Love Yourself…I Know. Crazy, Right?

Why is it that everyone in the world seems so obsessed with love, but no one seems to know how to love themselves?  I know some people think they are the center of the universe.  However, that sounds more to me like self-absorbed, not self-love.  I’m talking about enjoying being in your own company.

I hear a lot of people say they don’t like to be alone.  Is this because they are extroverted and feel energized around people?  Sometimes.  A lot of the times I notice people are trying to distract themselves from their negative thoughts.  Even introverted people who like to be alone will distract themselves in their alone time.   These distractions come in the form of friends, the internet, food, alcohol, marijuana, shopping, tv and even homework.  Anything, instead of having to deal with their emotions.  Why is that?  I think it is because if people stay busy they don’t have to admit they don’t really like themselves.

When I ask students in my office to tell me what they like about themselves, I usually get a long pause.  Those words don’t come easy for most.  However, if I ask the same students what they don’t like, I better have a pen and paper ready because I’m going to have a list of many things in a few seconds.

Some people have never had a positive role model in their life.  They’ve never had someone say positive things about them or even seen anyone have a positive attitude in general.  This person will not only have to learn how to create positive thoughts, they will most likely have to work hard at erasing all the negative voices in their head.  Some people are lucky and have had people around to support and love them.  However, they are still their own worst enemy.  They still have to learn to find their own positive voice inside.

Let me tell ya, a little kindness can go a long way.  It has to start small.  You aren’t going to wake up one day and find that you are suddenly full of love for yourself.  The first way to start is to think of little things you enjoy or like about yourself.  They can be about the way you look, feel, or things you do.  You can even appreciate things that no one else does.  Not everyone sees things the same way.  For example, my dad believes to be successful you have to make a lot of money.  I realized I started to feel successful when I saw how I could help people.  Even though I don’t make a lot of money doing it.   Others don’t have to agree or believe the same way for you to believe it about yourself.

Another example is this:  A girl walks into a grocery store to buy ice cream.  As she grabs the Ben & Jerry’s off the shelf, a girl on her left thinks, “I wish I could be that skinny and eat ice cream.”  Another girl on her right thinks, “No wonder she is so fat.  She eats ice cream.”  So what should this girl believe about herself?  That she is fat or skinny?  It all depends on who she asks I guess.  That is why it is important to develop your own beliefs because not everyone is going to have the same perspective.   And that is okay.  Beliefs aren’t wrong or right.  However, they can be more positive or more negative.  Many people tend to believe more negative things about themselves.  In order to change, you have to sometimes shove out what you’ve heard from others and develop your own ideas.

This isn’t easy, but it is also not impossible.  Beliefs are very powerful and you can change them.  I’ve also found that no one can reassure you but yourself.  Some people think they need to be in a relationship to feel good about themselves.  They feel if someone else loves them then it will be easier to love themselves.  However, I’ve found your significant other can tell you all day long that you’re smart and fun, but if you believe you’re stupid and boring you will bounce those compliments right off your negative shield.  It is good if there are positive people around you, but it doesn’t always make a difference unless you choose to embrace those positive beliefs yourself.

This means you can be single and still learn to love yourself for who you are.  It is actually better to learn to love yourself before you get into a relationship.  Then you won’t be as vulnerable to people who tell you what you want to hear just to get something from you.  You will be confident enough to see through other people’s manipulation and strong enough to stand up for yourself.  You will also be more willing to wait for a truly great person to come along.

P.S.  Just because you love yourself doesn’t mean you can’t set goals and improve things about yourself.  But it does mean that you shouldn’t try to improve only because you are comparing yourself to others.  Once you can let go of the comparing game, you can spend that time focusing on your own beliefs to reach the goals that make you happy, not someone else.

P.S.S.  Just because you love yourself also doesn’t mean you can’t spend just as much time and energy to love others.  You don’t have to stop doing one to improve upon the other.  There is room for yourself and others in your heart.

Letting Go of the Safety Net

Still have that number programmed into your phone?  You know the one of that person on the back burner who you only call in those lonely moments when there isn’t anything better to do?  The casual hook up that you know you shouldn’t indulge in because that person has more feelings for you than you have for them?

Being single can be tough sometimes, hell, a lot of the time.  It can be an ego boost to have that one person who happens to adore you unconditionally.  You’ve probably asked yourself several times why you aren’t head over heels in love with this person.  They are perfectly nice, good looking and fun, but there seems to be something missing.  Love is strange like that.  It doesn’t always make sense why some people just hit us harder than others.  This person on paper seems perfect, yet you aren’t drawn to them like other people in your past.

Yet, you can’t let them go either.  They continue to stay on the back burner for a reason.  It is very rare for a person to go from the backseat position to the front.  However, your brain may lie to you and convince you to keep this person around, just in case.  Just in case you have you have a wedding you need a date for.  Just in case no one better comes along.  Just in case you do cut them loose only to find they were the love of your life.  It feels safer to have this person around then to delete that number from your phone.

