When you’re in a long-term relationship, it’s easy to become defined by it. You see it all the time with couples - they become a single identity, shedding the singular pronouns that used to define them and merging into a collective entity referred to as “we” or “they” or “us." 

For almost the entirety of college, the bulk of my identity was dependent on another person. In fact I can barely remember my sophomore and junior years of college - they’re just a haze of non-linear memories orbiting around a single person. My relationship was my entire world, and I don’t think I existed outside of it. If I ever did, the occasions were rare, far-between, and hardly memorable. It’s only been in the past 1.5 years that I’ve really started to carve out my own niche, one that exists completely independently of this other person’s life. I’ve taken up new hobbies, revived old ones, and have worked continuously to reestablish myself outside of the communal identity that I lived within for over 3 years. 

However, being in a long-term relationship has also meant that I’ve never had to deal with the pang of loneliness for more than a couple of weeks, and I’ve realized that despite my best efforts to reassert my independence, I still search for bodies to fill the space that’s been left behind. More than a physical absence, I feel like there’s a lack of human connection in my life, a lack of electricity. I find myself searching for chemistry everywhere, searching for the thickness that builds between two bodies when gravity can’t help but pull them together. 

In the past few weeks words have completely evaded me. Every time I’ve thought of something to write, the sentiment has pulled itself away, words slipping through my fingers like water and evaporating. Not writing has almost been an exercise in disappearing, a way to detach myself from the loneliness I feel every time I’m compelled to talk about my dating life. 

But I’m much happier these days, fuller, stabler. I’ve stopped making the mistake of pursuing empty things to fill an emptiness, and I’m slowly relearning the act of connecting with someone without fracturing parts of my identity in the process.