In this week's episode, I was joined by Alex, from Digitastic, to discuss what it's like to be single and run your own business. In the first part of her interview, Alex tells us how she keeps up with her friends and her different approach to relationships that allows her to get her needs met, without being in a committed relationship.
Chantelle: Hello, and welcome to another episode of The Single Girl's Guide to Life, your weekly guide single life living in your 20s, 30s and 40s. I'm Chantelle Dyson a single life confidence coach helping single women to embrace their single life and this week we are inviting on a very special guest to share their experience of being single with you, so it's not just me having a little chat away as it always has been for a long while. We've had a couple of interview episodes previously with Cheryl Muir and Rosie Leach but this week we are going to be speaking to Alex.
Alex is a small business owner running a tech support company and she has been single for five years. She is part of the single girls club both online, has been there in person and is joining us on our getaways as well and we've had a great number of chats in The Single Girls Club Online which is why I wanted to bring her on the podcast to share some of the conversations that sometimes, is just me and Alex, and some of the things that come up in some of the text chats that she's continued to support and be part of and making those friendships and celebrating single life together. So a big welcome to you, Alex, how are you doing?
Alex: Thank you! It's really lovely to be here and sometimes you forget like how nice it is to talk to other people that just understand you and I think that's that's why I like being here because it's like you actually get what it's like in its entirety whereas when you talk to other people they kind of get it but they don't get it and that's like a massive thing.
Chantelle: Yeah, it's the people that haven't been single recently and they forget what it's like to be single and you just get those cliched answers back from them like 'it'll happen when you're not looking' or there's a really big one like 'there's plenty more fish in the sea' which is just eye rolly and it also assumes that we're looking after we're looking for one particular thing which I know we've spoken about and will come up whether it's right now or in a second.
I feel like we should do a little bit more of an introduction before we get into the ideas around the kind of different models that you could introduce in terms of single life and that they don't just have to be looking for one long time commitment for forever and that's what it's going to be but let's go back to bringing you in and having you on the podcast so you are a business owner and you are single. How do you find that dynamic because it could be quite lonely running a business and being at the top of that plus being single then means you don't have the natural support per se um that would fall to a romantic partner if you live with them or something like that how do you find that?
Alex: Yeah it's really interesting. So I started my business as a side hustle in 2019 so it started out I was working for a facilities management company I was a project coordinator. I was setting up Tech to make things better and one of the subcontractors went "Can you help me?" and I was like "cool stuff, I can help you!" I love helping people and helping people with tech has always been something that I've loved and as we got closer to the end of the year they needed more help and I was kind of bored of being stuck in the nine to five so I took the leap in 2019 handed in my notice they went yeah you've got three a three month notice which obviously landed in March 2020.
So I started the business and to start with it was a virtual assistance business it was very much I'll do your emails, I'll do this, I'll do that and as I I learnt about being online and doing all the things I was like "oh I like learning about this" and "oh I can do this with that" and I was I just became a complete and not a tech nerd and as I was on my Instagram and talking to people about things that I'd learn they were like "oh can you can you help me with that can you help me" and I almost fell into this kind of tech support role and they were like well you're not like the creepy guy in the I.T. cupboard. You're fun, you break it down, you make it easier to interact with and I'm like "yes that's amazing" but when it comes to being single in a business owner I find it can be actually really nice because I'm a night owl, I'm not an early bird like. My most productive time is between like seven and midnight but being single it means that like if I want to take a lunch break eleven till three have a nap go out meet my friends go see my sister I can do that and then come home because I don't have anyone that I'm obliged to sit and have dinner with or make dinner for or watch a TV show together.
I don't have to do that so I can actually use my most productive time I'll be productive in the business. But there are some times like when something goes wrong and you just want that person to turn to at the end of the day. It can be quite hard because you don't know someone's definitely going to be there but I say
I've been single now for coming up to five years and I think I've learned over time to have different people for different reasons in my life so I'm not ever going to solely rely on one person ever again.
because when I was in a relationship previously like I lost a lot of my friendships. I lost touch with my friendships and I've spent five years regrowing them, re-nurturing them, re-establishing them because I'd got so sucked into being with that one person that it made me realise that I didn't so now like when something goes wrong firstly I'm really, really lucky that my business has been able to employ my sister.