No one likes to make a mistake.  Some people have a hard time making choices and are afraid of making the wrong choice.  Here is this person that doesn’t turn you off, but doesn’t exactly turn you on either.  It can be very tempting to keep them around in case you change your mind.  However, in this case, another person’s heart is involved.  If they are into you, then it is going to be a crazy roller coaster ride of emotions for them.  While you are busy looking for other people to date they are going to feel lonely and left out.  When you need them in a moment of weakness you are going to give them hope for the future.  Only to disappoint them again if someone with more potential comes around.  You may not realize that they are hanging on every move you make, hoping for more one day.  Giving them hope can be very cruel, even though it may seem very innocent to you.

You may also tell yourself that it isn’t your fault that they continue to take your calls.  You may think they have a choice, and that they don’t have to hook up with you if they don’t want to.  What you are failing to consider is that their emotions are a lot stronger than yours.  That makes them not so smart when it comes to making decisions about you.  They KNOW they shouldn’t text you back, but they can’t help it.  They are in love with you, and you just gave them a glimmer of hope.  It is really hard to turn away from that.  What they also don’t need is your pity.  Don’t text them because you feel sorry for them.  They need you to make a choice.  Either love them or leave them alone.

Leaving them alone means letting go of your safety net.  It will help them see reality and be able to move on.  You learn to be alone and not depend on someone you “sorta” like in moments of loneliness.  If they were really just your friend there wouldn’t be this awkwardness when you do talk about other people you are attracted to.   You know when someone is just your friend and when they’re the person you keep on the back burner.  There is a difference.  In moments of loneliness choose to hang out with friends or family.  Find a new hobby or find new places to hang out where you will be able to meet new people easily.  Being alone is different than being lonely.  Many single people learn to be content being alone at times without being lonely.  It is possible.  It is a matter of adjustment in the way you think and in the things you do.  Being alone at times isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you.

It is a better choice than to use someone just because you’d rather be with them over being alone.  That isn’t a good reason to be with someone, and it isn’t fair to them to be your second choice.  Try going solo for awhile without having that backup phone number programmed into your phone.  You may find that it helps you meet someone you are truly into sooner rather than later.  Once you learn to be content being alone you don’t come off as desperate to others.  You may also try harder to meet new people since you don’t have that safety net to fall back on.  It isn’t easy, but it is the more mature way to go.

What Could Have Been…

Are you the type of person who second guesses your decisions?  Do you go back and think about any of your ex’s and wonder what it would’ve been like if you didn’t break up?  If you do, you aren’t the only one.  I have many students who come into my office because they wonder if they’ve made a mistake.  Or they regret breaking up with someone.  Loneliness has a way of twisting your thoughts and making the past seem more idealistic than it really was.  A couple of things I’ve learned are that you can’t go back and it doesn’t help to live in the past.

It is good to sometimes remember your past relationships and smile about certain moments, or remember things you definitely don’t want to repeat in the future.  However, it isn’t good to fantasize about any of your ex’s and believe that somehow you missed out on the best thing that ever happened to you.  When you’re single you can have those moments when you romanticize how it was to be in a relationship.  You may think to yourself, even the bad times were better than being alone.  I would have to disagree.  Watching so many people suffer through bad relationships I can attest that it isn’t always easier than being on your own.  A friend who was in a bad marriage once told me when I was single, that at least there was potential for me to still find happiness.  Being single is just a different kind of pain and frustration from being in a bad relationship.

It is easy to believe that things may have turned out differently if you only stuck it out with your ex.  Most of the time, this belief is false.  Break ups happen for a reason.  If you were the one to break up with your ex, think back to why you really made that decision at the time.  It could be for a number of reasons.  Maybe you didn’t feel attracted enough to your ex.  Maybe they didn’t spend enough time with you or you were too busy at the time for a relationship.  Maybe they were disrespectful to you or were manipulative. If your ex broke up with you, remember there was a reason they didn’t put you first.  Whether it was really about them and not you, they still chose to leave, which means you do deserve better. Whatever the reason, don’t forget about those negative qualities that broke you up in the first place.  So many students will tell me about what they miss.  It is hard for them to remember what they really don’t miss.  Sometimes you have to push yourself to be more realistic about your ex and your past relationship with them.

So many people are unhappy because they are thinking about what they don’t have or wishing they could have back what they used to have instead of being grateful for what they already have.  I know this isn’t easy.  It is why many Americans live beyond their means. Its always easy to focus on what we are missing in our lives and want more.  With the technology today we are able to see what so many other people have.  Ignorance is bliss.  If you didn’t realize what you were missing, it may be easier to be content.  However, we do have the ability to see other people living lives we wish we could have.  This can make it harder to let go of your past relationship if you’re tempted to think about what life would be like now if you’d never broken up with your ex.

