I spent most of my 20s as someone's girlfriend, and on the cusp of 30, I found myself wanting to be alone. So I broke up with my boyfriend of four years—not that he was holding me back in any explicit way. But after several years as an editor at a stuffy political magazine, I was sick of Washington, D.C., and realized I was using my relationship as an excuse to stay stagnant. I wanted a big change, and that seemed impossible with another person in tow. So he moved out. For the first time since college, I was on my own. I took down the wall art I'd compromised on; I bought a record player (he had always been perfectly content with laptop iTunes) and an extra-fluffy comforter. My high school bestie, Josh, and I drove down the Pacific Northwest coastline, a vacation we'd fantasized about for years. "I want to be in an exclusive relationship with myself," I told him as we sipped bourbon and watched the surf crash against the coast. We laughed, but I was serious.
That proclamation turned out to be prophetic. I spent the next four years "deep single," a term I coined to describe the fact that I didn't go on more than a handful of dates with anyone and never came close to using the words my boyfriend. Those years were, hands down, the most professionally productive and fulfilling of my life. I made a name for myself with creative online projects. I quit my job in D.C., signed a lease in Texas, then accepted a job in Los Angeles and moved again a month later. With only me to stop me, I was unstoppable. And I reaped emotional rewards, too: Instead of one static social group my boyfriend and I had built together, I spent weekends bouncing between circles of friends. I bet researchers wouldn't be surprised: "Studies show married people are less invested in their community," says Liana Sayer, director of the Maryland Time Use Laboratory. "They tend to have a smaller social circle."