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The secrets to happy single-hood.

We’re not breaking ground here—you’ve probably heard this adage from smug marrieds enough times to make your blood boil. But guess what…it’s true. “Being single gives you time to explore what makes you happy, which ultimately makes you a stronger, more well-rounded person…and a person new people want to be around. Here’s how to make it happen.

Step 1: Quiet the little voices: Let’s face it, society constantly reminds people that you need to be paired up to be happy—to be a real grown-up. Just walk by any newsstand: No less than three out of five cover lines of women’s & men’s magazines promote sex or relationships. “They can often make it seem that everyone’s involved in a really hot love affair except you,”
So how can you tune out the static? Check your friends—are you hanging out with enough like-minded singletons? Being with couples can often make it worse. You may find yourself constantly comparing yourself to them. And when Mom (or anyone else) asks for the millionth time why haven’t you settled down, be frank. Say, “I really appreciate that you want me to be happy. but your constant focus on how I’m not in a couple is not making me happy.”

Step 2: Dig up the past: To be truly happy as a single, you need to redefine yourself as single by choice, at least for now—someone who doesn’t just settle for anyone. Along your journey as a single person, you’ve probably had your fair share of groan-worthy relationships. Use that knowledge to your advantage & (re)discover all the ways it’s better to be single & happy than stuck in a rut with a dud. Need a memory refresh? Review your relationship history on paper. For each partner, list how long you two were together, what you liked & disliked about this person, & why it ended. If you only recall the good times (it happens), enlist some truth-seekers (a.k.a. your friends). Ask them to remind you of an unworthy boyfriend or girlfriend from your past. Soon enough, you’ll start to realize that it’s better to be free than, say, dating a freeloader.

Step 3: Work on a relationship…with yourself.Being single is a great opportunity to grow as a person—to appreciate yourself & your idiosyncrasies. “Just like all the other relationships in your life—with your family, your friends—it takes a lot of work to maintain a relationship with yourself. The more you know about yourself, the more you know the type of person you want to be with.
But self-realization doesn’t always come easy. You can get started with a few simple writing exercises. Journals help you delve deeper into your feelings. Start writing about a hot-button topic, like the get-married pressure you’re getting from Mom. By taking the time to describe why something angers you, you’ll start to understand yourself & your motivations better. Positive, focused writing can have the same effect: Try listing your life goals & when you want them to happen, regardless of whether you’re single or married. Finally, realize that happiness can come from places outside relationships: Creative projects, travel, your career. Need a kick-start? Jot down at least five things that make you happy every day.

Step 4: Celebrate your single-hood: With new episodes of Sex & the City long gone, it seems that there’s an empty hole to fill—the one that glamorizes the single life. “Now all that’s left are shows like The Bachelor. So create your own ways to celebrate single-hood & live it up! And remember, everything has a good side; you just have to learn how to spot it—or reframe it. If sleeping alone at night triggers a sense of loneliness, respin the situation in your mind to realize the benefits (you can eat ice cream in bed, sleep diagonally, snooze, snore…you name it). Finally, make a list of 100 things that you would like to do by yourself—things you could never do if you had a boyfriend or girlfriend—& start doing them.

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