My advice is to try and stop yourself when your thoughts start to go in this direction.  This takes some effort and creativity.  Some people actually tell themselves to stop out loud if they are by themselves.  I recommend having a note card handy in your purse or wallet that has positive statements written down that you can easily access in a bad moment.  A lot of students look at me like I’m crazy when I suggest this, but it usually does work.  When you are in a good mood, write down what you like about your current single life.  Then when you are in a bad mood and can’t think straight it will be helpful to see those statements in black and white.  It is hard to think of positive things when you are in a negative mood.  However, you can’t think a negative and a positive thought at the same time.  If you want to have a pity party, go right ahead.  Sometimes that will help, but if you want to get out of feeling sorry for yourself sooner, I suggest changing the kinds of thoughts you are putting into that imagination of yours.

Another thing a friend once told me that helps me in a bad moment is this:  If everyone put their problems in a big pile and you could see them all, you would be happy to take yours and not look back.  One of the worst things and best things about my job is that I get a front row seat to people’s pain.  It is the worst thing because it is hard to see people in pain.  It is the best thing because it makes me feel blessed to own the few problems I do have in my own life.  It puts a lot of things in perspective for me.  I hope if you are living in a world of what could have been, you will stop and be thankful for what is and look forward to what could be.

Great Expectations

Expectations are like hope…a double edged sword.  They are good to have because they can be very motivating.  On the other hand, they can lead you to places of great sadness.  So what to do?  To have or have not?  I’ve pondered this many times.  My pessimistic self says, don’t have too many expectations.  They can lead to a lot of disappointment.  However, if you don’t expect anything of yourself or your life, how will get anywhere.

For example…is it dangerous to expect or even hope you will find a great person to date and eventually marry?  There are two sides to this coin and I will try to explore each side.  Maybe I’ll be able to find a happy medium.  Since I’m a pessimist by nature I will explore the negative side first.  For instance, it may not be too dangerous to expect that you are going to get married.  Statistics point to the fact that you have a good chance.   Most people do get married in their lifetime, sometimes more than once.  However, some students I meet have high expectations for not only who they are going to marry but when.  I know some people who say they want to marry right out of college.  It can work out for you this way, but you may feel very disappointed or wonder what is wrong with you if you don’t get married in this expected time line.

In my experience, friends and acquaintances who have put too many expectations on getting married by a certain age tend to settle.  They just want the title so bad they don’t really care how they get it.  I don’t think this is a smart idea.  How about the expectations on who you are going to marry?  This can be tricky.  I would say the negative side of this expectation is setting the bar too high or being too narrow minded in your opinion.  You never know who you are going to meet and be attracted to.  You might think you only are attracted to people who have dark hair and are athletic, but you may be surprised by who really catches your eye and is a keeper.  I also think some people focus too much on what their partner should do for them in a marriage and not on what they need to bring to the table.   Some people expect to be taken care of and always be put first.  This isn’t how marriage always works.  I think it is important to also focus on your own character, not just your partner’s.  If you want to be with someone great, then try to be someone great yourself first.

Now, for the positive side of expectations.  I think it is a good thing to dream and use your imagination when it comes to your future.  I think it can be great to have expectations for how your life is going to turn out.  You don’t need to settle for less in your life.  The great thing about having expectations is that is can push you to a higher level.  I always tell people to believe in themselves.  You may not think someone could be attracted to you either because they have more money, they seem a lot smarter, or in your mind they are way more hot than you see yourself.  I find that love can be blind at times.  It sees beyond money, brains, and sometimes even looks.  You never know who may fall in love with you.  I have dated people who never went beyond a high school education.  They didn’t think I would be attracted to them because I had my Master’s degree and went to a private school.  It didn’t really matter to me that they didn’t go to college as long as we had other things in common.  I also underestimated myself a lot.  I would often think I wasn’t pretty enough for someone to be attracted to.  I wasn’t confident and probably missed out on opportunities because I didn’t think they were possible.  Some of the guys who have asked me out I’ve thought were out of my league.  They saw something in me that I couldn’t see in myself at that time.  I wish I would have had higher expectations because then maybe more doors would have been open to me.

I’ve seen a lot of disappointment  and a lot of great things from having high expectations.  I think it is good to have some realistic expectations, but be willing to make changes and compromises in your vision for your future.  Nothing is set in stone and people change.  As you go through college you change so much.  You will also change even more in the few years after college when you go out and live on your own and have your first career type job.  No one says you have to be married by 25, have your first child by 28 and live happily ever after with a vacation home in Aruba.  Everyone’s vision is different and you may have to adjust yours if your timeline is a little off what reality is going to throw your way.  Also remember, that some people do marry young and it works out.  However, some people marry young and change a lot.  Some people end up divorced and it wasn’t what they expected to deal with in their life.  When things change, roll with it.  A lot of people get divorced and then go on to meet the love of their life in their later 20’s, 30’s or even 40’s and 5o’s.  None of us have a crystal ball, so we make the best choices with the information we have at the time.  If your choice doesn’t live up your expectations, you can either make adjustments in your expectations or make different choices that lead you in a different direction.

