Ending a long-term relationship in your late 20s can feel pretty scary.
I was with my boyfriend for almost 7 years. When we broke up, on top of all the normal break-up feelings, I also had an underlying fear of single life. I’d never dated in my 20s so all I had were stereotypes to go off.
Below are some examples of the thoughts that were racing through my head:
- Am I going to be desperate, lonely and sad now?
- Is 27 too old to find love?
- How do I meet guys in my late 20s?
- What if I never find love again?
If you’re also concerned about any of the above, don’t worry, I’m going to share how it all turned out for me.
I’ve been single for over a year now and I can honestly say it’s been one of the best periods of my life!
Am I going to be desperate, lonely and sad now?
So this was my biggest fear…that I was going to turn into this sad, lonely version of myself desperate to get a man back in my life.
There seems to be a stereotype that single people are somehow less happy than people in a relationship regardless of the context.
I don’t remember where I read this but take the description ‘Jane is a successful real estate agent living in New York’ – you’ll get some impressions of what Jane is like, how she spends her time, how happy she is etc.
Now, what if I told you ‘Jane is single and a successful real estate agent living in New York’.
Adding that little fact really shouldn’t change the way we think of Jane, but for most of us, it does.
In the media, single people (women especially) are often portrayed as sad, lonely and with a sole goal in life of getting into a relationship.
They stumble from one bad date to the next and are portrayed as incomplete people:
Think Jane Austen-esque plots, or that stereotypical 30+ female character who’s always the bridesmaid but never the bride.
Whether you’re aware of it or not, being surrounded by this kind of portrayal creeps into your subconscious.
Not knowing many single people, I became afraid of being single because of how inevitably depressing it sounded.
But ask any single person and they’ll tell you how they’re represented in the media isn’t always accurate.
Being single myself now, I have to agree. I didn’t make some kind of freak transformation into a sad, lonely archetype.
In fact, after the initial grief and sadness that’s normal after a break-up, I’ve found that I’m actually happier now than ever.
Think about it, you’re no longer in a relationship that isn’t working, and you now have all this time and freedom to focus on yourself and your wellbeing. What’s not to love about that?
When I was frantically googling ‘how to be single’ after I first broke up with my boyfriend, I thought that ‘being able to focus on yourself’ was just something people told you to make you feel better about single life.
But having been on the other side, I really appreciate the truth in it now; I actually think it’s one of the best things about being single.
Relationships always involve compromise. You can’t just do what you want all the time; you also have to take your partner into account (if you’re a good partner that is). And if their wishes and goals don’t align with yours, you may have to give some of them up.
When you’re single, that’s not a problem. You can follow everything your heart desires because you only have yourself to answer to.
You have all the freedom and extra time in the world to pour into yourself, your career, social life, interests, personal growth or whatever else tickles your fancy.
The result is often a more fulfilled, fuller life, a more interesting person and the ability to develop a lifestyle that aligns closer to who you truly are.
Also, sometimes big life events like a break-up can actually be a good thing because it prompts you to stop and consider whether you are going in the right direction. Who are you without your partner? Are you the person you want to be?
These were questions I had to ask myself. I’d been in a relationship from such a young age, I never really had a break to figure out who I was without my partner’s thoughts and desires also there, clouding up the mix.
The personal growth I experienced from having time to myself to consider these questions was truly invaluable. I definitely think it would have happened a lot slower (or maybe not at all) if I had stayed in my relationship.
So does that mean you’re never going to feel sad and lonely as a single?
No. These feelings are part of the human condition and they’re not going to disappear from your life.
I’m just saying becoming single doesn’t automatically mean you’re more prone to it.
I still get pangs of loneliness. Especially when I first became single, seeing happy couples around or going to parties where everyone was coupled up, would make me feel a bit lonely and sorry for myself. I’d wonder where my guy was, and if I would find love again.
But these feelings have been so fleeting. They don’t hang around for your entire single existence. The next minute I’m over it because there are so many other exciting things to do and look forward to in life. Travel, friends, family, working towards my goals, exploring my interests.
That’s what I’m saying – fill your life to the brim – that’s what fixes those empty feelings, not ticking a relationship box.
You still need love though. And self-love can be the best kind of love.
Everyone needs love.
And if you aren’t getting that from a romantic relationship, make sure you build your network of friends and family who can give you the emotional support you need.
We can’t exist in isolation. Strong relationships, whether platonic or romantic, are one of the cornerstones of human well-being and happiness.
I definitely think self-love can go a long way too.
One of the things I miss most about being in a relationship is having your special person to lean on, get support from and rest your head on when life gets tough.
I’ve definitely had to learn to be more independent becoming single, and I only see that as a good thing because it’s made me stronger and more resilient.
But through hard times in your life, you can also be that strong person for yourself.
