I don’t regret my journey. But I won’t romanticize it either. I spent my life earning degrees and positioning myself as a successful, independent career woman. It was tough, lonely and, at times, demoralizing.
My education and career provided me with plenty of skills applicable to establishing successful relationships: the ability to think critically, communicate effectively, and remain committed through challenges. I, however, yearned for companionship long before I found it. Like many people, I faced fear, insecurities, sadness, and frustration in regards to my status as a single woman—seemingly the only 30-something single person in the world. Even worse, there was a lot to finding a partner that was simply out of my control; and people were quick to offer empty clichés such as “It will happen when you least expect it,” “It will happen when you’re ready,” and “You just need to put yourself out there.” Despite these frustrating feelings and experiences, though, I did have some agency.
Here are five practical and empowering steps you can take that will pay homage to your singlehood while preparing you for your next romantic journey.
1. Start Therapy With A Marriage & Family Therapist
Yes, as a single woman, I began therapy with a Marriage & Family Therapist. This allowed me to work through a number of issues that were currently affecting my happiness and which might also interfere with a relationship—my over-commitment to my job, for example. My therapist helped me translate my desires into actions that weren’t dependent on a serendipitous moment with a stranger in the Starbuck’s line.
2. Do A Boudoir Photo Shoot
Women usually do this for significant others. But, for me, it was an opportunity to get more in touch with my sexuality, to feel desirable in a way that wasn’t dependent on others’ perceptions of me. I found an amazing photographer, Caitlyn Bom, and she produced some of the only photos of me that I’ve ever appreciated. The month that I spent preparing for the session also meant dedicating a lot of time to something that was just about me. I experimented with how my body looked in a variety of lingerie and clothing, explored poses that helped me better understand my physical assets, and financially invested in feeling good about myself.
3. Get Some New Friends
I managed to find two other single people in the world. They were down for activities like grocery shopping together at 10: 30 p.m. on Thursday night. But more importantly, they helped me further process the issues I discussed with my therapist. In other words, I was working through issues with a variety of people in a variety of settings. These two friends inspired me to go way outside of my comfort zone, which meant exploring my love of the arts again. Because of their influence, I recently signed up for a course in improve comedy. I’m terrified—in a good way (I think).
4. Write About Relationships
Writing about relationships, and even publishing one of these pieces on Thought Catalog, allowed me to realize that I knew more about relationships than I felt like I knew. While the choices I made may have meant that I was less experienced in relationships than other people my age, in some ways, those more experienced people didn’t have love and dating figured out any more than I did. I did, in fact, have valuable knowledge about relationships, knowledge worth sharing whether or not I was “attached” at the moment.
This came in various forms, the previous four items in this list being some of them. But I also joined an online dating site, not really to find love but to become a better conversationalist with a variety of people. In this way, I practiced low-stakes involvement. As a matter of fact, it was the mantra, “It’s just practice” that allowed me to take risks, to not be so self-conscious about what I was going to do to scare away the next potential love interest and, instead, to gain valuable learning experiences.