You are in such a powerful position when you’re single. One of the most beautiful things about being single is that you are starting from scratch and have the opportunity to make more intentional decisions about who you bring into your life. Every. Single. Date. Is. A. Fresh. Start. It’s an opportunity to play, to be the woman you want to be, to call someone out on their bullshit instead of pretending it didn’t happen and wondering how you ended up with another controlling asshole six months later.
Yes, I’m a therapist, but I’ve been exactly where you are. I’ve made mistakes in relationships and I’ve failed. I’ve learned that knowing how to be alone is central to knowing how to love. I’ve watched countless brilliant women (and some men) try to force compatibility where there is none. This is my best advice and you don’t need therapy to put it in motion — in fact everything you need is readily available to you.
I can’t guarantee you’ll find love, but I know you’ll have a much better shot at it if you consider the following:
- Learn what it means to love — I mean really define it for yourself. If you want love, you’re going to have to learn how to love, and love is an action. Oscar Wilde said, “to be in love is to surpass oneself,” which goes innately against our defenses and tendency towards self preservation. I think Wilde was really asking is love even possible? My favorite definition of love is one by M. Scott Peck and claims “love is the will to extend one’s self for the purpose of nurturing one’s own or another’s spiritual growth.” Replace the word “spiritual” with “personal” or whatever makes it digestible for you and read it again.
- Set yourself and others free — Based on the aforementioned definition of love, ask yourself if filling up your time with the wrong people out of loneliness, desperation, or even comfort, is truly a loving action towards yourself or the other person. If you’re doing that, are you really ready to love or be loved? Set yourself and the other free so you can each find a more compatible partner.
- Get to know yourself deeply — Do some soul searching, read, go to therapy if you can, identify your needs, your values, and your dealbreakers, find out what kind of partner you truly need. Time is the greatest gift you can give yourself. Become clear about who you are and don’t apologize for it.
- Be alone — and get really good at it! When it comes to dating, *somebody* ISN’T better than nobody if the somebody sucks. Waiting for someone else to change is a really good way to waste your time and keeps you from changing. If you can’t be alone, you will struggle to find real love because you are coming from place of desperation — of wanting to escape something within yourself. You’re not respecting yourself and it’s not a good start to a relationship. Paul Tillich said, “loneliness can only be conquered by those who can bear solitude.” When you’re not looking to someone else to fulfill all the needs you can’t fulfill in yourself, you’ll be at a much better starting point for a truly loving relationship.
- Become your own great love — Guess what? Relationships may end but the one person that will never leave you is yourself. Figuring this stuff out is a worthy investment. Whitney Houston said it best in her song “The Greatest Love of All,” (go take a listen, I’ll wait), that “the greatest love of all is easy to achieve, learning to love yourself, it is the greatest love of all.” I know it’s not what you want to hear, but finding love could be as “easy” as Whitney boasts if you’re willing to look to yourself for it.