Like most things in life, you can’t live with them, you can’t live without them.  I think this is true of having expectations and hope.  It has its wonderful side, but it also has a dark side.  I recommend pushing yourself, but not too hard!  It is a fine line to walk.  I know this is true for yourself, your relationships and even when you become a parent.  There will be days when your realize you pushed too hard and had too many expectations, and there will be times when you don’t push hard enough and you realize you may have missed out on an opportunity.  All I can say is, just keep doing your best and that is all anyone should ever expect of you.

Unrequited Love

I’m reading a book called “All He Ever Wanted” by Anita Shreve.  It is set back in the early 1900’s in a New England college town.  It is about a college professor that sees this woman and instantly falls in love with her.  He meets her and starts inviting her to go on walks with him around town.  It is obvious that he is in love with her and she is merely just fond of him.  He asks her to marry him even though he is aware that she may not love him back.  At first she tells him no because she admits she does not love him.  Instead of backing out gracefully he practically begs her to be with him.  He plays to her weakness and offers her an opportunity to raise her own children and run her own household instead of living with her sister and being a governess to her children.  She agrees to marry him when she sees how much her rejection has affected him.

They get married a couple of months later and immediately after the ceremony he finds her in a room looking in the mirror with a horrible look of despair on her face.  He is aware at that moment that she has regrets, but believes his love for her will win her over in time.  Their honeymoon is lackluster to say the least and he is unable to please her in bed.  During the day they seem to get along and have a friendly relationship, but it is very cold in their bed at night.  The book then flash forwards fourteen years later.  They now have a 13-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son.  Everything is the same in their marriage.  He continues to love her more every day despite their horrible sex life and she continues to focus on her children and is merely friendly to her husband.  I haven’t finished the book yet, but it hints that she meets another man and their marriage somehow falls apart.  He is narrating the story from a time in the future when he is alone and traveling to his sister’s funeral.  The book has a thread of sadness throughout.  It doesn’t look like it will have a happy ending.

Yet, I am intrigued by this story because I can put myself in his place so easily.  As I read this story I want to scream at this man to wait for someone else who will really love him.  Yet if I’m honest, if I was in his position, I would probably be able to convince myself of the same things he does.  I would tell myself that this person would love me more over time.  I could also see myself reading into things to keep myself in denial about the reality of the situation.  I know other people can relate as well because I see this a lot in my office with people who are in love.  They don’t make any sense.  Nobody does when they are blinded by love.  They will torture themselves without mercy in order to be closer to someone they have deep feelings for.  Everyone around them is frustrated by their exercise in futility, but they continue to have hope that this person will love them back if they just try hard enough.  A person in love is so sad when they aren’t around their object of affection that they can’t believe they would ever be happy if they gave up their pursuit.  This is why unrequited love can go on for so long.

A person can also feel so happy in the presence of someone they love that they truly are blinded to how the other person really feels.  This story is also interesting to me in that love makes the guy somewhat selfless, but also selfish at the same time.  He would bend over backwards to make her happy in selfless acts of love, but doesn’t realize that not pushing her to marry him and allowing her to eventually find someone she truly loved would have been the more selfless act.  Instead it seems incredibly selfish for him to push her to marry him in order for him to be happy.  He does not truly consider how she feels at all because it is hard for him to imagine her not as happy as he is.  The woman in the story is also in the same boat.  Some people would say she was truly selfless to give herself to this man who truly loved her so much.  She gave up her own happiness to make him happy.  Yet, she holds herself back from ever growing to love him.  She only marries him because she wants to have her own children and because she feels sorry for him.  She may have believed at the time that she would never have the chance to marry someone else and have her own family.  She then uses him to gain those things she desires.

I think it is ironic that he marries for love which is what most of us aspire to, but it isn’t a good thing.  She marries to make someone else happy, which is another seemingly selfless act, however it back fires horribly.  My point in unrequited love happens to the best of us.  I don’t understand the reason for it because it doesn’t make sense for someone to have to suffer so much.  That suffering usually leads people to make unwise decisions.  It is easy to see from the outside, but from the inside it becomes blurry.  No one wants to be in pain.  Unrequited love is painful.  The brain tells you that this person makes the pain go away.  Therefore you will stop at nothing to be around this person, even though another part of your brain tells you that you’re only making it worse by continuing to put yourself in this position.  Only time will make it more painful to be with someone who truly isn’t into you than to be around them.  When that time comes, it is easier to walk away and be open to finding someone else to love.

