It’s not just break-ups that disrupt our lives
Change is always hard no matter what stage of life you’re in; from moving cities or switching careers to learning to live through broken relationships, friendships and everything in between. While we often talk about what it’s like for people to go from being in steady, long-term relationships to suddenly adjusting to the single life, we rarely ever talk about the other side of the coin — the struggle of getting into a steady relationship and embracing emotional intimacy after being single.
There are a host of reasons someone might struggle with re-adjusting to a relationship after being single for a while. You might feel like you aren’t ready to share your space or time, experience dating app-induced FOMO if you’re monogamous, or not know how to ask for what you need from your new partner. From the fear of being vulnerable to losing your autonomy and independence — allowing yourself to trust completely can be a daunting experience. We spoke to some experts to help you overcome your fears and navigate your way back into a relationship.
Loss of independence
Taylor Gallagher, a 27-year-old PR representative, is all too familiar with the feeling of having lost her independence. She recently got into a relationship after being single her entire life, and adjusting to having someone else in her life has been difficult, but the compromise, she says, has been worth it. “It’s been hard to accept that I can no longer be selfish, and I have to take his feelings and what he wants to do into consideration as well. It sounds so bad, but I was so used to doing what I wanted when I wanted and now, I have another person that I have to think about.”
In fact, it may actually be harder to re-adjust to being in a relationship after a period of being single, than the other way around, according to Dr Pepper Schwartz, relationship expert and Married at First Sight co-host. “People build up walls about maintaining their independence,” she says, “There’s this sense of accomplishment of having had a good single life and there is a fear about the possibility that you will become dependent or be asked to change.”
“There is a degree of lost independence and individuality once one enters into a relationship, but it doesn’t have to be doom and gloom. Hopefully a couple can work out a balance within their relationship and strive for interdependence,” assures Angela Nicole Holton, a dating and relationships expert at Love Sanctuary.
Making sure your needs are met
If you’ve been single for a while, you will have become used to meeting your own needs – trusting someone to start meeting them for you is not only scary, it can also be difficult. How can you know which of your needs should be met by another person and which are better tended to solo?
“Anyone who has been single for a long time can be out of touch with their relational needs and if it’s been long enough, those needs may even have changed. But what many singles aren’t aware of is how their emotional needs in a relationship may have also evolved with time,” explains Lori Ann Kret, relationship therapist at Aspen Relationship Institute.
This was the case for Kristi Hedrik, a Publicist Assistant who got divorced in 2018 and was single for several years afterwards. “It took me a while to get back into the dating game,” she admits. “Maintaining my own independence is very important to me. I understood that being in a relationship with someone again, let alone living with them, I would be giving up some of my independence since I’d be working towards building a life with this person.” For Kristi, learning how to find that balance and set boundaries that allow her to maintain her independence has been key.