As Valentine's Day approaches, some of us will be wondering why we're still single or why none of our relationships have worked out.
I spent many years pondering the same thing. Would I ever find love? Would I always be the single one?
Don't get me wrong, I relished many aspects of my single life. We do, don't we? We love our freedom and independence. But deep inside, I knew I wanted a life partner, someone to build a future with, to share the ups and downs with.
So I set out to understand where I was going wrong in my relationships. I threw myself into personal development and self-discovery. And I found my answers. I'm getting married in June to a wonderful man.
You have your own answers inside yourself, but I'd love to share some of the things I learned on my long and sometimes painful journey to a happy and healthy relationship in case they can help you.
- I had to have a healthy relationship with myself first and learn to love and accept myself before I could love and accept someone else.
This is obvious, right? You've heard it a million times before. Some of you are so over hearing it. I was too. But when I really looked inside, I realised that I was disconnected from myself and my feelings. In my early years, this disconnection was extreme. I numbed my feelings with excess food, alcohol, sex and adrenaline. But even after I'd healed from those dysfunctional behaviours, I still didn't fully love and accept myself.
I was hard on myself, punishing, unforgiving and demanding. I held myself up to to the most ridiculous standards and I did the same to the men I met. I judged and criticised the nicest of guys, in my head or out loud. I undermined them and belittled them - because I undermined, belittled, judged and criticised myself.
On the other hand, I fell head over heals with emotionally unavailable men. They could do nothing wrong. I pursued these guys because I was unavailable and scared of commitment myself so by dating them, I could protect myself from hurt. I could stay "safe".
I had to heal my relationship with myself and learn to love and forgive myself (I'm still a work in progress) so that I could love and accept someone else. I also had to heal my past hurts so that I could open my heart to love and commitment.
- When dating, I had to learn to tune in to how I was feeling, not just what I was thinking
I'm a big thinker - an over-thinker. I analyse everything. I try to work everything out in my head. Is he right for me? Would he get on with my friends? How would he manage at that party? Are we compatible?
I've thought so hard about relationships and talked so much about their pros and cons that I've come close to driving myself (and my friends) mad. I talked myself out of my relationship with my fiancé a number of times, coming up with all manner of reasons why he wasn't good enough or why we weren't a good fit.
And then I came back to my feelings and it all made sense. I allowed my heart to lead, rather than my head. I realised that when I was with him, I felt at home. I felt loved. I felt at peace. I felt safe. I felt like I could lie next to him for ever.
This comes up a lot with my coaching clients who tend to be high-achieving, intelligent women who, like me, think a lot. I ask them: how does it feel? How does it feel when you are with that person? I suggest that they try to quieten their mind so that they can hear their heart and intuition. I suggest the same to you.
- I had to let go of the fantasy of Mr Perfect and embrace the man who is perfect for me
I'm a little bit embarrassed to admit that for years I was searching for a carbon copy of myself - a male version of me. I was looking for an A-type, high-achieving, driven, anxious workaholic. My fiancé isn't that man, thank goodness, and that's why we're so good together.
He calms me down. He grounds me. He stabilises me. He reminds me to laugh at myself when I'm taking things too seriously. He reminds me to take the pressure off myself and lie on the sofa or walk in the sunshine. It's such a relief to be in a relationship with someone who is nothing like me!
I wonder if you can relate to my experience?
I'll be back soon with some more thoughts on love and you can join me on Valentine's Day for a Facebook Live on this topic on Psychologies Facebook page. We'll be starting at 1 pm but you can catch up later if you can't make it.
Hope to see you there!
***** Upcoming Events *****
February 14th, 1 pm. How to Find Someone to Love. Facebook Live on Psychologies Facebook page
How to Fall in Love Dorset Retreat, Feb 15-18, Southbourne (2 hours from London Waterloo). 2 spaces left.
Love Yourself, Love Your Body, Love Your Life Find Love, Turkey Retreat with Yoga, Oct 7-14, Spectrum. Earlybird ends Feb 28.
Join my free Facebook Group, Being Real, Becoming Whole and follow my 14-Day Find Love Challenge