It’s so important to work on yourself before jumping into a new relationship.
It can be tempting to run from one person’s arms and straight into another’s (been there, done that!), but it’s not fair on you or the person you’re spending time with.
But, why should you bother working on yourself before a new relationship?
Well, if you don’t take the time to work through the loss and hurt from your past relationship, the issues will only surface later down the line. This can be extremely painful and lead to a vicious spiral that is hard to escape from. Before you know it, you will be in yet another new relationship and going through the exact same pattern that led the last one to break down.
It’s easier said than done, though.
I spent my whole life going from long-term relationship to long-term relationship, without giving myself any chance to breathe in between. I never exactly planned to fall in love again, I just kept getting scooped up by the first person that had a bit of oomph about them, and I was scared of dealing with my issues on my own.
When I finally took some time to be intentionally single and work on myself, I became a drastically happier person. It also meant that I was ready for ‘the right one’ to come along, and I was able to build a healthy and lasting relationship with my now-husband.
So, from a girl that finally did the pre-relationship work that was sorely needed, here are 10 ways to work on yourself before disappearing into the sunset with your next love interest.
10 ways to work on yourself for a relationship
1. Take time to be single
You’re going to need to take some time to be single.
And no, I don’t mean the type of single when you’re going on tinder dates every weekend or constantly on the lookout for a casual fling. I mean the kind of single when you start saying ‘no thanks, I’m not looking for anything right now,’ even when that gorgeous person that you’ve always had a crush on asks you out on a date.
It can be helpful to set yourself a time frame to be by yourself, such as 6 months, or even a year if you’re feeling brave!
You can always reduce the time frame if you feel ready to come back to the world of romance sooner, but creating the intention can make it easier to set boundaries when temptation knocks on your door.
2. Acknowledge the pain within you
Once you start taking some time out to be single, you’re not going to have so many distractions from any pain that you might be feeling. It can be challenging to make space for those difficult emotions as they arise, but they aren’t going to go anywhere until you acknowledge them.
If you do feel lonely or upset sometimes, it doesn’t mean that it’s time to get a new romantic partner. It’s much better to be with someone because you have an excess of love that you would like to offer them than because you want them to love you enough to cover the pain.
In other words, it’s healthier to choose a life partner because you really respect and appreciate them, not because you need a human bandaid!
3. Don’t reject the ugly feelings
You need to learn to accept your complex emotions and understand that your feelings are separate from you. Instead of thinking ‘I’M LONELY’, it can help say something to yourself like, ‘Hi Loneliness, I can see that you are there, and that’s OK.’
You might feel a bit silly at first, but the shift in attitude can be so transformative.
All of a sudden, a new relationship isn’t the ‘solution’ to your problems. This makes the process of finding a suitable partner a lot less pressured for both of you.
4. Take some responsibility for your previous relationship
A breakup is never 100% one person’s fault. As much as you want to hate your ex’s guts, you will probably find it more helpful to take responsibility for any role you played in the breakdown of your previous relationship.
You could take a pen and paper and make a list of how your behavior contributed to the breakdown. The aim is absolutely not to beat yourself up or start dividing up blame, but just to have some self-awareness and remember that no human being is perfect.
Recognizing the part you played can help you to develop emotional maturity that will allow your next relationship to thrive.
5. Get a handle on your jealousy
We all experience jealousy sometimes, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. But if you want to give your next relationship a chance, then it’s something you need to work through.
It can be helpful to get to the root of your jealousy because it normally comes from feelings of inadequacy. What is it about yourself that you don’t like? Can you trace where these self-doubts come from?
Once you understand your jealousy, you are in a better position to let it go. Besides, if you don’t feel secure with your partner, it’s going to a pretty miserable relationship anyway.
6. Drop the facade and learn to accept yourself completely
We all wear masks to some extent.
We want other people to approve of us, especially when we have romantic feelings for them. But if you enter a relationship pretending to be somebody that you aren’t, you are only setting yourself up for bitterness and disappointment later down the line. Learning to be yourself isn’t easy, especially if we’ve been trying to survive behind a facade for a long time.
But what’s the point of being with someone who doesn’t even know who we really are?
If your partner only loves the fake version of yourself that you are projecting, you’ll continue feeling lonely with someone by your side.
7. Learn to communicate
Communication is an essential element of any relationship, so this is such an important stage to work on!
Most people (myself included) can’t even see how violent their communication style might be. It wasn’t until I started watching videos and reading books about non-violent and compassionate communication that I realized how important the way you speak really is.
If you want to learn more about compassionate communication (and I hope you do!), you can start with these books:
- Nonviolent Communication: A Language of Life.
- Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When Stakes Are High.
- Being Genuine: Stop Being Nice, Start Being Real.
8. Work out what you really want
Before accepting the first person that walks into your life, you need to know what you are really looking for. This doesn’t apply just to your relationships, but your life direction in general.
Having mutually exclusive goals is a breeding ground for bitterness, so it’s important to know your ‘red lines’ in life.
For example, if you’re desperate for children, it’s not a good idea to get into a relationship with someone who categorically doesn’t want any. (And vice versa!)
Take the time to work out what you really want from life. Of course, you can change your mind later, but it’s unfair to get into a relationship with somebody that doesn’t want the same things as you and then expect them to be the one to change.
9. Build your self esteem
“We accept the love we think we deserve.”
I wish I could take credit for that quote, but I watched it in the movie ‘The Perks Of Being A Wall Flower’ after my last breakup. (I was crying my eyes out and eating chocolate in my pajamas, which of course, is another crucial stage of healing!)
That quote is spot on, though. If you don’t work on your self-esteem, you will attract people into your life who put you down. This leads to a vicious cycle, where you feel like you deserve toxic and hurtful relationships and then keep attracting more of them!
If you don’t know where to start, take a look in the mirror every morning and say out loud 10 things you love about yourself. (It’s going to be super hard at first, but it soon becomes more natural.)
10. Become your own savior
You have to stop waiting for someone else to save you. Nobody can make you love yourself, and nobody can make you truly happy if you aren’t prepared to work through the things about yourself that you are struggling with.
If you don’t take responsibility for your well-being, you are doing yourself a great disservice.
Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to go through anything alone. It is helpful to talk to friends, family, and professional therapists throughout the process. But when we stop waiting for someone to come along and make everything magically better, we can roll up our sleeves and start doing the hard work for ourselves.
11. One Last Thing…
Just to confuse matters even more, there’s something else I have to tell you!
Sometimes in this weird and wonderful life, you do just have to follow your heart and jump in head first, even if you haven’t done all the work on yourself that you’ve planned.
We can’t know what’s waiting around the corner, and you don’t have to throw away a potential relationship just because you haven’t made it through this ten-point list! But if you do take the time to work on yourself now, you’ll have a better chance at a happy and healthy relationship when the time is right.
Taking the time to work on myself before my next relationship was the best thing that I could have done.
It was hard at first, and I was hit by waves of panic for the first few months. Family and friends kept asking when I would get another boyfriend, and I so missed having someone to lean on.
But by purposefully (and politely) saying no every time someone made an advance, I realized that I could survive perfectly well on my own. And when I stopped looking for someone else to save me, I was finally able to build a lasting relationship built on respect and trust instead of insecurity and fear.