5 Great Pieces of Dating Wisdom to Steal for Your Self-Relationship
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Every woman I know and love has a least a few favorite pearls of dating and relationship wisdom she’s accrued over the years, whether from her own (mis)adventures and those of her closest friends, or from listening acutely to the advice of wise-seeming strangers on the internet — or probably more likely, some combination of all three.
And if there’s one thing I love in this world, it’s friends sharing wisdom and stories — which is exactly why I posed this same question on Instagram earlier this week: to extract the wisdom!
Frankly I’d prefer to have these conversations over wine and snacks, but I’ll take what I can get.
The comment section of that post did not disappoint. People generously shared their own hard-won lessons, wise words they’d borrowed from others, and lessons they’re still putting to practice today.
There’s a reason we’ve all amassed this wisdom about love and dating: because somewhere along the way, we decided a happy relationship was a goal worth striving for.
We had help arriving at that conclusion, on course; if you’re anything like me, a lifetime’s worth of women’s magazine covers, rom coms, and Sex and the City reruns have hammered home the idea that a happy partnership is the ultimate prize.
But rather than thinking of good dating advice as a means to the ultimate end (specifically, your personal brand of Happily Ever After with another human) ...what if it had an even more powerful use?
When you think about all your past relationships — the breezy ones, the blissful ones, the ones that tested you, the ones that broke you, the ones that lasted and the ones that didn’t — there is one constant, and one alone: YOU.
And while we’re all busy looking for ways to create value and find comfort in things outside of ourselves, the truth is this:
The relationship you create with yourself is the bedrock on which you’ll build every single relationship you’ll ever be in. It’s also the raft on which you’ll travel through life (mixing metaphors? why not) and the only security blanket you’re guaranteed to always have within reach when life gets messy and hard.
So, why not make it a good one? An incredible one, even?
Strong, vibrant relationships with others have to start with a rich, sturdy relationship with yourself — one you commit to building over a lifetime.
So where do you start?
As it turns out, the best relationship wisdom I’ve hoarded over the years is also full of beautiful lessons about how to build that same sense of connection and compassion with ourselves.
Below are five pieces of dating and relationship wisdom to steal and use as you begin building a rich, solid relationship with yourself that will support you for a lifetime. While many of these were intended for the intimate relationships in our lives with others, they have a lot to teach us about how to love ourselves well, too.
5 Great Pieces of Dating Advice to Adopt in Your Relationship with Yourself
1. Be open-minded and open-hearted, as you get to know them in detail.
In love and dating, there’s something fresh and exciting about hearing someone’s stories for the first time, and discovering what you’ll later learn are their signature details — the things that make them them. So what is it that makes you you? What might you see if you were an infatuated outsider, meeting and seeing you for the first time?
In other words, if you were to approach your relationship with yourself with a sense of wonder and curiosity, what might you discover?
This is the part where my love of self-discovery tools and assessments announces itself loudly, but I love it for a reason. There’s something so fun and illuminating about seeing yourself from a new angle, or learning something new about yourself for the first time. You can almost feel that little lightbulb over your head flick on, and start glowing.
2. Show them you care through gestures that surprise and delight; the more specific-to-them details you can incorporate, the better.
In relationships, this is what makes the difference between a giving a gift that feels perfectly tailored to them, and one that feels ‘fine’ or generic. It’s the difference between a “hope tomorrow is better!” text after they had a rough day, vs. showing up at their house with their favorite takeout in hand. It’s how we show the people we care about that we see them — the real, whole them — and that we care enough to pay attention to the details of who they are, what they love, and what they might need.
How might you show yourself that same level of care and attention? Just like in relationships with others, the act of noticing is paramount here. Pay attention to what specifically makes you feel great, what has successfully eased you out of a funk in the past, and what feels soothing to you.
What brings you to life?
Maybe it’s a walk around your neighborhood, or giving yourself a fresh at-home manicure, or even calling a friend who always makes you laugh. It could be something small like keeping a stash of your favorite breakfast food on hand to help you start your day off right, or something more bold like making plans twice a year to see your best friend who lives far away.
You might consider keeping a list of these go-to things in your journal, and adding to it as you notice new ones. (You can also scratch off old ones that no longer apply, too — that’s allowed.) And then, don’t forget to return to the list and use them in moments when it counts.
3. Be reliable! Make the time, and show up when you said you would.
While canceled plans can be great, getting flaked on never fails to hurt my feelings. It’s why I make it a priority to stick to my commitments with the people I care about, barring an actual emergency. And while upholding my promises to others is a commitment I’m comfortable making, it can be weirdly difficult to show ourselves the same level of devotion.
There’s something about a promise to ourselves that feels inherently more wishy-washy. When weeks get busy and schedules get full, our self-care activities are often the first things to go. Where might you be sacrificing your commitment to yourself?
If your Wednesday night yoga is a source of serious joy for you, treat it like an appointment you can’t cancel! Same goes for the Book Club meetings with your favorite friends, your acupuncture appointments that inexplicably cure your allergies, and/or your Monday-night couch dates with Colton and his shrinking pool of contenders. (Though, can we just agree The Bachelorette > The Bachelor?)
Point being: just like you take your commitments to your friends and loved ones seriously, take some time to consider how you might do the same for yourself.
4. Give the gift of uninterrupted focus and attention, often.
I’m sure my Love Languages are a factor here, but few things irk me more than trying to have a conversation with someone who can’t tear themselves their eyes from their phone, or their computer screen. (Love Language-wise, I’m a tie between Words of Affirmation and Quality Time, you?)
There’s something special about knowing you have someone’s full attention when you have something important to say. And while we’re not often in literal conversations with ourselves, there are ways to make sure we’re giving ourselves the same level of focus we so readily give to the people we care about when they need it.
Keep an eye out for ways you might be figuratively keeping one eye on the TV screen during just-for-you time. Are you constantly checking your phone and responding to your parent/partner/friend while you’re journaling? Does checking your work email regularly eat into your evening reading or relaxation time? Notice the ways in which you may be giving yourself just a fraction of the attention and focus you deserve, and think about how you might clear away some of those distractions during dedicated you-time or -activities.
5. Give them space to evolve, and be who they are.
We’ve all heard “The only constant in life is change” — and the wise among us have reminded us that the humans in our lives are no exception. It’s true that change can feel like a betrayal or an unwelcome surprise in an intimate relationship with someone else, irrational as that may be... and yet, growth and change over time are inevitable. We know this. And since no one likes to be put in a box or told who they should be, it seems prudent to find ways to welcome and embrace change in our relationships, rather than resent it.
It’s worthwhile to find ways to approach our relationships with others with a sense of curiosity, rather than try to control them as they change over time. In the same way, we have to acknowledge that we, too, are moving targets!
How might you be putting yourself in a box, based on things you knew about yourself years ago that may no longer be true? Might you be holding yourself back from opportunities to grow and experience joy, based on certain outdated ideas of who you are?
I’ll give you an example: in my early 20’s I was totally maxed-out, stress wise. I was in an emotionally taxing relationship that constantly left me feeling like the rug had been pulled out from under me. Emotional stability was lacking — so, I overcompensated in other areas of my life by adding extra layers of structure and rigidity to the things I could control, to create those feelings of stability I wasn’t getting in my relationship. The more I did this, the more I started seeing myself as someone who needs tons of structure and rigidity in my work and life to feel my best. But now that my circumstances look different and MUCH more balanced, I’ve learned that I’m actually happiest straddling the line between structure and flexibility.
Now, I’d love to hear from you:
What’s your all-time favorite piece of dating or relationship wisdom? And, is there a way to apply it to your relationship with yourself?