At 24, here is an important lesson that I have learnt.

I started dating at 17 and have never been alone since. Before I got out of a relationship, I always made sure I was getting out with another securely waiting for me. After six years, it was hard to remember who I was without the people I was dating. Until recently.

Sitting with my girls, telling them about this jaw dropper I went out with the previous night, and I mentioned he wasn’t everything. But he was close enough to work. So why was I going out with him, they wondered. Because being alone is scary, I knew in my mind, but I would never dare to say otherwise, they would eat me up.

I didn’t fool them. Knowing me, they already knew. So they asked me to name specific reasons why I needed to be getting into a relationship right now, with this wonderful man or anybody else for that matter. And I started. But it was hard to make it beyond attention, companionship and regular sex.

“Did I mean to say spending time with them wasn’t good enough for me?” they asked. “Do I prefer to have the fictitious conversations with a man am trying to make a good impression on, instead of the deep, real, hearty conversations they bless me with, that allow for regular tears and loud laughter?

The sex, they couldn’t give me, they agreed. But both of them avid readers, they were as sure as hell with a good book, I could go on anyyyyyy journey I wanted. Italian, French, Kenyan, Ugandan, Chinese, Nigerian – whatever I was feeling frisky for. With both their eyes on me, they crossed their arms and with their body language beckoned me to bring on my best shot with my next excuse. I had nothing.

At 23, these wonderful sisters of mine taught me that I did not need to live in the emotionally confining and controlling world I had misdirected myself into. And at 24, this is one of the most valuable lessons that am carrying forth with me. Because making the decision to take time out hasn’t only reminded me of how awesome I truly am as my own person, but it has also freed up a lot of my time and emotional space that I am now with deliberateness redirecting to my career.

Truth is, you don’t need pillow talk, you need good conversation. Truth is, you don’t need dates, you need good food and good company. Truth is, you don’t need flowers and gifts. You need honest gestures of appreciation. You don’t need phone calls that last through the night, you need a good book. And you do not need a man. Wanting and needing are two very different things. Learn and embrace the difference.

What you need are great friendships. Those sisters who will get real with you when it calls for it, and love you truly even when you forget or refuse to love yourself. The ones who will watch sad movies and romantic comedies with you on a Friday night, helping you see that if you survive tonight without calling that man who has treated you as less than you deserve, you can get through night number two, and number four, and number six, until it finally stops to hurt.

What you need, are those beautiful sisters, who will stand by you and with you in good times and bad times, in sickness and in health, for richer, for poor, until death do you part. Those are the relationships that you need to spend time needing to find, grow, nurture, nourish, preserve and protect.

Tag a sister you keep in your heart and on this magical Sunday evening, take this vow. More than to her, make it for yourself. Because you deserve emotional freedom, happiness and true independence.