It can be a long process to find someone who equally loves you as much as you love them.  It always seems to me that a lot of relationships are unbalanced in the love department.  After reading this book, I would encourage people to wait for the one that loves you back and don’t settle for someone that you don’t really love just because they love you.  It doesn’t usually work out well because years of a marriage can easily build up resentments.  It is better to start off as equally as you can because marriage isn’t easy in the best circumstances.  I also recommend this book to anyone who has gone through unrequited love.  It is an excellent read.

It Was All A Dream

I have a great imagination.  Even when I was only 5 years old I was already imagining having a boyfriend.  I was in kindergarten and he was in 5th grade.  I liked him because he was cute and nice to me on the bus.  I’ve always been the type of person who was able to pretend very easily.  I can retreat inside my head and live in my own little world.  I have an idealistic personality type.  I usually see the potential in things rather than the reality of the situation.  Sometimes this is a blessing and a gift, other times it’s a curse.

I grew up thinking about marrying this guy who would be loving and affectionate.  He would be able to put up with my moods or make them disappear altogether.  He would also think I was the most beautiful person in the world.  I had this dream inside of my head, and I didn’t know if it would ever become a reality.  Would I ever find this ideal person?  Would anyone ever find me beautiful or think my moodiness was sexy?  In my fantasy world I believed this person existed and that I would find him.  I lived with this dream and some days it was the only thing that kept me going when I was single.

Even in college I held on to my dream of finding, not the perfect person, but the perfect person for me.  Someone who would just get me.  After I graduated and started my career in counseling my dream slowly began to fade.  I started to see the reality of relationships in the families I counseled.  I started to realize how hard it really is to communicate and get along, let alone raise a couple of kids.  I started to realize how hard life is for most families.  My fantasy world didn’t seem anything like the real world I was witnessing.  At first I was sad.  I didn’t even know if I still wanted to get married.  I started to think it was better to be by myself.  Then I would get invited to a wedding of a friend of mine and a flicker of my imagination would kick back into high gear.  I would see my friends so happy on their wedding day and I still wanted that for myself.

However, I didn’t get married when most of my friends did.  So, after a few years of being around married couples I realized it wasn’t just my clients that had communication problems.  My friends had great marriages, but I still witnessed plenty of arguments and heated moments.  I witnessed exhaustion over trying to get kids to eat their dinner and get ready for bed.  I witnessed financial struggles as well as struggles to get pregnant.  So many stressors on a marriage.  I thought to myself, how does anyone make it these days?

By the time I finally met my husband, I had a more realistic view of relationships and marriage.  I remember meeting his grandparents, who have been married over 61 years, and thinking, “how have the made this far”?  I asked his grandmother what helped their marriage last so long.  She told me that having a lot of humility (the ability to admit when I’m wrong and say I’m sorry) and common courtesy (being polite to each other) went a long way to creating a long-lasting marriage.  To be honest, I didn’t really consider those things when idealizing my perfect marriage.  Now I do realize that they are very important and that she is very wise.  It is much easier for me to do something for Steve when he says please and thanks me afterwards.  It is nice to hear him admit when he is wrong and it makes it easier for me to do the same when I’m wrong.  It is easier for me to let go of past hurts and not build up resentment and I’m sure it is the same for him.

I took her wisdom which has helped me so much more than my fantasies from childhood.  In my dreams I would make up in my head that my husband would always love me no matter what I said or did.  I realize now, this is not true.  I can poison my husbands thoughts and feelings against me very easily if I’m not careful.  Just because he said “I do” at our wedding doesn’t give me license to take advantage of him.  I think a lot of people let their guard down in a committed relationship.  I know I used to think that if someone loved me they would put up with everything about me.   I didn’t imagine that I would have to work so hard and reign my personality in a lot of the times for the sake of my relationship.  Now I know that I have to make a lot of sacrifices and so does my husband.  If we were going to have kids, we would have to make even more.

Marriage is not a dream of happily ever after.  It is about two people who love each other enough to gut through the hard times and not take advantage of each other in the weak times.  It is about admitting when you are wrong and being nice even if you don’t think you have to be that way anymore.  I’m glad I was able to shed my imaginary relationship.  I remember thinking one day a few years ago that I could stay single and keep the fantasy in my head for the rest of my life, or I could accept reality and be in a long term relationship with a man who can be hurt and would most likely hurt me at times.  I eventually chose to give up the dream and marry the real man who is now my husband.  He is not even close to perfect, but neither am I.  Together we are making it work one day at a time until hopefully we can say that we’ve made it over 61 years together.

I hope if you are single and waiting for “the one” to come along you will let go of the dreams you have for your marriage and embrace reality.  Focus on being the right person instead of finding the right person.  Be realistic about sacrifices that will have to be made and that you won’t be able to do whatever you want when you want while having a relationship at the same time.  Being single is hard, but being married isn’t any easier.  I’m not saying your should settle and marry just anyone because marriage is hard no matter what.  I’m saying that even if you find the best person you could possibly find, it will still be hard at times.  You will still have to admit when you’re wrong and say please when you want something if you want to make it last.  However, I can tell you that it is worth it to give up the fantasy to live a real life with someone you do love.  I hope everyone is able to have that in their life at some point.