I’ve let myself breakdown after a bad day sometimes, and told myself that ‘it’s ok’, ‘this will pass’, ‘you’ll get through it’ and been that kind, encouraging hero I needed.
Look on yourself as you would a friend. Learn to provide yourself the compassion, kindness and love that you need for moments when you aren’t feeling the best – it’s one of the most valuable skills you can develop.
The sad, lonely, desperate single archetype doesn’t have to be you if you don’t want it to be. You have control over it.
Single life can be vibrant, fun, exciting and some of the best periods of your life. I can say that about my single life so far.
There are so many possibilities and growth opportunities to explore that you just wouldn’t get as easily in a relationship.
I think when you settle into single life you’ll realise that it’s not quite as black and white as we’re led to believe, where being single is ‘bad’ and being in a relationship is ‘good’.
What I found is that it’s just different, like wearing a different outfit. And it can be as superficial as that.
Being or not being in a relationship doesn’t define how happy you’ll be or how you feel. That’s determined by how you live your life and what you choose to make of it.
In fact, I think single life can give you more opportunities to grab those things, so take advantage of it while you can.
Interested in how to get started? You might find below posts helpful.
Is 27 too old to find love?
I broke up with my boyfriend when I was 27 (but pretty much 28).
By traditional social trajectories, this was the time I was supposed to be getting married, not breaking up.
There was a certain part of me that was worried about this. I felt pressure.
I wondered if I would be able to find anyone else, being so ‘old’. Wouldn’t most good guys my age be in relationships or married already? Would I be as desirable as someone in their early-20s?
Breaking up in your late 20s is also not ideal by Chinese cultural standards. I was pretty much in unwanted spinster territory. My grandparents were definitely going to be worried.
There was also the biological clock to think about. I had limited time if I wanted to start a family – which I hadn’t ruled out.
With all these concerns running through my head in the beginning, I was feeling quite pessimistic about my chances of meeting someone as a late-20s gal.
But looking back now…Wow. That’s a lot of baggage that society has put on women (which I’ll try to unpack a little bit). But they’re all beliefs that we get taught. And we shouldn’t let them get to us.
When we get graphs like below telling us that women are most desirable at 18 years old then it’s all downhill from there, it’s no wonder we get worried about age – it’s bandied around like it’s one of the most important things we have to offer a date.
How age affects desirability amongst heterosexual online-daters in the US (2018)The higher the number in ‘Desirability Rank’, the more desirable you are to the other gender. (Bruch et al./ Science Advances)
I wrote an article about how as women, we are taught by society that youth and beauty are the most valuable attributes we bring to the world, and how damaging that can be to our self-identity.
All this just feeds into our insecurities about finding a partner when we’re out of our early-20s (or indeed over 18 according to above study). ‘No one will love me and want me because I have nothing to offer except my looks and age to attract men’. Isn’t that what we’re saying through having these insecurities?
How can your only value come from your looks and age? That’s completely crazy, so why are we believing it and letting it affect us?
For me now, I’ve realised this whole thing is a non-issue.
For all the men who wouldn’t date a woman over 23 or is afraid of wrinkles and smile lines (even though they may have them themselves), they are not your target. Good riddance! You don’t want to be involved with them. We all age. If age is a defining factor in whether or not they’ll date you, why would you want to be involved with anyone that shallow?
The men who value you as a person are the ones you should focus on. Even if they’re in the minority, they are worth the effort to search for. These will be the real, lasting relationships versus a relationship based largely on ticking boxes.
Added to these pressures, we hear all this scaremongering that there are way more women than men in our cities, that all the good men are taken at our age…yadda yadda.
But let me tell you something – statistics don’t matter to the individual.
Let me explain. Say in a population there is a 0.05% chance of contracting a life-threatening disease. This is a very small chance. But if you end up being one of the 0.05%, that statistic is not going to matter to you. It’s not going to matter how statistically unlikely or improbable it was for you to contract that disease because you got it. That’s it.
Same for all the ‘there aren’t enough good men’ statistics. If you find that one person who is the love of your life, the statistics and unlikelihood of this won’t matter. So why worry about it?
My personal experience dating though? Lack of men has not been an issue, especially with dating apps nowadays.
‘On the ground’ there are still a lot of men to choose from even though proportionally they might make up less of the population than women.
And surprisingly, not lack of good men either.
I’ve met many solidly beautiful men who would make great boyfriends and husbands but who just weren’t right for me. I actually haven’t met any jerks or dicks, well maybe except one? But I think that may have been emotional baggage from childhood.
And no one I’ve met has discriminated against me for my age like I thought they would. I actually really started dating a lot of 25-year-olds for some reason.
So my fourth suggestion? Date younger (:P). It’s about the personal connection and what’s inside anyway. Not anything superficial like age, race or looks.
As long as there’s sexual chemistry, then whatever. The spirit and the connection – that’s what you’re looking for.
