Whether you realize it or not, dating takes a toll on you. The constant swiping, going out to meet random strangers, and losing a sense of yourself takes place because you’re distracted. This pattern happens especially if you’ve been a serial dater like I’ve been throughout my late twenties and into my early thirties as well.
At 31, I hit a roadblock. I had been in a cycle of having multiple one-to-a-few months-long relationships back-to-back, and when the last one ended, something in me broke. All that time and energy I spent was thrusted in my face and I was reminded that it didn’t lead me to anything but feeling like I was lost.
When I finally came to and woke up from this whirlwind dating dream, I realized I was hurt, broken, and that the pain of staying the same was greater than the pain of changing. I had to put a stop to the cycle of failed relationships, and I had to do the hard work: work on myself first to put myself back together, piece by piece.
I began this self-love journey and realized this is what was missing from those failed relationships all along: me realizing who I am, that I deserve a healthy relationship, and that I hadn’t been loving myself. Instead, I had allowed the wrong people to take advantage of me and treat me in a disrespectful way that I subconsciously knew I didn’t deserve, but I accepted it anyways.
With that realization, I decided to finally stop the madness and put the energy back into myself, hoping that one day it would yield a different result. I practiced self-care and focused on things I wanted to do and the people in my life who I loved and who had always been there for me. I self-reflected and looked inward, read books, went on walks, journaled, and pondered my past, trying to learn from my mistakes and realize what I had been doing with dating in my life and how it had led me down this road.
Let me tell you, I’ve discovered a lot. I’ve had huge revelations and realizations about who I am and my tendencies when it comes to dating. Gaining that awareness has helped me finally face my true self in the mirror and identify past mistakes and traits that I have that have hindered me in dating. It’s been truly eye-opening and transformative.
The biggest eye-opener was realizing that I had a fear of being alone that drove me to settle for less than what I deserved in relationships. At the same time I was realizing this, I was tackling that fear as I chose to be alone, truly single, and sit with myself to discover, open my mind, and work to heal. Even though I didn’t used to feel like being truly single was useful (I thought it was a waste of time since you aren’t looking for or finding your lifelong partner), I began to realize that this time is everything. It’s exactly what I’ve needed to change the script and begin anew, with newfound self-awareness, self-respect, and self-love fully in place.
I know this time has truly helped me become a better version of myself, and although I don’t feel ready to go back to dating yet, I know it will be completely different when I go back, as I’ve changed and put the work into myself to hopefully yield a different result. In the least, I’ve gained back myself, and I’m truly grateful and happy for that.
So, if you feel like you’re lost, if you feel like you don’t understand why you can’t find “the one,” just stop. Turn inward and realize that loving yourself first is more important than trying to force a relationship. Do the work and you’ll change your mindset about dating and about yourself. It’s a gift unlike any other that you can give yourself.