Posted By: Kelly Seal Date: 01-30-2020 Comments: 0
If you’re single, you’re far from alone – more than 45 percent of U.S. adults are also single according to a 2017 report by the Census Bureau. Still, being single can at times feel lonely and isolating, especially when you want a partner.
I understand the complex emotions of being single and wanting a partner. I was single well into my thirties, and several times I assumed I’d never find the right person for me. It’s hard to stay positive when you’ve had several bad dates in a row, or when a relationship that excited you in the beginning doesn’t work out.
It’s also difficult to take advice from people who are in relationships, because they don’t understand the particular discouragement you can feel. I remember getting frustrated with one of my coupled friends who told me to “put myself out there” and “have a positive attitude.” Hadn’t I joined multiple dating apps? Wasn’t I going to parties, introducing myself, smiling and laughing, and spending a lot of money on clothes and therapy and beauty treatments to feel empowered and beautiful? It was already exhausting. What more did she think I should be doing?
At times I grew disheartened but tried to be patient. I met each new man with an open mind, waiting for something to be different, but it never was. The advice books said that when I was ready, the right person would appear in front of me, so what was the problem? I was ready! Where was he?
Apparently, I wasn’t ready. Not really.
Here’s what I learned after many attempts at finding a partner: I had to take charge of fulfilling my own needs, wants and desires instead of preoccupying myself in the powerless role of waiting and feeling not enough. Until then, I stood little chance of finding the right person for me. Let me explain.
Preparing yourself for the right relationship is a journey of courage.
It requires you to explore your own curiosities, limitations and desires on your own; to want to understand yourself deeply and how to provide for your own happiness. But perhaps even more importantly – it requires you to love yourself despite everything you might find shameful or wrong or needing to be “fixed.”
Are there things you want to change about yourself? Probably so, but this approach is not how you find the right partner. There’s no space for partnership when you are sitting in judgment. I learned that I had to let go of that judgment to make room for something bigger – to challenge myself at a deeper level by cultivating self-love, even when I felt I wasn’t worthy.
It was hard.
How do you do this? There are practical first steps you can take.
For example, figure out what you like to do and what brings you joy and make time for doing it. It sounds pretty simple, but how many of us actually do this when we have so many commitments to work, family and friends? We often put our own needs last, especially women, unfortunately to our detriment. We must learn to put ourselves first. Block out your calendar and take that trip, go for that hike, buy yourself those flowers, dust off that guitar that’s been sitting in a closet. Don’t wait for someone else to give you permission to do what you want to do.
Here’s another take: nobody is going to make you happy before you can make yourself happy. It’s not just a nice thought, it’s a path to peace and clarity. As the late poet Mary Oliver said, “what would you do with your one wild and precious life?”
She didn’t ask “what would your partner, friend, family member, co-worker think of you if you did that?”
In the same way you love and devote time to your family and friends, you have to love and devote time to yourself.
Don’t focus on why you are alone or what you need to change or what you could be doing differently. Think in terms of self-love. Start to ask yourself – what do I want to do with this precious free time – something that is totally up to me? Do I want to create? Build a community around something I feel passionate about? Do I want to explore a new hobby? Do I want to dance with abandon?
As you start to build this practice into your days – asking yourself what you want, filling yourself up with activities or practices that are meaningful to you – you won’t be so preoccupied with what is missing.
As Dr. Margaret Paul said in Mind Body Green, “it’s not about fixing yourself, it’s about loving yourself.”
When you are fulfilling your own needs, you naturally start to attract people who are also seeking their own happiness, so you each have a firm foundation from which to grow. You’ll find yourself attracted to others on a deeper, more meaningful level. You’ll crave a real connection, not just a relationship.
The work is up to you, along with being both patient and receptive. Let go of judgment and worry and fears about your own life’s path, accept yourself as you are right now, and give yourself the love you want without the shame attached. Remember that you are capable and worthy of love.
It’s time to make room for that love.
Kelly Seal is a freelance writer, dating expert, and author of the book “Date Expectations: A Guide to Changing Your Dating Life and Finding Real Love.” She got her start in the dating industry by hosting speed dating events around southern California and offering advice and encouragement to attendees. She now lives in L.A. and spends her free time hiking in the Santa Monica mountains and blogging at www.kellyseal.com.