Finding Yourself Instead of Finding Mr. or Mrs. Right

I have had a lot of students say to me, “Dealing with change and handling stress would be so much easier if I had a boyfriend or girlfriend”.  True or False?  Life is easier if you have someone to depend on and go through it with?  My honest opinion is that it depends.

I’ve had people in my counseling office who have had boyfriends and girlfriends or marriage partners that have made their life 100 times harder.  There were many times in my single life that I was thankful that I wasn’t in a relationship based on what I saw and heard from others.  Being a counselor puts me in a unique position to see behind the walls into what relationships are really like.  Many people are in relationships for the wrong reasons and at least from what they tell me in counseling, aren’t finding life any easier or less stressful because they have someone by their side.

However, I do believe that life can be easier if you find a great person to be with.  I have to admit I like the fact that my husband takes out the garbage and mows our lawn.  I used to hate having to do those things by myself.  It is nice to be able to ask him for help instead of doing everything myself.  The reason I decided to marry him is because, for the most part, he makes my life easier.  We get along and I like that we depend on each other.

A very important lesson I learned while I was single (No, I didn’t get married at age 24, I got married at age 36 so I had a lot of single years) was that I needed to find myself before I  could find Mr. Right.  I learned to deal with change, stress, owning a house, paying bills, mowing the lawn, fixing a leaking faucet, killing spiders, taking care of two cats, cooking my own meals, and taking care of my car all by myself.  That built a lot of character.  I would come home at night and not have anyone to share my crazy day with.  I would go to church by myself and spend some holidays alone.  If something broke, I had to fix it or find a plumber or electrician all by myself.  It wasn’t always easy, but I learned how capable I really am.  I know now that I don’t NEED my husband, I WANT to be with my husband.  If something tragic happened and he was taken from my life it would be devastating, but it wouldn’t be the end of my world.  I would be able to cope and be okay again on my own.

Relationships don’t usually fix problems, they create more problems.  I learned so much from watching other couples and going through my own bad relationships to know that having someone in my life didn’t necessarily make it better.  It really sucks to come home from work and expect to have someone to talk to, but they choose to ignore you or are too busy for you.  It feels a lot worse to have someone who isn’t really there for you then to not have someone at all.  At least I knew coming home that I only had my cats to talk to.  If I came home thinking I had support but then found out that person really didn’t care, to me, that hurts more.  Rejection is a little harder for me to take then loneliness.

I also have a lot of students who say that they miss having sex with someone on a regular basis.  They don’t want to sleep around when they aren’t in a relationship and miss the affection.  I agree, going without affection and sex for a long period of time can be painful.  It is hard to not have someone there to give you a hug or get naked with.  However, I go back to my counseling experience.   I know lots of people in relationships that are also going without regular sex and affection is non-existent.  If they are having sex it isn’t fulfilling, and I have a lot of people who complain that their partner only uses them for sex.

I guess my whole point is that a relationship may not give you what you want.  You can find ways to take care of your own needs and fulfill yourself outside of a committed relationship.  I think I am a lot closer to my friends and family because I had to rely on them more when I was single.  It forced me to be more humble and ask people for help because I didn’t have a boyfriend or husband to give me a ride to work if my car broke down.  I learned to explore my sexual self on my own and find what I really liked and didn’t like.  I didn’t find someone at age 15 and marry them 7 years later and only had that one person for my whole life.  I’ve gotten the chance to experience different kinds of relationships and realized that I can be resourceful when I’m not in a relationship.

You can learn to deal with change and stressful situations on your own.  You will become more resourceful and independent.  It can build confidence and self-assurance, which in the end attracts the kind of person who will be a great partner.  We all like to be taken care of, but what I have found from counseling hundreds of people is that most people have no idea how to take care of themselves.  I encourage you to learn how to take care of yourself.  Then it will be like having a cherry on top of your sundae when you do find someone to be with who will help you take care of you.

Blind Dates!!

Up until my mid-twenties most of my friends were single.  I loved that time of my life because I always had someone to talk to and hang out with.  We usually went out as a group and had a lot of fun.  Then around the same time, a lot of them started getting into serious relationships.  A few even got engaged and married within a year.  All of the sudden my social world shrank and I was feeling a little lonely.  My friends thought it would be fun to find me a husband as well.  They did their match making thing because wanted everyone else, including me to be as happy as them.  They would tell me about this PERFECT guy they wanted me to meet because we had like ONE thing in common.  I was not a fan of being set up on blind dates at this time.  I felt intimidated and pressured by the whole thing.  I can look back now and see that I was kind of rebellious against my friends setting me up because I really wasn’t ready to be married yet.  I sabotaged it from the beginning.  Needless to say, I didn’t find my perfect match by being set up on blind dates and continued to be single for a while.