When something really is going wrong, I send this massive capital letter text message so I could be okay and I'm like "this has happened, this has happened, that's happened" and I can let that go there. And then I've also got some business friends that I've curated over the last two and a half years and I now am able to go to them and be like "oh my gosh you don't believe what so and so has just done", I'm like "I don't know how to respond to this" and they're like "right, as a business owner, I'd say this this and this, but as a friend they're a expletives kind of thing like" and I think that's
The thing that I've learned most about being single is like you can have different people for different parts of your life like. You do not have to solely rely on "the one" who is going to be there for your every need. No one's there for every one of your needs, even when you're in a relationship. There is going to be a part of that missing because no one can be everything - it's impossible...
Chantelle: ...or it just puts a strain on that relationship because you're going to that person not just for when you're frustrated at work, frustrated with friends, frustrated with the house but you you're going to them for all of those things. When in actual fact, maybe with the friends, you should be going to other other friends or people within that context, or if it's work go to someone in the workplace that does that and you can bring some of it home and summarise. And if it's happening when you're at home via emails of course, that makes sense if they're there and then, but the pressure it puts on someone not just even in the letting things out needs but who you go and spend time with.
I think it's that naivety we fall into - I did the same in my own marriage. I still saw lots of other people and I think there was a whole element of not quite opening up as much as I could have with everyone and expressing what I really needed and knowing that that was a kind of part of my own Journey, but it is this element of, they are the default when you're together and you're not careful of watching out for that for whenever people decide if they want to get get back into a relationship that they do that they keep their life filled up with other people and it's not just not just that single person and then they forget about the single friends that they did have before, they forget to touch base, and forget to reach out and say "hey, what's going on?", and that's when those friendships go away. But you said about consciously nurturing friendships and relationships with other people and not necessarily in a romantic sense, how do you keep those friendships going all that time?
Alex: So I know so I've got a tick list on there and I make sure I cross it off every month that I've made contact so that if I don't then the next month I've got to do it twice because I've neglected them. So I've made a really conscious effort like who are the people that I want to see, who are the people I want to contact and literally making sure I sit and go "oh should we have a call like some of my friends aren't near here anymore, they've moved away" so seeing them isn't like a jump in the car and pop around for dinner kind of thing anymore. But I'm always messaging them and I always make sure that I make a conscious effort not to do just like "Hi, how are you?" and then not reply - I think it's really important to make a conscious effort instead of saying to yourself (which I did for a long time) I'll do that tomorrow and then tomorrow just doesn't appear, and then you've got six weeks down the line and you've neglected that friendship again because like just life's got in the way.
There's so many plates to juggle as an adult that a plate will drop and nine times out of ten you're more than likely to drop a friendship than you are dropping feeding yourself, going shopping for food, cleaning cooking, looking after yourself, doing work... that friendship is probably one of the first few plates you're gonna drop .
So I now have a list
Chantelle: I mean, we laughed and I was quite shocked at the suggestion but I love it as an idea because we would do it with anything else that we put down as a priority. We would put the time in to our schedules to make sure we exercise or to go and have time to ourselves or we do a to-do list and allocate time to it and take it off as we go so why would we not apply the same thing that keeps us efficient and productive in business and in life to maintaining friendships? I think that's a little golden piece of info there.
Alex: Yeah it's almost like a habit tracker in a way. So you track all your other habits, you track how much water you drink and all that so I track to make sure I make contact with people and make sure that my network doesn't falter. Because there are going to be times that I need those people being on my own, I am going to need them and I want to make sure that when I do that they're they're not like "oh, here she is, got a problem again", you don't want that from a friendship. No, you want to be talk about the good stuff and catching up and being there for the other person as much as they can be there for you as well.
Chantelle: You said you had different people for different things and there's one element that I know that we've spoken about and that single people really, really struggle with and I I know different people will take to the ideas around this differently because of their own kind of personal experiences, thoughts and beliefs. But could you share a little bit about the particular area of intimacy and how you facilitate that area of your life that I know so many singles struggle with the concept of, and how you got came to the conclusion of doing what you now do and having different people for different things?
