The stages of breakup grief
Whether it was an amicable decision or not, the period following a breakup is an important time where both parties must cope with the loss in order to move on, says Tebb. This often includes going through certain feelings and emotions that are completely normal.
“You go through different stages before you bring it all back to yourself,” Tebb said. “You might ask what you did wrong but really you should be looking at what you learned from the relationship.”
The first stage is denial that the relationship ended, followed by defensiveness – putting up a tough front in an effort to keep your feelings hidden from everyone else – and then anger (towards the other person).
Next is the breakdown where you become emotional and your confidence takes a hit.
Lastly is reflection and acceptance. Once you step back, remove yourself from the situation and see the bigger picture, that’s when you’ll come to the realization that it was all for the best, Tebb says.
“You’ll be able to figure out what worked and what didn’t and learn from it,” she says. “(Reflecting) on the previous relationship allows you to grow and recognize the red flags that were there and then you become more aware of them for future relationships.”
One study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science found that repeatedly reflecting on the breakup can help speed up the emotional recovery process.
To help, Tebb suggests writing out your thoughts in a letter to yourself.
“This will help you know why they were in your life and will help you let go and forgive them,” she says.
The benefits of being single
Those who embrace being single tend to experience more psychological growth and development than married people, University of California psychology professor Bella DePaulo said at the 2016 American Psychological Association’s annual convention.
One of those strengths is that single men and women are often more connected to their parents, siblings, friends, neighbours and co-workers than their married counterparts, DePaulo says citing a 2015 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships.
The difference was more prominent for the never married than for the previously married, researchers say, suggesting that marriage extends its reach even after it ends.
Being single also allows you to become more focused, especially in your career, says Tebb.
“When you’re single you kind of put all your energy probably into your work, especially if you don’t have kids,” she says. “You’re able to focus clearly and have your own agenda. You decide when to do what.”
This is also a great time to focus on your health, Tebb says, and that focused energy is what will help motivate you.
Tebb’s sentiments echo a 2011 U.K. poll by the Department of Health that found married couples exercise less than singletons, The Telegraph reports.
According to the poll, 76 per cent of married men and 63 per cent of married women were physically active for less than the recommended 150 minutes per week.
Independence is another plus of being single along with not having to answer to anybody else. This is the time to take on projects you’ve neglected, travel and try a new hobby.
“There’s no pressure and you’re able to pick up and go,” Tebb says. “You don’t have to worry about a second opinion. This is a time for you to grow into the man or woman you need to be so that when you’re ready for that next relationship, you’re kind of at your best.”
How to know when you’re ready to date again
A 2013 University of Toronto study found that people who fear being single tend to settle for less in their relationships. Because of this fear, people may choose to stay in unhappy relationships or rush into another, says lead author Sephanie Spielman.
“We see men and women having similar concerns about being single, which lead to similar coping behaviours, contradicting the idea that only women struggle with a fear of being single,” says co-author Geoff MacDonald. “Loneliness is a painful experience … so it’s not surprising that the fear of being single seems not to discriminate on the basis of gender.”
So just because you’re single, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready to mingle – at least not yet.
Don’t rush into another relationship, Tebb says. Take time for you – time to figure out what you want and need, to focus on things other than your love life for a while (like your career for example) and to heal and rebuild to become your best possible self.
“There’s no problem taking a break from dating if you feel overwhelmed,” says Tebb. “If you don’t feel like you’re in the moment then don’t force yourself.”
Tebb says you’ll know when you’re ready to date again when you feel your life and career are in order, you look and feel good and you’ve started to truly feel happy again.