It’s all too easy to blindly fumble around from dysfunctional relationship to dysfunctional relationship. But does that mean that that’s your only option?
There are things that you can do in the space between your relationships that will set you up for success in your love life.
Miss these, and you’ll find yourself in another relationship just as unfulfilling as your last few attempts.
Get these right, and you’ll find yourself in the healthiest, most emotionally fulfilling relationship you’ve ever been in.
Here are three ways to set up your single life for success in dating.
1. Spend Time With Friends That Expand You, Not Collapse You
Who do you currently spend your time with?
More importantly, how do you feel around the kinds of people that you currently spend your time with?
When it comes to the people in your life, you can mentally put them into one of two categories: friends that expand you, and friends that collapse you.
The friends that expand you are the ones that you feel like you can be your authentic self around. Not only is it easy to be around them, you get a high from being around them. They see and understand the essence of who you are and they encourage you to flourish. They get genuine satisfaction out of seeing you become who you were meant to be. They never keep score of when you mess up, and they are never jealous or resentful of you or your accomplishments. They truly want what’s best for you.
The friends that collapse you are the ones that you feel like you have to walk on eggshells around. You feel limited in the parts of your personality that you can express around them. Parts of you feel off limits or somehow wrong when you’re around them. When you’re around your friends that collapse you you feel like you’re constantly censoring and editing your internal dialogue (“I better not say the wrong thing… or what I actually think… because they’ve told me that I was wrong for showing that side of myself before.”).
Write up three separate lists of the people in your life that you currently spend your time around. At the top of each of the three lists write “Good”, “Better”, and “Best”.
Now slot all of your social acquaintances into each of these three categories. And remember, you’re slotting them into categories not filtering by the amount of time that you spend around these people, but rather how you feel when you’re around them.
In the “Good” section are your friends that make you collapse. Limit your time around these people as much as possible.
In the “Best” section are your friends that expand you and help you grow into your most authentic self. Get around these people as much as possible (as much as your schedules mutually allow) and consciously add value to their lives.
But why exactly is it good for your eventual dating life that you are doing this?
Because if you spend time around people that are only 40% good for you, then over time you will become only 40% of who you truly are. Which in turn will make you attract a partner that is only 40% aligned with what you need.
Conversely, if you are prioritizing your time to almost exclusively hang out with your friends that expand and energize you and make you >90% of who you most authentically are then you’ll be in the best position possible to attract a partner that is most aligned with who you truly are.
If you’re inauthentic because of your friends that limit you, you’ll attract someone that isn’t meant for you.
If you prioritize time with people who make you the most congruently you that you could ever be, you’ll attract your dream partner in no time.
2. Get Your Needs Met First
If you feel unhappy, unbalanced, and incomplete without a romantic partner in your life, then you’ll be prone to rushing into a relationship with partners that aren’t really meant for you.
Like a scuba diver who has just run out of air, you’ll wildly grasp for anyone else’s reserve line to breathe through. But this flailing, scarcity mindset is not serving you when it comes to setting the foundations for a healthy, long-term relationship.
In order to properly set your foundations for the best love life possible, you have to be complete in and of yourself before you start searching for a partner.
So what does this look like?
You have to have two things in place before you start looking for a partner: your self-esteem, and self-nurturing.
If you don’t have your self-esteem or any internal validation coming from within then you’ll latch on to the first person that even hints at stroking your ego. Someone will be impressed by you, and because (if you lack self-esteem) you’re so unimpressed with yourself, you will flock to them like a bee to honey.
Similarly, if you are barely able to self-nurture (bathe, cook for yourself, take downtime from work when you need it) then you’ll feel pulled to the first person that cooks you a meal.
My grandma once taught me that “A man needs to learn how to cook, otherwise he’ll marry the first woman he dates.”
So be complete first. Have your own pathways to self-esteem. Do stuff that makes you happy independently of being in a relationship. And learn to take care of yourself when others aren’t available to do it for you.
3. Take Responsibility Of Your Own Internal Wounds
Everyone has emotional baggage left over from their childhood, and from their past intimate relationships. If you don’t go searching through your mental attic and hold your internal drama up to the light then your unconscious patterns will continue to sabotage your intimate relationships in much the same way they have in the past.
Whether it’s jealousy, enmeshment, resentment, unmet emotional needs from your early relationship to your parents, or any other number of things that’s getting in the way of you experiencing a full spectrum of love, it’s worth looking into.
What Love Could You Be Holding Yourself Back From?
Four years ago I was in the most emotionally shut down phase of my entire life.
Still reeling from a devastating break up I was bouncing around between surface level relationships and feeling emotionally unfulfilled.
I remember so clearly waking up one day next to a typical party-going bar star and feeling frustrated with her presence. But I wasn’t upset with her at all.
I was upset with myself.
I was upset that I had let myself veer so far off of my personal path. The person lying next to me wasn’t flawed because they liked to party. I felt flawed because I had slowly become an incongruent version of myself that had attracted someone that I knew wasn’t right for me long-term. They were safe. And I was hiding.
So I went on a mission to get back to who I was at my core. And the first steps in that process are the ones that I’ve outlined for you in this article.
I spent time around good people. People that challenged me, and scared me, and could see straight through all of the half-lies I had become so adept at telling myself.
I got my own needs met independent of a relationship partner. I no longer desperately needed the validation of a woman’s arms because I put work into starting to like myself again.
And, while it was not my immediate intention, shortly after this period of intentionality I ended up entering one of the most emotionally fulfilling relationships of my entire life.
It’s an eye-opening experience to listen to other women vent about their divorce story and hear how it all went down. After twenty-four years of marriage (and two days after dropping their youngest son off at college), my friend’s was-band declared,
“I don’t want to do this anymore. I want to be able to come and go as I please without having to answer to anyone (*ahem* you, my wife). I want my freedom. And I want a divorce.”
Unfortunately, her story is what inspired me to zoom out on my situation and quietly think to myself, at least he was honest with you and took responsibility for his feelings even if it wasn’t what you wanted to hear.
That night, while my wheels were feverishly spinning, I came across an article titled, How I Cheated On My Wife that I secretly hoped was my Ex-husband writing under a pen name. No dice.
turned out to be much more clever than my Ex. At the time, the bitter truth wouldn’t have been any less crushing than it already was to accept what was happening right before my eyes. In retrospect, I would have really appreciated (and respected) my Ex-husband more if he took an inkling of accountability. I was four months into turning eighteen, and he was on the cusp of twenty-two when we met. We were both clueless. Shit happens — wipe your ass.
If he said to me,
You haven’t lost all your baby weight, and our kids aren’t babies anymore.
Your boobs aren’t perky enough (like they were at twenty-two and before breastfeeding our two children).
I’m hideously unhappy, and I’m not in love with you anymore.
Your vagina is run-through, and I want to have sex with other people.
I kid you not; I would have swallowed any bitter pill presented to me over how it actually went down. Just as I started wandering down a darker path while writing this piece,
I got caught up watching the brilliant Robin Willams in Mrs. Doubtfire. I guess you could say — I saw the light.
The longer I watched Mrs. Doubtfire vacuum and dance to “Dude Looks Like A Lady,” the further I plummeted down the rabbit hole of what-ifs.