To sum up:
- Firstly, the men who aren’t going to date you because of your age are not worth your time or energy. It’s great news that they’ve self-selected themselves away.
- Secondly, statistics don’t matter to the individual.
- Thirdly, even though there may be fewer men than women to choose from, there are still A LOT of men and they’re not all shit either – there are some pretty decent ones in there.
- Fourthly, date younger. Nothin’ to lose there!
How do I meet guys in my late 20s?
Another thing I worried about when I first became single was HOW I would meet someone when I didn’t really want to go out clubbing and drinking every night like my younger days.
The thought of having to doll myself up and trawl bars to meet men really didn’t appeal to me. In my early-20s, this was probably the method I believed was the most effective way to meet someone – going out to bars and clubs.
Well luckily, the world has evolved since those days and thankfully, I’ve also discovered my view above was pretty naive.
According to a study done by a Stanford sociologist, in 2017 the most common way for US couples to meet was online, accounting for 39% of couples. Next up was bars/restaurants at 27%, but this was only because couples would arrange to meet there after first meeting online. The next most common was through friends (20%) and work (11%).
Similarly, a survey of 4,500 respondents by Dr Jeffrey Hall from the University of Kansas in 2011, found that only 8% of people met their significant other at a bar or club. According to Hall’s survey, the most common outcome when people meet on a night out is a one night stand.
As you can see, you are much more likely to meet your significant other doing tamer activities like going to work or attending social events with friends and family.
Men are everywhere in your daily life. It doesn’t have to be a bar that you meet them. Be open to meeting someone on your daily commute or at the local café or gym.
I’ve dated guys I’ve met at the beach, at meetup events and from friends of friend’s parties.
Most of the time nothing will happen when you embark on these activities. But once in a while, something will, so it’s about staying open to those times but balancing it with realistic expectations so you won’t get disappointed if nothing happens.
I’ve tried to stay open to meeting people in general (of either sex and whether romantic or not), and in developing my skills in striking up conversations with strangers.
I still freeze up sometimes if it’s a stranger I’m really attracted to, but I think the key really is to not take it so seriously.
Practice making eye contact, smiling, being friendly and just aim to strike up a chat rather than necessarily thinking you’re trying to get a date.
What if I never find love again?
When I expressed this concern to my best friend she laughed and said that every singleton ever has probably thought this would be them.
And it’s true. We all have this fear.
And I think the only way you can get past it, is being able to accept it as a possibility for your life, and being ok with that.
What?? Ok, listen, it’s not as hard as it sounds. It’s simply about realising that relationships aren’t the be-all and end-all of your happiness, maybe if it was the 19th century and women were dependent on men for a living, sure, but these days that’s completely outdated.
Yet, there still seems to be this belief hanging around that we need to be in a relationship in order to be truly happy and complete. Don’t just follow these beliefs without question. They were probably drilled into you by society from a young age. Question it, and whether it makes sense to you. I did and the mantra that relationship equals the only way to live a happy and fulfilled life didn’t add up for me.
Your life is made up of so many different parts beyond just a romantic relationship. When you realise you don’t need to hang your hat on a relationship as the sole means of providing yourself happiness, you’ll be getting to the truth. It’s just one part of many parts to the whole, and if it’s missing, you can still have an absolutely happy and fulfilled life, die the happiest person who ever lived and with no regrets whatsoever.
Acceptance is about not fighting reality. It’s about doing everything you can under your control, but recognising at the same time that there are some things outside your control.
A bit of luck is required in finding a partner. When you have done everything you can to swing the odds your way, you can only have faith.
Can you accept the possibility you may never find love again? How does that make you feel? If you’re shying away from the thought or railing against it, try accepting it.
The possibility is there whether you want to accept it or not; why waste the effort in denying its existence? Focus instead on making your life so full that having a relationship or not won’t matter to your happiness or fulfilment.
Acceptance frees you. Do what you can to meet people, present your best self, fill your life up to the brim, have a little faith and just let go.
The bottom line
If you’re single again after a long relationship, I’m going to echo what I said in the beginning – you’re going to be alright.
In fact, more chances than not, you’re going to really love being single. I was certainly surprised by how much I did.
After the initial shock and period of adjustment that comes with all change, you will find your feet again and life will be better than ever.
As I talked about before, the thing I value most about being single is the personal growth you experience being able to do your own thing and pursue your own interests and goals. Take advantage of this before you get sucked into another relationship.
Focus on what you have gained – more time for yourself and more time for discovery and learning.
And don’t worry too much.
Things have a way of sorting themselves out and worrying about things outside your control is a complete waste of time.
Do what you can in your circle of influence, embrace this new chapter in your life, and really get into the mindset to make the most of it, rather than focusing on the negatives.
You’ll do great :).
Update: I’m no longer single! Read about how I found my new long-term relationship via Tinder.