It’s hard to be content as a single person when everyone around you is pushing you to find someone to be with.  I didn’t mind dating so much, it was just what it meant to other people around me.  I felt the pressure to not just date and have a good time, but to find a husband.  I guess this is why I resented being set up on blind dates.  When my friends abandoned me for marriage and having babies, I had to find other ways to have fun.  I finally came to the conclusion that dating didn’t equal marriage.  I decided I could just date to have fun.  I wasn’t ready to settle down, but that didn’t mean I had to sit home alone and do nothing until I was ready.

That is when I decided to try online dating.  This, to me, is another form of a blind date.  Usually people don’t look like the pictures they post or act like the people they portray in their bios.  So, it was always a crap shoot on who I would actually meet on the actual date.  However, this kind of blind dating I preferred because it was my own choice whether or not I wanted to meet the person.  I went through quite a few guys before meeting anyone worthy of a second date, but it was fun anyway.  I would get excited to start chatting with someone new online.  Then if they didn’t seem too crazy I would start texting them or talking to them on the phone.  I really didn’t mind if it didn’t work out because there were plenty more guys to find online.  If they passed the phone test, then I would actually meet them out in the real world.  Like I said, most of the time it didn’t work out, but then I would just move on to the next.

I think what made it so fun was taking the pressure off myself to find someone to marry.  I realized it can be fun to just go out and meet new people.  I didn’t have to be all methodical about waiting until I thought he was the “one” to go on the first date.  I didn’t need to be married by a certain age or have babies before I was 30, so I didn’t worry about a time line.  I would take breaks from going online and just hang out with my friends who by now wanted some time away from their husbands.  My friends stopped pressuring me and saw that I was happy being on my own.  They liked hearing my adventures in online dating and the stories about some of the crazier people I talked to.  I did eventually meet a really great guy and finally decided to get into a serious relationship.  I can confirm that blind dates can work out in the end.

However, the moral of the story is to just have fun.  Decide not to date if that is where you are at right now.  Go online or have your friends set you up if you are ready to make the leap into the dating world.  Make sure you are dating for the right reason…because it is what YOU want, not what everyone else wants.  Also, remember that a date does not have to equal marriage.  Your end goal may be to find someone to marry someday, but remember that you don’t have to wait to go on a date until you’ve confirmed that the person is definitely marriage material.  You can go out with different people and have fun in the process of finding Mr. or Mrs. Right.  Maybe you just want to meet someone to date a couple of times or have sex with before moving on to someone else.  Be confident about yourself, and remember dating is all just a process of learning what you do and don’t want in someone more permanent.  It’s all about possibilities.  So don’t hold yourself back and or lock yourself into one type of dating.  Be open to the blind date and see what happens next…

Glass Half Full

I have to admit I’m a glass half empty kind of girl.  I’m a speculator and a problem solver.  My natural instinct is to think of what could potentially go wrong and try to fix it.  It makes me good at my job.  I like to figure out why people do what they do and help them resolve problems in their lives.

In my personal life this can cause problems.  I seem to focus on what is missing or what is wrong with myself, in my life, and in my relationships.  Sometimes its helpful because I usually don’t avoid problems, I face them head on.  Sometimes its hurtful because I have a hard time relaxing and just appreciating what is good in my world and in others around me.  I have to really make myself focus on the positive because it doesn’t come naturally to me.  I’m never going to be that bubbly, happy, free spirited kind of person.  But I also don’t have to let my natural instincts take over all the time either.

I think its healthy to push ourselves at times to go outside what is normal for us.  I am not encouraging anyone to be someone they aren’t.  I’ve tried to do that as well and have found it causes exhaustion and depression.  However, I think its good to stretch our personalities and be a little more balanced in our lives.  I see the reason for needing to problem solve.  I don’t think because I’m more pessimistic I’m a bad person.  Or that optimists are better people.  I just think sometimes its good to explore the other side.  If you always see the glass half full and think positive thoughts, you may want to turn your head and see if there are any problems in your life that you are ignoring.  Some people never want to admit that there is anything wrong and that isn’t good either.

If I had to choose though, I think more people find it easier to see the negative in themselves and in others.  When I ask people in counseling to think of positive qualities about themselves most of them can come up with maybe one or two things.  The list of negatives comes quickly though.  We also tend to remember the negative comments people say to us and negative memories seem to stick in our brains a little easier.  Some people are convinced that they have bad luck as well and that it isn’t often that good things happen to them.

Today I want to encourage you to see the glass as half full.  If you are in a relationship, try to think of all the positive things about it and all the positive characteristics about your partner.  If you are single, try to think of all the positive things about yourself and positive things about being alone.  If you are going through a break-up, think about all the positive things your friends or family has done for you and the ways you can reach out to others in a positive way.

