We’ve all heard these before: learn how to love yourself before you love someone else; only you can make you happy; put on your own oxygen mask first before helping the kid!
You can beat yourself over the head with aphorisms until you’re numb, but what about the how and why to be happy by yourself?
If it were easy, everyone would be doing it and I would be out of a job. And for as great as they can be, relationships must have an excellent P.R. team because while so much gets said about how wonderful, amazing, and romantic they are, there’s not a lot of acknowledgement about how hard and grueling they can be. Similar to parenting, an intimate partnership is one of the most rewarding and difficult things you can take on. Going into one without at least turning a flashlight inward on yourself is like trying to climb Mt. Everest before even going on a day hike: treacherous and HARD.
The frustrating truth is that there aren’t cookie cutter answers on how to love yourself before loving others; however, there are guideposts. And that’s where I come in, your cool Tawkify bestie giving you the hard facts on why and how to be happy with yourself before finding happiness with someone else!
Why It’s Important to Be Happy With Yourself Before Dating Again
The reason all the “love yourself” sayings exist is because people think that finding their significant other is going to be the missing piece to their fulfillment. And while sharing your life with another person can be incredible, it’s never going to be the end all be all of your personal well-being.
The difference between not knowing who you are and knowing who you are in modern dating is vast (check out our article on dating as a strong woman if you’re the latter). But putting the weight of your happiness on another person is not only unsustainable, it’s also unfair. Think about it like this: you and your partner are in a rowboat and each of you is responsible for your own side. Making your partner responsible for your happiness is like asking them to paddle both sides – it won’t work, you won’t go far, and they’re going to burn out fast. Similarly, not owning your own happiness (aka, not rowing) when your partner is will only send you in circles. If neither of you decides to take care of yourselves? Well that boat’s going nowhere fast.
As a matchmaker, people come to me with all different kinds of mindsets on dating, but what I really wish is that before they start dating again they would ask themselves these questions:
- Why do I want to be in a relationship?
- What do I feel that I’m currently lacking in my life that I feel a relationship would fulfill?
- Who am I and what do I want most out of life?
- What are the traits of my ideal partner and how do they align with the vision I have for myself?
- What are my strengths and weaknesses in regards to relationships?
- What kind of baggage would I be bringing into a new relationship and do I feel okay with that?
You don’t have to have all the answers, but it is a great start to have at least thought about the questions. When you don’t address the things you’ll be coming into a new relationship with, you run the risk of them cropping up just when things are starting to go well and sabotaging your chance at something great.
Additionally, if you’re using a relationship to fill some kind of void in yourself that only you can fill, it’s only a matter of time before the newness wears off and you’re left feeling lonely, sad, or even resentful of your partner. To keep with our boat analogy, think of your unchecked shadows as a hole in the bottom; you’ll either spend too much energy trying to patch it and neglect your rowing, or you can row and pretend it’s not there, but eventually it’s going to sink.
How to be Happy with Yourself Before Dating Again
Have I scared you with the boat? Okay, no more analogies, I promise!
If you’re wondering how to be a better person in a relationship, then look no further than the relationship you have with yourself. Sure, we may give other people a little more leeway than we give ourselves, but it’s not much and the closer you get to somebody the more likely you are to expose them to your more critical, pessimistic, or insert-shadow-trait-here side.
It’s not easy, but making a conscious effort to give yourself more grace, especially with the little things, will have an incredible impact on the way you can love and empathize with others. Some other things you can do are:
Go to therapy
Maybe therapy isn’t for you (though I believe it’s for everyone, at some time), but however you accomplish it, looking at yourself with an honest and objective lens is life-changing. Plus, a large reason people want a relationship is to feel less lonely, to be listened to, or to have support.
What if I told you that you could have that next week with the right therapist?! Therapy isn’t going to fix your whole entire life, but it does help in making you feel less alone and like you’re making progress. It also helps to have an outside eye looking for patterns and self-destructive habits you may not see.
Therapists can be everything from an empathetic ear to a surgical re-programmer for the negative thoughts you don’t even know you have on autoplay about yourself, and the best therapists do both and more.
One of the best things anyone ever told me about being happy and single was, you don’t have to wait for somebody else to do the things you want to do and feel the way you want to feel. So many people wait to travel, wait to get a dog, wait to go to that new restaurant or take that dance class until they find the right partner. Why? By not taking yourself on these dates you want to go on, you’re sending the message to yourself, “I am not enough.” If these things only sound like fun when you’re with someone else, then you have to ask yourself the question: “Why don’t I think I’m great company?” Because, newsflash, you ARE, you just may not know why yet. Going on these solo adventures, even if at first by force, will get you out of your comfort zone and will help you answer the question, “What makes me amazing?” And the best part is, when you do meet that special someone, (hell, it may even be at the dance class) you’ll have places to take them and stories to share. Self-care is in on this too! Give yourself massages or ask your friends. Take baths or do whatever makes you feel sexy, just for yourself. Relationships are about sharing yourself, so date yourself first and find out who you are. The best part about enjoying your own company is that it raises your feelings of self-worth and helps you understand that anyone lucky enough to be allowed into your world is exactly that: lucky.
Pay more attention to your platonic relationships
We put so much of our efforts into romantic partnerships and not nearly enough into the other relationships that make life worth living. When else other than when you’re single can you put all your attention on your friendships and family? These are some of the deepest relationships you’re ever going to have, so don’t treat them like chopped liver! If you don’t have friends or close ties with family (or you’re not geographically close or your schedules don’t align), maybe it’s time to widen your circle. Love is love, and sometimes if romantic love isn’t coming into your life, it may be a sign that this area will bear more fruit. Being single doesn’t mean being alone by a long shot, that’s what the entire premise of the show F.R.I.E.N.D.S. was built around. If you think of being in a relationship as a muscle you work, friendship is your gym. Lean on them, let them in, and you might find that this was what you were missing the whole time.
Let yourself be happy being single (and understand that sometimes it’s okay to be unhappy)
I’ll tell you what I mean. I have experienced the greatest joy and most abundant freedom being single. I have also experienced deep loneliness and crippling anxiety about being alone. Allow yourself to feel both the ups and downs and understand that they are both normal and human. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be with someone and share your life. I will say though, that the greatest gift you can give yourself is the chance to get to know yourself as a single, happy person. We’re always a work in progress and there is no certification for being ready for a relationship…but if there was, it would probably be not really wanting or needing one. The goal isn’t, land my dream partner; the goal is, become my dream partner. Care for yourself. Treat yourself the way you wish someone else would treat you. You might even find that you prefer being single, and that’s okay. Try to adjust your mindset out of viewing being single as sad, lonely, or a life sentence and look at it as an opportunity to get to know and truly love yourself. Because no matter how great your future partner might be, no one is ever going to love you the same way that you can love you, and that’s a beautiful thing.