Alex: Yes, so I came out of a relationship that to a level, had a level of emotional abuse to it so it left me feeling very detached at the time, but I still needed physical contact. I'm a person that needs a hug and that allows me to know that I'm okay - I'm very needy in that sense because of what happened at the end of my relationship, but I also knew, at the same time, I was going to struggle to open the door to my home and my space because of that.
So I had to make some really conscious decisions early on like what was I going to do around dating what was I going to do around all of those factors and I knew for a long time that even when I was in my relationship and I was with that person for on-off eight years because I had a very big accident which means we took a year off because I needed to learn to walk again and I didn't want to burden that person with that journey. It was a very independent journey that I needed to make on my own but we got back together we moved in we did all of those things but when we got back together I was mentally wasn't stimulated because that person had their own ways of doing things and I got bored easily, really easily, because it fell into a routine and I'm not that kind of person. It was very much a - you come home from work, you have a meal, you watch a film, you go to bed - and it it was very, very monotonous and I felt that as a a person I was incredibly needy for contact and intimacy from them that they couldn't give me and it made me very much think "was it a me thing, did I have a sex drive that was just too high?" and that was a big question that I had at the time.
It started as a as a teenager and in my early 20s really investigating that like what was it and what did I want what did I need, and that's when I realised that probably all of my life, I'd been interested in men and women and the differences and how they interact differently it was probably something good where you always know but where I'd fallen into this relationship and have been with them for eight years, I'd never explored it. I'd never gone on adventures, and near the end of our relationship I said to them "I'm bored, I want something different, this is not doing it for me anymore, it lacks excitement. it lacks adventure, it lacks everything that I'm looking for", but that was across the whole relationship. It wasn't just the intimacy section. It was the whole relationship. There was no drive for him to progress in work so I said to him "I want to try and do this" and I said "I want an open relationship, we can both see other people but we need to talk about it, we need to communicate" and that's where it all started.
From there, I realised that my relationship was no longer making me happy because I could no longer communicate and there was so many barriers so I started talking to people that are more in the polyamorous lifestyle... bit of polyamory, bit of swinging, and in that kind of areas and as I started talking to people and just starting conversations, I realised that actually I like a variety of things. If you're doing the same thing all with the same person for any length of time like my brain gets bored. Like I know what you're going to do next, I know how this happens and I'm like "cool, brilliant, that's five minutes done" like, "thanks very much" and that that for me, once you get to know someone's points and you know where you can push them over the edge, you can do it faster and faster and faster every time and that gets boring... unless you specifically make a challenge out of extending that time and you have to mentally be prepared for that, it gets boring.
So when I step fully out of my relationship I was no longer living in the home at the same time which we had to do for six months at the end of the tenancy, so we had six months of sharing a house two separate bedrooms - incredibly awkward. When I got this place and I was on my own I kind of went "I want to try as much as I can, in all the different places that I can" because if I'm not going to experiment now, when am I going to experiment?! And that was literally it.
And if anyone's going into a single kind of life and going I'm not going to be intimate with anyone as long as you're being safe. That's my biggest thing: be safe, always. Have that one friend that you can say anything to and be like "right, I'm seeing this person, I'm going to be in this place, and I'm going to be there at this time" go and do anything because you are never going to have another point where you can just be free to just be yourself.
That's that's the thing I found most liberating was like yeah the I went to a swingers club that was eye-opening like like you walk in a room and you're like "I don't know where to put my eyes, where do I look?" kind of thing and it really opened your eyes up to actually what was out there beyond the four walls of your own home. There are places where things go on that you kind of can research and go "pardon?!" and then actually there are places that that can be done in reality that are safe and that's the beauty of those spaces. They're safe, they're coordinated you're looked after, and everyone in that space respects each other like no is no. And if someone isn't listening to know the other people in that space will stand up for you and I think that was really comforting to be able to do that too, which then led me to finding my friend. He's been my friend for coming up to five years. He pops in, and pops out. He works away, and the beauty of it is I love the fact that I don't have to meet his family, he doesn't have to meet my family, I can still run my business, if I'm busy I can say "no, I'm busy" and it's beautiful.