I think the easiest way to get out of our negativity is to focus on the positive in ourselves, our situation, and in others.  I know when I give to someone else I feel more positive about myself, my situation, and other people.  Performing an act of kindness or being generous is the quickest way for me to pour some positive energy into myself and others.  When you smile at someone else you make yourself and someone else feel a little better for a few seconds.  If you feel sad, down, or negative today, find one thing you can do for someone else to make their day a little brighter.  I think you will find you will have also made your own day a little brighter as well.  You don’t have to downplay or ignore your problems to put a little positive into your life.  If you only have enough energy for one smile for one person, then that is enough for today.  Hopefully someone else will do some act of kindness for you and then your day will be a little less painful.  What goes around, usually comes around.  My goal is to continue to be kind and positive so hopefully those things will come back to me when I need it most.

Dating is Torture!

I don’t even know where to start!  Just thinking about dating intimidates me.  What do I do if I meet someone I like?  What do I say?  How do I know if they will like me?  What if they think I’m crazy?  What do I do if I go on a date and don’t like them?

For someone who is introverted or somewhat shy, dating can be overwhelming.  A lot of people have expectations of dating which increase the anxiety.  Here are some common expectations people have.  I need to be in a relationship to be normal.  I need to find the perfect partner.  This date means forever.

First of all you don’t HAVE to fall in love or be in a relationship.  Many people choose to be single and live very fulfilling lives.  If you free yourself from the notion that you MUST be in relationship, some of the pressure around dating will decrease.  Don’t pressure yourself to date just to say you are in a relationship.  It is okay to wait until you meet someone who is really worth your time.  Just because you decide to date doesn’t mean you will meet anyone worthwhile right away.  Be okay with being single and you won’t have that desperate vibe coming off of you when you do actually meet a decent person.

It is also hard to date if you are looking for the “perfect” person.  There are people out there that may be easier for you to get along with, but no one is perfect.  If you such high expectations, you may be alone for a very long time.  Not that you have to settle, but anyone you plan to live with for more than 5 days is going to have some personality quirk that is going to bug you at some point.  What bugs the crap out of me, may not bug the crap out of my friend.  The goal is to find someone who bugs you the least.  So try to let go of finding the person who you think will never bother you or have a conflict with you.  It isn’t realistic.  By the way, you may also want to let go of trying to be the perfect person.  You don’t have to wait until your skinnier, smarter, funnier or wealthier to start dating.

Dating is about finding out what works for you and what doesn’t.  That is why it isn’t called marriage.  A date doesn’t mean forever.  Some people are so afraid of being hurt or hurting someone else that they avoid dating.  It’s too much pressure to imagine that the first person you date will be the best match for you.  Its like trying on clothes, you may have to try on a few before you find the one that fits the best.  You or the other person may decide after a few weeks or months that it isn’t going to work.  That is okay!  The whole point of dating is to get to know someone better.  It is possible that once you get to know someone you find out that you don’t really like them as much or vice versa.  It is a risk, but that is what life is about.  If this person doesn’t turn out to be Mr. or Mrs. Wonderful hopefully you had fun and learned something new about what you do or don’t want in a potential partner.

To meet people you have to make yourself available.  If you are an introvert you are probably most comfortable in your own environment and have your few close friends.  This doesn’t make it easy to meet new people.  You will have to push yourself to go outside your comfort zone.  I’ve had people ask me why it is so hard to meet a nice person.  I usually respond that a lot of great people are sitting at home on Friday night like they are so they never run into each other.  A lot of people don’t want to meet someone in a bar.  There are other ways to meet new people.  You can join a student organization that interests you or participate in intramural sports.  You can also find a group of people off campus who like to do the same things as you do.  Examples are running clubs, book clubs, bowling leagues, volunteering for a charity you like, or find a spiritual or religious group to connect to.  The possibilities are endless depending on your interests.

You also have to have an open attitude.  You have to be open to having fun, learning new things, and maybe being disappointed.  If you are willing to face that fear of possibly being rejected, then you will be open to finding love.  Be aware that having a positive attitude and showing your attraction to someone is attractive.  A lot of people have reported to me that they were initially attracted to their mate because he or she smiled at them and showed an interest.  People take it as a compliment that you show interest and that may be what gets you that first date.   As an introvert, I’m more conscious of what others are thinking about me.  In order to date I had to take the focus off of me and just try to reach out to people I wanted to get to know better .  I’m usually not an initiator but I decided if I wanted to date I would have to initiate even when I felt really nervous.  The real key was being open to rejection and being disappointed.  Once I got through that it made things a little easier.

It is okay if you aren’t ready or wanting to date.  Like I said earlier, you don’t have to be in a relationship to be normal and have a social life.  However, if you are just letting fear hold you back, I challenge you to try something new and see what happens.  Good luck!!