Close, but no cigar – Finding intimacy again when you’re newly single

finding-intimacy-again-when-your-are-singleI was lucky. Our break-up was sad and emotional, but we both emerged from the severing with a lot of love and mutual respect.

We didn’t have the drama of grudges and anger and campaigning against one another to our mutual friends about what “actually” happened.

We both knew that the relationship was no longer sustainable and that the longer we stayed together, the more difficult separating would become. We were that fond of one another that we ended it on a high note. I still miss him terribly, but I’ve accepted that “it is, what it is”.

The past two and a half months have been a blur of activity. Finding a new place, moving, and getting a single person’s life on track, and I’ve learned quite a few things that I would like to share with you, should you ever find yourself in a similar situation.

It’s expensive. Even though I took the most affordable place I could find, new places require deposits and almost always require new things. I had to buy everything from toilet brushes and linen to clothes pegs from scratch again. I had discarded most of these things during my relationship because they seemed like clutter (we lived together so having two of everything was madness) and now they had to be replaced. If someone offers to help, take them up on it. I was silly and did most of my moving and “making house” by myself, which made it more stressful and exhausting than necessary. If I did it again, I’d buy a few bottles of wine and invite one or two people to help me, with some funky music in the background.

Maintain friendships outside of your relationship. Since the break-up, I still regard my ex’s friends as my friends, but I regret that I allowed some of my other friendships to wither away during my relationship. Life happens, we’re all insanely busy, and blah blah blah, so I’m not chastising myself or anyone else too much about it, but it would have been good to have some close mates that were there from way back to compare notes with now, in the aftermath. Someone with knowledge about my previous relationships which may just have insights about patterns emerging in my behaviour that may not be benefitting me.

Sex is great, but it doesn’t always hit the spot. Being single again and resuscitating my dating profiles was awesome, for a while. Finding that next exciting hot encounter with a new face, was fun, but it got stale very quickly, and I realised that it could become a compulsive and all-consuming habit if I weren’t careful. My experience is that it is easy to find someone in a few kilometres’ radius to have sex with, but that finding someone I can relate to or connect with in a more intimate and meaningful way, would require a journey much further afield in another context altogether. Hooking-up apps are like an agreement to use one another’s bodies for mutual gratification in a relatively superficial way, to me, which is not all that conducive to seeing somebody for who they are so much as what purpose they can serve for the next fifteen minutes of my life.

During my time of being someone’s boyfriend, my life seemed so crazy with work and everything else that all I wanted to do was come home, make dinner and chill with my man. I didn’t want to go out much, and investing in other people seemed less important. Now that I’m on my own again, I realise how important other people are. People are needy, complicated, challenging, hard work and at times draining, but they are also stimulating, loving supportive and THERE when you find yourself in a cold dark spot.

I should have done more to cultivate my relationships with other people because I have at times found myself feeling isolated, despite having many friends, I have lost the intimacy and closeness I once shared with many of these people, and it doesn’t help that I hate speaking on the phone. Intimacy is what is currently missing in my life. I have many amazing connections and friendships, but I don’t feel particularly close to anyone anymore.

We need intimacy. I realised that I was putting “all my eggs in one basket”, so to speak, when it came to cultivating intimate relationships. I was quite intimate with my family despite the great distances between us, and I was very intimate with my boyfriend, and that appeared to be enough. But it wasn’t. Intimacy and being close to someone is hard work. It’s not always comfortable and easy. You move into a stage of relation to one another that allows the weaknesses, insecurities and shortcomings to come to the surface. You rub up against one another in ways that aren’t always pleasant.

This takes effort, compassion and forgiveness from all sides. There are disruptions, disagreements and disappointments, and occasionally even betrayals. But you must move through these things to forge an intimate bond with another human being. It’s always going to be work to know and love someone, and I should have worked harder at knowing and loving more than a handful of people.

The best lesson I’ve learned is that it’s never too late to start learning how to know and love more people. I still find myself scrolling through WhatsApp on an occasional Saturday afternoon, looking for someone to watch a movie or have a braai with, and not “Netflix and chill” (slang code for get together for sex). But, I’m well on my way to reestablishing some amazing relationships with people that I can spend time with and feel close to now. I hope that I never forget how beautiful and valuable intimacy can be. To be seen, to be accepted and to be loved.

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