He's my friend, so I talke to him most days in some way shape or form so he's like my best friends with benefits without a doubt. And then we both have other friends, but the biggest thing we have is we communicate. We talk all the time if we're going to see someone new we tell each other who they are, where we're going, what we're doing, and then afterwards we have a chat because these we're like main friends, like that's a big part of the communication that we spend together, and we also spend time with other people together. And it's nice to change up and have a variety. I don't think I could ever go back to something fully monogamous like one person forever... it's nice to be a bit different because everyone, whenever I talk to anyone about it everyone's like "you do that? Like do you not want to settle down, and have kids, to buy a house?" and I'm like... "Do I have to? Do I need to?"
And it's really nice to be able to like try different things that maybe someone isn't into. You think "I want to try it" but if you're with someone that is just like a flat out no, you're never going to get that opportunity.
Chantelle: There's so many things you've touched on in that section... I mean the first part I think that's really important is emphasising the experimentation phase of single whether that is doing it in a monogamous way or in a polyamorous way but not necessarily just accepting that you've got to fall into yet again another relationship and to get back into the dating scene, because it seems like it's the only way. It's the thing that got you to where, and me, to where we were when we ended our relationships or left them because there was some sort of pull to try something different and actually that that whole point of becoming single partially in our cases was because we wanted to know what else was out there or what we really wanted who we really were within that. So whether that comes about consciously because you choose it or because a relationship comes to an end making sure you spend the time not only healing, if it's been a little bit traumatic, but also then going actually what do I want and questioning the status quo, I think it's one of the most empowering parts. But then this whole idea of polyamory which I'm very aware of I mentioned not long ago in two previous episodes, one was about how much we can learn from the polyamorous community and I'll come back to that in a second, but also cuffing season there's this idea that you must run away from cuffing season. I think it's spoken about in a bit of a negative light of "watch out for all the people that might not want to actually settle down with you" and I I go back to this idea of well even if you are after a long-term monogamous set up, you've got to do some of the short-term stuff whether you intend it as short-term or not. You've got to learn about relationship what what makes anyone good and qualified to suddenly be in a seven to eight to ten year relationship if you're not doing any of the practice on short relationships as well.
For me the observation of the polyamorous community and you've touched on it a little bit is the idea of communication and how upfront you are and remain to be in what's going on in your dynamic because as you described you said you see other people, you sometimes see people together, but you always talk about when there is somebody new and that you're venturing out. What's the motivation behind sharing it because some people would go well you're not boyfriend and girlfriend, so he's not obliged to know and you're not obliged to know either. What was the decision making between the two of you that meant we're gonna still share that information?
Alex: Some of it comes from safety so he is now somewhat my safety net so, it was very much "well if you're being my safety net, it kind of has to go two ways, it's not a one-way street so if I've got to tell you what I'm up to you, can't then not tell me what you're up to, like it doesn't work that way".
For me, because I see women more, as a man, he finds it very interesting to know what I've got up to on my adventures so there is a level of teasing and a level of mental foreplay in its own way for me on that side. For me I enjoy knowing what he gets up to because he then like "but when I get back to you" and that's where it comes in because it is almost like we can go weeks where we don't see each other for six to eight weeks, like you have to do something in the middle to keep yourself moving and motivated to see each other again and it has to happen all the time. One of the things, we both have different lives, we both have different setups and even yesterday, for example, we both have a point where he's changed job not changed his job but he's changed site location.
So that comes with a changing routine, it comes in a change of travel, it comes with a lot of varieties, whereas he may have been only an hour away so was staying near home town, he's now six hours away. It changes how it it thinks, so every time we have that location change, we give it a couple of weeks see how that's going. And we always end up that with a chat of right "How is this? How are we going to adapt to this? What's going on this time?". This time he's much further away but I run my own business so there's a chat currently going on of "well, you can just take your laptop and we're getting a house up here because I'm going to be here for over a year, well you can come and work at mine for a week every couple of months" so even though there will be a feast and famine effect, it won't just be famine famine famine famine famine and that's that's where the communication's needed for us, is we need to be able to know we're on the same wavelength.
