1. Get to know yourself.
It sounds weird, I know. You spend all day everyday with yourself, how could you not know everything there is to know about you? But, hear me out.
The most important relationship you’ll ever have is with yourself. If it isn’t healthy, none of your other relationships will be either. It’s essential to spend time alone really getting to know yourself. Learn who you are, what you like and what you want when you’re not obligated to consider anyone else’s feelings or opinions. Dress up for your damn self. Take yourself out on a date. Find out what turns you on, what turns you off. Figure out when you feel the most confident, the most insecure. Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Pay attention to when you’re happiest. You have to get comfortable being alone with yourself, because let’s be honest, if you don’t want to hang out with you, why should someone else? Know what it is that you bring to the table so when you meet someone special, you’ll know without a doubt that they are worthy. You will want them, but you won’t NEED them.
2. Get in the habit of being selfish.
Meaning treat yourself. Invest in the outfit that makes you feel the most confident, spend a few extra bucks and go to that fancy restaurant you’ve been wanting to try or maybe splurge on a much needed massage. Take time for yourself, simplify your schedule, unplug from the outside world. Whatever it is, make yourself a priority and never feel guilty about putting yourself first. Ask yourself “what do I want”, and then don’t shy away from the answer. Don’t say yes when you really want to say no and don’t let other people push their own agendas on you. Figure out how to make yourself happy, learn to stand up for yourself and then, one decision at a time, build not only the life you deserve, but the one you want.
Get in the habit now of putting yourself first because once you’re in the right relationship that will inevitably change. You will have to consider another person’s goals, opinions and needs. In any healthy relationship you will have to compromise. But if it’s the right person and the right relationship it won’t feel like a sacrifice. That level of mutual respect, care and commitment has its perks, but while you’re single, take sweet sweet advantage of being selfish.
3. Develop personal hobbies and interests.
Nothing makes you realize just how dull your life is like trying to fill out the about me section of a dating profile. “What are my interests?” “What do I like to do in my free time?” “Does hanging out with my dog count?” A lot of people will say things like traveling, or hiking, or something that implies they have a life outside of their job, the gym and Netflix. Then a few minutes into conversation you find out that those are actually all just things they would like to do, but in reality are either too lazy, too busy, or waiting around to find someone to do them with.
“If you want a man get a life!” This applies in reverse to men as well, just for the record. Also for the record, you can’t call something a hobby if you only do it once a year. Seriously, when’s the last time you took a vacation other than your family’s annual beach trip or actually got out into the woods and went for a hike? When it comes to being single, getting a life means pursuing passions that aren’t dependent on having a partner and it means nurturing the relationships you had prior to your significant other. When you have a life, you control your happiness and are more content. Being happy in your own skin builds confidence and projects an energy that makes you more attractive to others.
When your whole life revolves around your significant other it puts a lot of pressure on the relationship. Think about it, if you do everything together and spend all of your free time with a single person, that person is now solely responsible for your happiness. Being in a relationship doesn’t mean you have to be co-dependent. Healthy relationships are about two independent people who decide to share their lives and build a relationship together. The point is, you deserve to have an individual passion that requires permission from nobody to execute. And you will be much better for it when the time comes for you to invite somebody into that space with you. That is, if you want to.
Having your own life gives you autonomy in a relationship and is appealing to both sexes. You’ll have more to share with your partner when you’re together, plus, time apart fuels desire for each other. So if you want a healthy relationship, get a life that’s your own!
4. Work on your friendships
Girls need girls. The importance of having women in your life is paramount. We all know this. Most of us have several groups of friends that we count on, rely on, celebrate with, and cry with, but when you enter a relationship (and someday marriage and motherhood), the importance goes up about 1000 notches. It becomes religion.
The truth is: relationships change friendships. It’s inevitable. Healthy relationships require time, effort, and energy to maintain and that has to come from somewhere. The amount of free time in your life is going to drastically change when you enter into a serious relationship. I don’t care how independent, feminist, or anti-love you are – that is what happens. You are going to be confronted with a person so perfect that you actually aren’t going to get sick of hanging out with them every single day. I know! It’s crazy, but true. That doesn’t mean the love you share with your friends goes away or that the time you spend together is any less special, but it does definitely get harder. And that’s ok, that’s normal. But pay attention. These women, these friends, they are your tribe. You will start adult-ing, and parenting, and you will have a million questions. Suddenly the group texts are life lines and the emojis represent real life emotions and events. Sure, you’ll have your boyfriend or husband to turn to, but you will rely on your girlfriends on the days you don’t like your man and you will reach out when you can’t quite get the life balance right. They will calm you. They will ground you. They will offer support and advice. They will worry and laugh and cry with you. They will celebrate your successes and commiserate your failures. They will call you on your shit and motivate you when you need that extra push. They will pray with you, wine with you and they will love you, just the way you are.
So now, right now, is the time to cultivate those relationships. To invest in them, to root them in love, support and fun and to watch them grow. They are your tribe. So love them hard, hold on tight, and never let go.
5. Work on yourself
I read somewhere recently that “sometimes being socially present means being introspectively silent”. And we’ve all been there. Surrounding ourselves with friends and family or keeping ourselves busy as a means of avoiding all the things we’re not yet ready to face. Namely, ourselves. At the end of the day you have to find solace, or at the very least, contentment, in being alone, because (again) if you don’t want to be alone with yourself why should someone else?
Look at your life right now and think about what you would like to change. Do you like your job? Have you been planning on going back to school? Are you ready to take that trip you always said you’d take? Now is the time. It’s better to change your life before you start seriously dating someone because when that happens, you will always want to take them into consideration, but what If they don’t want the same things? You may feel pressure to settle. You may put some of your own dreams and goals on the back burner, or you may let them go all together.
Use this freedom to fully commit to your goals and to get your accomplishment ducks in a row. Learn to be purposeful and decisive. Trust yourself. Know what you want and find the confidence to build the life you’ve always dreamed of. And who knows, somewhere along your path may be the man of your dreams, someone with similar interests and goals; someone working to build a future that will align seamlessly with yours; someone you may have never met had you not had the courage to chase your dreams.
Not to like, find the one. Not yet. You still have to work to do. But don’t shy away from dating just to date. Here is my take on dating: it can be intimidating, nerve-racking and sometimes awkward, but it can also be exhilarating, genuine and incredibly fun.
Think of it this way: you probably don’t like job interviews, but you also probably wanted a job. And it would have been smart to go on job interviews when you didn’t even really want the job. Why? To practice. To get better at your interviewing skills so when a job you actually wanted became available, you were ready. Same goes for dating. In fact, not only does “practice dating” help for the real deal, it also teaches you to become more selective, because here’s the thing, if you don’t date, then your dating pool is everybody. And if your dating pool is everybody, you’re not going to find the right person. You need to be selective. So go out on a few dates, take some notes, see what you like, what you don’t like and enjoy your freedom!
And don’t get discouraged, sometimes the easiest way to spot the right person is by searching through a crowd of the wrong ones. When you have the time and the freedom to date other people, you can prepare a mental checklist of what you do and don’t want in a partner. That checklist will change as you grow and progress through life, hell, it may even change from date to date, but no dating experience is ever a waste of time. If it didn’t bring you what you wanted, it showed you what you don’t want. And if you got a few free drinks or dinner out of the deal, even better!
7. Have Fun!
Find what makes you happy and do it. It really is that simple.