Let me preface this article by saying that I am no expert when it comes to love and relationships. My experience with love comes from years of watching corny (yet satisfying) romantic comedies filled with escalating conflicts between two main characters that an audience knows are destined to be together, and a few personal, immature experiences with “love” that ultimately ended up being fantastic learning lessons.
It’s February, the month of Valentine’s Day. Stores burst with red and pink cards and chocolate boxes and mushy signs of love. Televisions play commercials of fresh-faced partners surprising their loved ones with engagement rings from jewelry stores with discount deals. And couples are all abuzz making plans with their significant others for the most love-filled day of the year.
I am at an age in my life when many of my close friends are either in serious relationships, are engaged or married, or are settling down and starting families. Phone and texting conversations are now filled with sleuth-y discussions on when a significant other might propose based on a hint that they dropped about a trip in January; single friends ask coupled friends how they knew their partners were “The One,” then weigh the pros and cons of getting on dating apps versus arranged marriage; and pregnancy announcements with cleverly-crafted captions and colorful gender reveals now fill my Instagram feed. This phase of life was inevitable, and yet I am surprised by how suddenly it has crept up around me.
I am the single friend that often asks her coupled friends how they knew they were ready to be in a relationship or get married. I collect data from everyone – from my parents’ thirty-year relationship, to my best friend’s nine-month courtship, to the friends that went from high school sweethearts to a family of four. And while all of them have vastly different stories of how they knew their partner, there is one common thread in all of their answers: in order to find love with someone, they first had to find love within themselves.
No relationship is successful, my friends and family always say, if you can’t be your own person, develop your own perspective, and become fully comfortable in your own independence. While the current “self-love” movement can often feel somewhat saccharin, there is so much validity in it – in learning as much as you can about yourself and creating settlement in that before trying to engage with another person.
I am guilty of not focusing on myself enough. In the past, whether it be in a romantic relationship or in friendships, I have been known to give and give and give and, in that unhealthy process, lose myself. I’m sure many of us have been in this boat, or are currently in this boat, and are unsure of how to make the change.
So how do we break this cycle? I’ve been trying to do a better job of “dating myself”:
I go on walks by myself.
I spend full days alone cooking, reading, researching, and meditating.
I write in a diary, often asking myself questions that I would ask a partner or a friend.
I visit spots in New York City on my own, and challenge myself to do things by myself that I would normally do with friends.
I put extra effort into my practice of Heartfulness, which ultimately allows me to feel the most connected to myself.
These small moments of self-love are enough to allow me to continue to do more research on myself, to understand what I want and what I need, and to ultimately make those wants and needs the foundation of my individual. The more I learn about myself, the easier it feels to hold my own ground and not feel consumed by other people’s perceptions and perspectives. And I know that the more solid I feel as an independent individual, the healthier of a contributor I will be to any relationship.
So, in this sweet season of love, I hope we never forget to take interest in ourselves even when it feels challenging and to give ourselves love first in the best and most positive ways.