One of the truest clichés when it comes to love is: "You can't love anyone else if you don't love yourself first."
People used to say this to me all the time, and I always rolled my eyeballs in response. Until I realized that those people were indeed right.
In my life when I have felt the worst, I have often ended up across a table or in the arms of someone who didn't really love me — or himself most of the times. And then when I found someone who loved me and it started to fall apart, I felt like a failure. When we finally separated, I felt very vulnerable. I couldn't imagine getting hurt again, but I wanted to date and have fun. Thankfully, I wised up after a few bizarre online dating bouts because I wasn't ready and needed to get to know myself after marriage — the postdivorce Laura. I took time to "fall in love" and "date myself," and the end result is happiness.
What does it take to date yourself? The same ingredients it takes to date another person: develop a physical connection, learn about each other through hobbies and other discoveries, and take time to reflect — is this person right for me?
And what does it take to fall in love with yourself after a divorce? You need to find that same chemical makeup that Cupid hits us with when we meet "the one": see the positive in another, have fun together, and reaffirm that love with each other. All of this applies to you: the woman (yourself) you should date after divorce, before you snag a new beau.
Develop a Physical Connection
Exercise makes you feel good. It doesn't matter if it's doing more yoga or trying out a dance class. Do something that will relieve stress, get you in tune with your body, and release feel-good hormones in your body — much like the ones you feel when you fall in love.
As my marriage started to crumble, I added running both on a treadmill and outdoors to my exercise routine, and ever since, it's my favorite part of the week. It fine-tuned my body, so I feel good about me, and it gives me a place to think up creative ideas and shut out my everyday worries. Even better? Some of my best life solutions came while running — even though I was supposed to be forgetting my cares. I "ran off" the necessary emotional weight of my divorce.
Learn About You
Did your ex always make you watch football on Sundays? Would you have stayed with the NFL or gone to a pottery class if you had the chance? Take inventory on what you like to do again. You don't need to keep your "married" habits. When people ask you to try something new, say yes. If there's something you're curious about and dad has the kids for the day, go discover it, or if you can, bring the kids along!
In my discoveries, I have learned I prefer to read rather than watch any television at night — not that we ever watched a ton. I'm also looking into yoga and trumpet lessons. Take time to discover who you were — who you are now — and where you want to go. I saw that I was negative, and I wanted to stop it, so I chose to stop feeling sorry for myself and start having fun!
Take Time to Reflect
When you first meet a potential mate, you spend time thinking: Do I like that he's not a great speller? (OK, grammar is key for me. Mea culpa.) Do I like his current lifestyle? Do I see us happy together at age 80?
Do you like the woman you are today? Are you happy with your job, your living situation, your friends, and your parenting? Take time to think and not be distracted by everyday nonsense. Ask yourself if something or someone is working for you. I had a friend recently who kept upsetting me. I decided to limit my interactions with the person because I felt I didn't need to walk away from a conversation feeling like crap. That's not healthy.
Shut off the smartphone. Put off the dating. Sit with yourself. Do you like who you've become?
See the Positive in You
I was always the first person to pick out my flaws. Since falling in love with myself, I've tried to focus on things I do well, daily.
First, I tackled my anxiety; instead of obsessing about my daily screwups, I think about said "screwup." Was it truly a bad screwup that needs remedying, or is it a nonissue that I'm blowing out of proportion or being too hard on myself about? Then I choose how to handle it: let it go if it's a nonissue, or find a solution if it's a real problem. I allow myself to feel like crap for a few hours or maybe a day if it's a big issue, but then I put on my happy face and move forward.
When I do something wonderful, I celebrate myself. I used to hear that complimenting my achievements meant I was not being humble. Now I rejoice and cherish the small moments that make me feel good. A compliment at work. A good parenting day in which I'm patient and calm all day despite any tantrums. A great hair day!
I find the good in who I am and work on my weaknesses without pummeling my self-esteem to bits. If you had a partner, wouldn't you find the good in that person too?
Have Fun With Yourself
Do things that make you feel good. If that's telling fart jokes all day, do it — just don't get fired at work. Pay attention to what makes you smile and include those people, things, hobbies, etc. in your life. Make time for something that makes you happy every day, even if it's only 10 minutes a day. You wouldn't date someone who was dull as dishwater to be around, would you? Having a boring time with someone doesn't equal a love connection.
Reaffirm Your Love For You
You're going to have bad days in which you feel yucky. It's OK. We all have bad days. I have days in which anxiety rears its ugly head, but I get back on the horse. Let the bad day pass and be gentle on yourself. When you love someone, aren't you supposed to be kind and forgiving? Do the same for you.
My New Girlfriend: Me
At the end of the day, I like myself. There are times when I falter back to the "old Laura" ways, but I'm moving right along. And in loving myself, I'm giving off a positive energy to the right kind of people and men — not all kinds of "mister wrongs."
The other day an old friend saw me, and he said to me, "Wow. I haven't seen you since the Summer, but man, you're glowing."
And that glow was courtesy of happiness, not Maybelline.