By Nicolle

I’ve had a boyfriend or been on the verge of dating someone since I was 15 years old. I never considered myself to be one of those girls who needs a boyfriend – you know, the one who breaks up with a guy and starts dating a new one before all her friends even know she’s broken up with the first guy. While the period of time between one of my boyfriends and the next has always been respectable (read: months, not weeks), it’s taken me until recently to understand that I was (and maybe still am) one of those girls I’d always looked down upon.

photo courtesy of Photobucket

I’ve been single since January, which makes the time between then and now the longest I’ve been single since I turned 16. Even when I wasn’t explicitly dating someone, there was always a guy who I was sort of seeing. As I’ve tried to understand myself better over the last few months, and tried to move myself past my most recent break-up, I started asking myself why. Why was I so attached to that guy? Why did I have a string of boyfriends, even though I wasn’t seeking them out? Why did I get bored with some relationships? Why didn’t I notice that my relationships were close together?

I still don’t have all the answers. What I do have is a better understanding of myself, of who I am and who I want to be as an individual and as half of a couple. I know now that I lacked a confidence in myself that I could artificially glean from being in a relationship. I know now that I’m introverted and often need down time to recharge, and being in a relationship can be draining. I know now that I need to know myself before I can dedicate myself to someone else.

In the movie Runaway Bride, Julia Roberts’ character forms herself to each guy she dates. With one guy, she’s a hippie rocker. With another, she’s a hiking-biking machine. With yet another, she’s calm and controlled. Important parts of her personality, from the activities she enjoys to the way she likes her eggs, change with every guy she leaves at the aisle. What she eventually has to learn – and deliberately take time to figure out – is what she likes and who she is, apart from any guy she’s with.

Yes, the lesson is clichéd, but it’s one many of us forget: We have to know ourselves before we can know another. If we don’t know ourselves, we can’t begin to know how to give of ourselves to commit to another person. If we’re not confident in who we are, we will quickly conform to the thoughts, opinions and ideas of anyone. And while we don’t want to be so stubborn in ourselves that we can’t see a need for change, we also don’t want to be so flimsy in our opinions that we change as frequently as the color-changing horse in The Wizard of Oz.

I know myself well enough right now to know that the thought of being in a relationship stresses me out. The thought of another person needing me in any capacity is too much right now. But does that mean I’m not occasionally jealous of my best friend who has a devoted boyfriend? No. It just means that I know I can be OK with being a single lady because I still have a lot of myself to figure out.