What I Learned After Five Years On The Dating Scene

Romantic Young Couple at Restaurant

Trying too hard with love, forcing yourself and someone else to feel a certain way, or willing emotions to advance too quickly, will leave you feeling nervous, exhausted, strung out, and defeated.

After my 10 year relationship ended, 10 years too long and a lot of angst culminating to the anti-climactic ending, I slowly began dating. I was not ready to be emotional entrenched with someone new; however, this realization didn’t quench my desire. I thirsted to find love in another. And therein began my five-year saga on the dating scene.

I watched from afar while my best friends fell in love, flaunted sparkling diamonds, bought gorgeous gowns, and painstakingly planned every detail of their “big day.” “Why couldn’t I find a love like that?” I asked myself as I purchased my sixth bridesmaid dress, this time in lavender. Another ugly dress to be worn one night, and one night only. All these frocks were destined for a life of dust collection; soon-to-be secondhand store merchandise where they’d likely be purchased as Halloween costumes.

Of course I was elated for my friends’ obvious good fortune; however, I was simultaneously in despair over my own ill-fate with love. My supposed inability to land a good guy of my own easily transitioned to second guessing everything about myself from my appearance, to my personality, to my choice in Facebook profile pictures.

My impatient quest for love included embarrassing words like coercing, manipulating, forcing, controlling, and dramatizing. I endured many years of unnecessary heartache while trying to work for a love that was not yet meant for me. I became more obsessed with the idea of a relationship than I was with any person themselves. Essentially, my ego was in complete control.

I would go out with guys and immediately become fearful. I didn’t want to show my weaknesses, for fear of rejection. Fearful that I wasn’t pretty enough; fearful that I would get hurt; fearful that maybe I wasn’t acting “normal”; fearful of letting them into my heart only to be later rejected when they discovered the “real” me; fearful they would lose interest; fearful of not knowing where things would go between us; fearful that maybe they wouldn’t feel the same way; fearful that maybe they would feel the same way; fearful that we didn’t value the same things; fearful that I was along for a ride down a dead end road; and ultimately, I was fearful I would lose control of the situation, and myself within it.

I lacked patience. I would rush things, taking matters into my own hands, demanding attention and affection from someone who effectively owed me nothing at all. I proposed unrealistic ultimatums in an effort to control. I would respond irrationally when I felt betrayed or disrespected. I was quick to react rather than approach the situation from a place of love, honesty, and mutual understanding.

I would push for relationships with guys I instinctively knew were completely wrong for me, and then be shocked, appalled, and heartbroken when it all came crashing down. Like drugs, I was addicted to the come and go of their love. I subconsciously knew where to find these guys. I attracted them. But I wasn’t actually attracted to them. What I really wanted more than anything was the dysfunction and the drama. And let’s be honest, I wanted to get high.

Conversely, when I would meet a well-mannered, kind man I would become instantly allergic. I was suffocated by their perceived “niceness.” “He’s just too nice,” I would say. “I would walk all over him.” I would play the relationship out for the need of affection and then easily throw them back into the pond.

Because I wasn’t able to really love myself, I could not accept the love from another. Being confronted with real intimacy and love was far too much for my insecure, loveless self to handle. Those nice guys were actually the “bad boys”, or the dangerous ones. They showed me real love, when all I wanted was to be emotionally abused.

I endured trials and tribulations that included tears, heartache, cheating, lying, awful dates, decreased self-esteem, waiting for texts or calls that would never come, lonely nights, and a weakened spirit. All this negativity and self-centered loathing focused on forcing love distracted me from becoming my best self. None of it served me, and it drained me of my self-confidence.

My desire to be loved acted only as a disease for attracting true love into my life. I only attracted into my world men who were as emotionally wounded as I. The only antidote for all this trouble was self-love.

A relationship will not cure your emotional wounds. Until you’ve achieved self-love, you’ll continue to search for “the one” while simultaneously sabotaging everything you find.

After years of heartache, I finally forgave myself. I chose patience instead of persistence and quality over quantity. I chose not to complain or doubt, but instead to stand alone as a quiet, calm, humble, positive light—a light for others to follow. Through prayer, self-reflection, and meditation I came to recognize, and wholeheartedly believe in a unique plan for my life. I believed in a love story so pure and unique it would be brought to me in perfect completion and in absolute perfect timing. I surrendered to the unknown and chose to stay focused, obedient, and persistent with developing myself.

I carefully chose positive friendships and surrounded myself with people who saw my greatness and frequently reminded me of it. I chose to take a mindful approach to thoughts of love and relationships—not beating myself up or forcing myself into dates or situations my heart wasn’t excited about. It wasn’t until I became madly in love with myself and my life, just as it was, that I found love in another.

In Marianne Williamson’s book, A Return to Love, she writes, “When you are whole, you’ll find your equivalent. If not, you’ll continue to find men that believe you have what they don’t. And you’ll believe the same about them. You’ll both steal those parts of one another until one or both of you determine that there’s nothing left to take and wander off. In a healthy relationship, you’ll see each other’s flaws and weaknesses, but forgive each other immediately. Each of your naked weaknesses help your partner grow, as do yours with his. You are free. Don’t go seeking love until you’ve found it in yourself. Without self-love, you’ll just be perpetuating an ugly cycle of self-hatred and a lack of self-esteem.”

Trying too hard with love, forcing yourself and someone else to feel a certain way, or willing emotions to advance too quickly, will leave you feeling nervous, exhausted, strung out, and defeated. Take it slow. Journeying through the confusing world of singlehood will build your character and connect you deeper with your soul. Enjoy the experience—the good, the bad, the ugly, and the awkward.

Know that you are a great catch, with so much to offer—overflowing with love to give and share. Know that you are a confident, accomplished being. Remind yourself daily and truly believe in the amazing qualities you possess. Let yourself feel all the fear, excitement, and nerves while speaking gentle, positive affirmations and praises in your mind. Let go of the idea of pushing things forward and simply enjoy the experience for what it is. Be present and allow the story to unfold.

To love, simply be lovable.

Brittney is a recovered worrier, writer, travel addict, spirituality seeker, and self-discovery expert. After spending 6 years in a perpetual state of worry, she overcame her emotional angst through self-designed tools and world travel. She has since traveled to over 25 different countries, relocated to Amsterdam, Netherlands, and is determined to help guide other individuals on an inner journey toward their own healed perceptions – living lives of adventure, in the face of fear. Please visit her at brittneyvanmatre.com to learn more. www.facebook.com/brittneyvanmatre and Twitter: brasstackslovin.

This originally appeared on The Manifest Station. Republished here with permission.

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