It’s nearing the end of January and if you’re anything like me, you’re still processing 2021 (or let’s be real – 2020).
If I was to draw a pie chart of the last year, at least 25% of it would belong to a category I’ve decided to call “growing pains of epic proportions.” Last year was incredibly challenging, but I’ve learned some important things, especially when it comes to dating and relationships.
While I’ve always considered the overarching theme of this column to be “the blind leading the blind,” I feel like it would be selfish not to share a few hard-earned nuggets of wisdom that I’ve collected over the last 12 and a half months.
If you’re hoping to have a happier relationship with yourself and others in 2022, here are a few things worth considering.
- Even if you don’t think you need therapy, go to therapy.
Last Fall marked my return to therapy after a years-long hiatus. Over the course of the pandemic, I’ve undergone major surgery, lost a beloved uncle to cancer, and watched powerless as my father slipped deeper into dementia (among other things!) I didn’t know how or what to mourn first. Not only did speaking to a therapist help me process my grief, it also gave me some valuable insight into other areas, including my dating life. Namely, my insecurities around rejection that stem from childhood. The lesson here: small tweaks in how you think about a particular area of your life can lead to profound shifts. Go to therapy. Even if you don’t think you need it.
- Have all the uncomfortable conversations.
When there’s uncertainty in my relationships, it gives me anxiety. In lieu of staying in the dark, I’ve learned that I’d much rather have honest, open, potentially uncomfortable conversations with the people I date, even if it leads to rejection. Does rejection sting? Yes, sometimes. But the momentary discomfort far outweighs the long-term anxiety of always wondering where you stand with someone. If you want to know what someone else is thinking, ask. If something isn’t working for you, tell them. Be straightforward and honest with the people in your life.
- People grow. Stay open minded.
There’s the old saying, “a leopard cannot change its spots.” Following years of getting hurt by people I’d given one too many chances, I worshiped at the altar of the “people never change,” church. It’s only recently that I realized how limiting this belief is.
While I don’t think we can fundamentally change who we are as human beings, we’re all capable of personal growth. The past two years have pushed and pulled us in unimaginable ways. I like to think that most of us have evolved as a result. I’m not suggesting you run back to your ex who treated you poorly time and time again (please, don’t do that), just that you be open to the possibility that some people may still surprise you.
- Learn to make yourself happy.
As women, especially, we’re taught to put everyone’s needs and feelings above our own. When I dated in the past, I’d spend an inordinate amount of time considering the following:
“I wonder what they’re thinking?”
“I wonder what they want from me?”
“Do they like me?”
It wasn’t until recently, when my therapist asked me, “but do you like them? What do you really want?” that something clicked.
If you find yourself stuck in an endless loop of seeking approval from others, I encourage you to ask yourself: what’s the one thing I can do right now to make myself happy? Maybe it’s watching your favourite show, eating a delicious croissant, listening to music you love or simply taking a nap. Do that thing.
While it may seem scary at first, booking that therapy appointment, having that difficult conversation and choosing to put your own happiness first, is a radical act of self-love. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.