We have conversations every now and again and it's more him to me is that "Am I holding you back from dating somebody? Am I holding you back from finding somebody? Am I holding you back?" and that's where the communication is needed when you're not in something that is pre- kind of determined as monogamous and right we're going to be doing this, we're going to be doing, that and seeing you this weekend, we're going to go to my mum's, we're going to go here we're going to go and see my friend, because we don't have that kind of what I would say is an automatic relationship status. And therefore the prerequisites that go with that, we have to to a level keep in touch with one another because I could easily have gone on a networking event for business, bumped into someone while I was, there started a conversation, really liked them and then gone, "oh, I can't go any further because of" so we have that kind of conversation to kind of remind ourselves that we don't have to stay in this friendship that we have. But if we do, brilliant it works for both of us really well, but if at some stage I or he finds somebody that we want to look into something a little bit more long-term, we might go "cool, enjoy yourself".
Chantelle: And there's potential, no, for that becoming something that goes still goes alongside, depending on the person that you come across on their views on the world is that, your friendship doesn't have to end as a result of anything else that does become more of a primary partner or a nesting partner situation versus what is very flexible for you guys around schedules, location, and so on?
Alex: exactly and we've said like there's a potential that we don't know so we've been friends for five years my mum calls it "my situationship".
Chantelle: Why does she call that a situation ship and a lot of people probably would
Alex: Because she's never met him because she's like I don't know it feels like fun to walk past him in the street I have not a clue like the very first time. I did a drive to Middlesbrough, we stayed for a long weekend up there because he was working up there so I went to him and my mum was terrified. My mum is one of them people, she's never ever worried about my driving, she's always worried about other people's driving and I have to let my mum know that I've arrived anywhere safely that's like an hour and a half out of home. Without a doubt. Even when I'm gonna come to the New Year's Eve, or I'm coming to Galentine's I'm gonna get to you and be like hang on a second need to just text my mum to tell her I've arrived safely, I have to do that... but my mum also is very aware of who I'm going to. SO my mum already knows who you are so if I she hasn't heard from me she's going to get my sister to message you to make sure I've got theRE safe if she hasn't heard from me. But because I keep her very separate and him very separate, the drive took me an hour longer, I got stuck in traffic and my mum was like panicking because she couldn't get hold of him, because I refuse to let her have any access whatsoever and my mum's like "it's just your situationship, you might change your mind. It's just the situation you're in at the moment" like... "okay, Mum!"
Chantelle: But it's interesting because to me a situationship often gets that title when somebody wants more than the other person and there is a push-pull dynamic whereas what I hear from what you describe is that this is something that you've both sat down, and you both continue to talk about but it suits both of you and neither of you is looking to escalate. And maybe one day something could change because one of you goes "actually you know I really like spending a week here, could it be two weeks?" and then it's four weeks and then so suddenly you moved in because of but that doesn't mean that this part was a situationship. It sounds like it's what you both want enjoy and what works for you both
Alex: I tried to explain it to ah she's very old school I think she does struggle to a level um because both of my sisters are in relationships. One of my sister is sisters is married with two children, my other sister is getting married so I am very much the oddball, and I don't follow the path. My mum, literally the moment I walk into her house, she's like "What's going on this time? What's happening?" and then it's "I've got an idea" and my mum's like "oh gosh, here she goes again, what's the one this time?" like I'm that child, I'm gonna throw a curveball all the time.
But the one thing I would say is like when I turn around and cried at my mum that I wasn't happy in my relationship anymore, my mum tried to convince me to stay the course. She said, try and do all the things. I was like "mum I just know, my gut is telling me that I need to walk away".She she did like most mums, but about a year ago my mum turned around and said it was the best thing I ever did. Took her a few years to realise but she was like "you've grown as a person, you're much more back to the person you were as a child, you've grown exponentially". She was like "You're running a business, you've taken on your sister", she's like "I'm so proud of you because you never would have done that had you have stayed and listened to me".
Chantelle: We're going to take a pause for a moment these podcast episodes are usually 30 minutes long and me and Alex seem to be able to talk forever about these things so I've split the podcast into two parts so that you can break this down and know that you've reached an end point and if you want to keep listening to the rest of the interview with Alex then go to part two that I'll have a link to the description.