How I Stopped Being the ‘Relationship Girl’
All month long, Galore is celebrating what it means to be independent. Click here for more.
When I watched How To Be Single, I recognized Dakota Johnson’s character instantly.
Alice was the type of girl who was always in a relationship. She didn’t know how to function without one. Even when she claimed that she “needed time alone” and dumped someone, she jumped into another dude’s arms within weeks.
Even if you haven’t seen How To Be Single, you probably know someone like Alice. Every month she seems to be “in a relationship” on Facebook with someone new, her #MCM is a different “love of her life” every few weeks. There have always been girls like this, but social media just makes it even easier to track.
As much as I hate to admit it, I used to be one of those girls.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved being single. It’s just that from the ninth grade up until sophomore year of college, I was only really single for the “fun” period. You know, the fresh out of a relationship, ready to party, excited to finally make out with someone new and not have someone to check in with period. I never made it to the lonely, sick of having one night stands, wanting to settle down period, because I always had a new fling that turned into a boyfriend within a month tops.
When I scrolled my news feed and saw other “relationship girls,” I assumed that they searched for boyfriends, that they always had a back-up dude in case their current relationship failed, that they started dating guys within weeks of meeting them. But that was back when I didn’t realize that I was a relationship girl myself.
It’s super easy to judge someone from afar via social media, but if I ever looked into my own love life, I’d likely realize that I did the exact same shit, I just didn’t publicize it quite as much. Or maybe I did, just during the times of MySpace and AIM rather than making it “Facebook Official.”
I never searched for relationships, but I always had to have a new boy toy. Guys and sex were all my friends and I talked about, and I always had the best stories. Sure, maybe I wasn’t actively seeking a boyfriend, but I always needed male attention. If my boyfriend wasn’t responding to my texts, I’d go flirt with the cute guy that worked at the mall. If I was single and bored, I’d post a selfie.
I never thought of myself as someone who searched for relationships, because I wasn’t trying. But, by always wanting a hook-up, I essentially was doing the same thing, it just seemed more low-key in my head because most people do that anyway. When I went to college and asked my boyfriend if we could be in an “open relationship” and it took a new hook-up to convince me to end things completely, I realized that maybe I had a problem with being alone.
It didn’t matter though, because I had fallen into a new relationship that picked up right where my last boyfriend and I had left off.
Instead of spending nights on the phone with my ex, I was spending nights out with my new guy. I had someone new and exciting to flood my text-message inbox all day, I had someone new to fuck, I had someone new to give me compliments. But I was the same old me, and I was falling into the same old pattern of leaving one relationship to enter another one that seemed more exciting.
Fast forward nine months later to the most horrible breakup I’ve ever gone through in my life, and I was officially single again. But this time, I hadn’t initiated the break-up, and I wasn’t able to move on quickly like I had from previous relationships.
Regardless, it didn’t take me long to go through the “wild freshman” phase that I never experienced the year prior because of being in relationships. I blacked out on Tuesday nights, I woke up in strange beds with guys whose names I didn’t know, and I constantly drunk-texted my ex. I was a mess. I knew that getting under someone else wasn’t the way to get over it, but I didn’t care — or it was hard to care when I was constantly too drunk to know what was going on.
The reason I hadn’t gotten over my ex eight months later was because I had been too busy partying to acknowledge that he hurt me. As I cried to my roommate, she made me realize that I never gave myself time to mourn. I never reflected on where we went wrong or what I could learn from the tumultuous relationship, not to mention all my other relationships. Instead, I tried to be strong and appear that nothing ever phased me while casually hooking-up with new guys in hopes of finding a replacement.
My ex said some hurtful things to me in our last fight, but he made me realize things about myself that I never would have noticed otherwise. I was high-maintenance, I never offered to pay, I was entitled. I was accustomed to guys that would do anything for me, and when I got bored of them I would look for a new challenge. Most of all, I didn’t know how to communicate. I was that type of girl who said “I’m fine” and waited for a guy to figure out what was bothering me.
I’d been acting this way since my first “serious” relationship in the ninth grade, and because I’d never had a guy question the way I was, I never changed. One relationship fell into the next, and although the guys weren’t the same, the basic structure of the relationship was. After all, how was I to break the cycle when it was all I knew?
When I moved to New York for the next six months shortly after, I was still healing. I wish I could say that I spent a year single af, no boys in my life, and killing the game, but I didn’t — well, not exactly.
In fact, in my two years of no relationships, I went on more dates than I’d ever gone on in my life. But, thanks to Tinder and Happn, they were nearly all first dates. I liked the male attention, I liked the dinners, and I liked meeting new people in new parts of town — but I never really liked the guys. In the six months that I was in New York, I went on about two first dates a week, but only about five second dates in total.
I went out with some great guys, and I told myself that I was seeing so many guys at once to keep myself from falling for any of them. Deep down, I was probably hoping that I’d be into one of them for real, and once again I’d be in a relationship.
There were times in New York when I felt super lonely. But, by being incredibly independent and hard-working in New York all by myself, I learned for real that I didn’t need anyone else.
The thing about New York is that not everybody wants to be taken. Sure, I’d met girls in college who claimed they loved being single, but I knew that the phase was only temporary after I’d see them drunk cry over a random dude at the bar.
Relationship girls existed in New York, but so did girl bosses, and club girls, and jet-setters. Girls that didn’t need a man. In fact, having a man would simply be a roadblock in their currently awesome lifestyle.
I worked three jobs (including one that no boyfriend would ever approve of), I went out to eat alone, I partied with promoters that would’ve never let me bring a guy along, I had my first one night stand.
Being single in New York didn’t suddenly cure me of my relationship girl persona, but it did make it easier. Instead of seeing my loneliness as a flaw, I began to see myself as a woman who wouldn’t just settle. For the first time in my life I saw girls in relationships and thought about how I didn’t want to be like them (although the constant sex would’ve been nice).
There were times when I felt horrifically alone and wondered if I’d ever find someone who I cared about again, but instead of searching for male attention to ease the pain, I channeled my feelings into my new writing internship, or bought a pair of killer shoes with all the money I was making.
Nearly three years after that earth-shattering break-up that changed my world, I’m still a bit high-maintenance, and I’m still broke, but the way I’ve taught myself to actually open up to my current boyfriend is something I never thought I could do. Our relationship isn’t perfect, but to me it feels pretty damn close.
I don’t think the two years where I was completely single made me “learn to love myself” or some other cliché bullshit (I was still a cocky fuck even after I got dumped), but I do think that being alone made me realize that I shouldn’t enter a relationship unless we’re on an even playing field. I didn’t want to date a guy who was obsessed with me and would always be at my beck and call, but I also didn’t want a guy who ever made me question where our relationship stood. I never again wanted to be with a guy who made me feel like I couldn’t be honest about how I felt, whether I was worried he didn’t love me as much as I loved him or I was worried he’d call me “crazy” for being mad about some little thing. Most of all, I never wanted to be with a guy just to be with a guy, or just because he was cute, or just because he really liked me.
Not being a relationship girl didn’t mean that I was never going to be in a relationship again, but it meant that I was going to be in a relationship on my terms — and on my time. After all, being in an endless cycle is never a good thing, especially if it involves broken hearts.