Adjusting to a Relationship After Being Single Basically Forever

I didn't miss casual sex – I missed myself.
A photo of a couple making out on a sofa while a third person sleeps.

This article originally appeared on VICE Italy.

I’ve been in a happy, healthy relationship for almost a year now. But before it, I was single for many years – in fact, I’d never really had a serious partner. People assume it’s hard for the habitually unattached to stop having sex with other people. But while I agree that relationships force you to give up lots of things, I’d say sexual freedom is a little overrated among them.


Curious to know if other former eternal singletons would agree, I asked some of them about what they miss now that they’ve been domesticated into the world of steady relationships. “I’ve always done what I wanted with my sex life,” says Giulia, 31, who was single for many years. “But the whole thing of approaching people, DM-ing them on Instagram and going on first dates got boring after a while.”

Satisfied or not with your sex life (because let’s be honest, dry spells are real), most of the seasoned singles I spoke to don't miss casual sex. Having to sacrifice your own time, space and attention is much harder. “I’d never noticed how much I was used to my own rhythms and priorities as an individual,” says Tommaso, 34, who wasn’t coupled up for eight years. The last time he was in a relationship he was still at university, and he was thrown by how much time and effort you need to invest in an adult relationship.

“You’ve got to get used to their presence, which at first felt like an obligation,” says Tommaso. In the beginning, he’d sometimes go days without texting or talking to his partner. “I didn’t understand why they perceived it as me being cold or uninterested. I was annoyed because I thought I deserved space after spending the whole week together.” Solitude can be hard to part with – especially when it comes to little things like deciding when or what to eat, or to turn off your phone for the day. “At the beginning, all you do is try to make up for what you involuntarily forgot or missed,” reflects Tommaso.


Many long-term singletons often struggle to show their new partner that they are emotionally available and committed. If you’re unlucky, it can make your partner to speculate – unjustly! – about why you were single for so long. “I spent a year trying to reassure my partner about the time I was single, says Letizia, 32, who has been living with her boyfriend for two years. “He was afraid I’d get sick of him, or that I wasn’t ready for a relationship,” she says. Her partner’s doubts coincided with the period in which she was still acclimatising to being in a couple. “If I asked to be alone for a weekend, he’d be uneasy,” she explains. “And that made my own anxiety worse." Ultimately, he was convinced she was serious about him when they moved in together.

For me, it took just a few weeks to switch from being an egocentric essentialist full of social anxieties to an attentive boyfriend. When you’re over 30 and haven’t had a relationship last longer than a few months, it’s easy to question yourself and your ability to be with someone, but I soon realised I was better prepared for a relationship than I thought.

For the serially independent, there can also be a fear that no one will be able to love you for who you are. "You always think your next relationship will only happen with someone who’s perfect,” Letizia says, “not only in terms of personality but also of their ability to adapt to your neuroses.”

For years, I was a relationship cynic. I saw them as boring, monotonous and forced, though I’ve clearly had to eat my words now. “We all tend to magnify the negative aspects of relationships when we’ve been single for a while,” Giulia says. “But when you’re back in a couple, you realise how easy it is to appreciate being with someone again.” (I can definitely relate.) As Giulia points out: “When you’re confronted with another person on a deeper level, you realise how much you used to overthink your own priorities.”

Obviously, there’s nothing wrong with being single. In fact, as the saying goes, you’re often better off alone than in bad company. But it can be worth occasionally trading some peaceful afternoons spent reading alone for time with a meaningful partner – trust me on that one.