If you were in a bad relationship, I have some hope for you.
Good relationships do exist.
A common question asked of me is why – after the abusive first marriage I endured – would I ever want to even so much as date again?
Answer: I know that that marriage was not typical. It was not healthy, of course. But it also was not normal. His behavior was not “normal,” not how people who are well, behave. I’d seen too much evidence supporting the existence of healthy marriages to not believe such a thing could happen for me one day – after I was healed and whole. (I said “healthy,” not perfect. Perfect marriages don’t exist).
Here’s the caveat: This is very important. You need to be in a healthy and strong place before you even consider dating after having been in a not-so-healthy relationship.
If you are not in a good mental and emotional place – maybe even physical too – you are not going to make wise choices. You may end up back in a relationship similar to the one you left.
You. Don’t. Want. That. I don’t want that for you. Let me help you figure out how to “get healthy.”
Don’t jump into a new relationship right away. You need time. It might be a little. It could be quite a bit. Don’t let the “quite a bit” potential freak you out. Don’t worry that you’re “no spring chicken” so you better “get back out there.” If the time is wrong, it will be bad. You’ll attach yourself to someone you shouldn’t and then you’ll get hurt again, and the cycle goes on.
But if you give yourself the time you need to heal, grow, and rediscover the real you, the probability that you will find a mate as amazing as the new you are pretty high. Whatever kind of person you’d like to date or marry (kind, financially stable, in good physical shape, solid Christian, funny, generous), whatever traits you hold dear…you need to be those things first before you can expect to find them in someone else.
Fall in love with yourself. This isn’t about arrogance or ego. This is about really loving yourself enough that you won’t allow yourself to be with anyone who doesn’t love you just as much. See what you like. What are your tastes? Preferences? Style? Often, when we’re in difficult relationships, we’re oppressed. If the mate is controlling, it’s quite possible you were told what to eat, what to wear, how to style your hair, and who your friends could be.
Allow yourself the time and freedom to explore all these things and discover for yourself who you really are. Make yourself who you want to be. This is the best time to reinvent yourself! Do it! It’s a little gift of a new beginning to decide who you are. That’s right: you get to decide who you are. You could choose a new profession, start a fitness regimen, become a vegetarian, go skydiving, travel, and make new friends. Whatever you want that’s healthy for you, now’s the time to do it.
Get in a really good head space. Remember how I said you need to be in a “good space” all the way around? Here’s the part where you are happy just as you are and just where you are in life. I don’t really mean you need to be absolutely over the moon for every aspect of your life. But I do mean that you need to be good with you. Get to a place where you can say “I’m happy with who I am” because if you aren’t, you’re ripe for the picking for someone who wants to change you.
When you’re strong in who you are, it won’t phase you if some guy you’re dating says “You’re too old to wear ripped jeans” or “I think your hair looks better this way.” You will wear the jeans anyhow and style your hair exactly the way you like it and you will know that any guy who doesn’t accept you exactly as you are, is taking up space in your life and adding nothing to it. In short, be firmly confident in who you are because you’ve done the work to get to where you want to be. Don’t let anyone try to tell you you should change.
Make your list. Way before you decide to dabble in dating, make a list. Jot down the items that would be deal-breakers for you, the absolute must-haves or can’t-haves. Make it about the really important stuff like “he must be kind” or “he must treat the women in his life well.” It’s great if he has money, but all the best men aren’t millionaires so leave that option open. I will confess, however, that two things on my list were “He must be able to take care of his own financial obligations” and “He must have great health insurance.”
Here’s why: I didn’t want to have to pay a grown man’s bills. Personally, I feel if he couldn’t pay his own bills and take care of his own, then he should work on making those things happen before pursuing a relationship. The health insurance wasn’t a deal-breaker, but it would be an amazing bonus. I have a chronic illness that requires chronic (usually expensive) care. I was also self-employed and paying for my own insurance at the time. It would have been a great blessing if a person I was seriously considering marrying would be able to fill that need. (P.S. He did, to both).
Don’t deviate from the list. Make it a good list, not too complex, but realistic. But make it the things that are super important to you, the things you can’t really visualize yourself being without. Things like “He’s got to be funny,” or my #1 on the list “He needs to be a Christian and live like it.” Then don’t allow yourself to make compromises on the list. As long as the items are realistic (“he has to be a billionaire” or “own a Ferrari” are possible, but it will narrow the field tremendously and possibly weed out a lot of worthy fellas) and the items are vital to you, don’t budge.
I knew I had previously had a tendency to be attracted to “fixers”- guys who had issues or were needy. I liked to be needed so that drew me in and it cost me. I believed I could fix them, and it took me too long to realize the only person who could fix them is…them. I promised myself I would not make any more excuses for guys. They either had what was on the list or they didn’t and if they didn’t, then I wouldn’t entertain dating them. That’s right, I was hardcore with myself. It was necessary. It paid off.
These are five pretty great steps to take to get on a healthier path. Once I made that list and got real with myself, I felt invincible when it came to dating. The freedom you enjoy when you finally love yourself is incredible. I can’t describe it, but I want you to feel it for yourself.
I’d also like to share what’s next once you make that list, so please come back and find out…
Find your freedom,