I used to be that girl—the one whose whole world would become so quickly absorbed with whatever new guy I was with that I practically disappeared in the relationship. Plans? I’d cancel them to stay by his side. Friends? What friends? I was busy being a devoted girlfriend. My dreams? They’d get delayed, put on the back burner, while I spent all my time with him. I had no idea why I always fell into this pattern until I learned these important lessons.
Feeling like I needed someone else meant I wasn’t complete.
In hindsight, I realize that I was incomplete. I wasn’t fully living my life: I hated my job, I struggled as a single mom, I avoided the pain of my past and was doing nothing to improve any of it. Instead, I hoped that finding the one would change all that—or that I’d suddenly be too blissful for my problems to matter. What I learned was that no guy, no matter how loving, was going to complete me. That’s my job.
I have to protect my solitude.
The truth is that I can’t be around people 24/7 and if I go too long without solitude, I get bitchy. Spending time with a new guy is just fine—it’s when he doesn’t go home and I feel like I’m permanently entertaining a guest that I start to get edgy. I’ve learned it’s better to explain this (politely) sooner than to snap later.
No one’s going to save me.
Nowadays I don’t want to be saved, but for awhile there, I secretly hoped that each new guy I dated would slay my dragons and whisk me off to a better life. But that fairytale would only last as long as the relationship held and even if I eventually wanted to leave, I would no longer just be leaving him—I’d be giving up the comforts of his generosity. Better to slay your own dragon and redecorate your tower.
I’m perfectly capable.
I didn’t always believe this (obviously) but I know now that the best way to build confidence is to do new things and to do those new things yourself. While I understand that everyone needs to ask for help sometimes, I simply quit requesting help as my immediate reaction. I decided to at least try before asking someone else to step in, and it wasn’t long before I was surprising myself with my self-reliance.
I don’t actually need a partner.
It was easy to think I needed a man when I was waiting for one to save me but now that I stand comfortably on my own two feet, I realize that I was willing to compromise a lot for the sake of rescue. I may want a guy in my life but I’m not about to settle for someone who’s not right for me or sacrifice my own needs anymore just to have one.
I’d rather find a friend.
Instead of jumping straight into an instant relationship, these days I’d rather find someone I like doing stuff with. If it eventually turns into more than the laser show at the planetarium or an art exhibit downtown, that’s okay; at least the relationship is based on something other than immediate attraction. The key word here is eventually.
I come first.
Second only to my kids. If that means I’m no longer a “boyfriend-pleaser” then I guess any guy I date will either have to deal with it or GTFO. It’s not selfish—far from it. I simply no longer put his needs before my own. I take care of myself first—and I expect him to do the same for himself so we can meet in the middle.
I have my own dreams.
I was once married and during my marriage, somehow my dreams were forgotten and replaced with our dreams. My writing career became a family-owned restaurant. My plans to travel the country turned into “let’s just move to Florida.” After the divorce, it took actual effort to remember and revive the aspirations I’d had before us. Never again will I get so caught up in making someone else’s dreams come true that I forget or neglect my own.
Partnership isn’t found in every relationship.
I now pride myself on being independent, and if I’ve learned anything from it, it’s that not every guy is looking for a partner. Most want you to rely on them and are emasculated and intimidated by a woman who can take care of herself, provide for her kids, handle a cordless drill, and still make a damn tasty dinner. My personal rule: Steer clear of any guy who tries to take a tool out of my hand simply because I’m female.
Distractions will never help me overcome the problems I’m ignoring.
This last lesson was especially hard because it meant facing things I’d put off far too long. I had used relationships (and alcohol) to distract me from my divorce, my past, and my pain. It wasn’t until I faced my problems, my shame, and the emotions I’d avoided that I became whole—and finally capable of a healthy, balanced relationship.
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