How to Find Love Part 1
In my appearance on Houston Life, I spoke with a group of people in various stages of finding love. Whether you’ve never been married, have gone through a nasty divorce, have kids, or are presently in any number of different circumstances – you can find love. Many people feel terror at the very thought of putting themselves out there – especially if you’ve had your heart shattered in the past. As Charlotte Anderson notes in her article with Oprah Magazine, ending long term relationships like marriage will make you re-think everything you thought you knew about love. Setting your heart on the chopping block again and again will take its toll on anybody. But you’re not alone; not in the slightest.
I try to teach my clients that a vital key is learning to open their heart again. There’s truth behind that age-old cliché of “putting yourself out there,” and it’s also true this requires a remarkable sum of courage. But in order to build up that courage, you need a tangible idea of who you are at this point in your life. This means having a good idea of what you’re interested in, what kind of values you hold dear, and expectations of romantic relationships. All of this is to ensure that, when you step out into the world of dating, you have the strength and sense of self to walk away when things aren’t working out.
Starting is the Hardest Part
I know this sounds like a simple idea – but as with anything, starting is the hardest part. When clients visit my practice, I tell them all the time: you have to take that step forward. You can attend all the therapy sessions in the world, you can visit the monk at the top of the mountain, but if you don’t start implementing some new behaviors nothing will change. I’m reminded of the old adage “insanity is doing the same things over and over again while expecting different results.” The love of your life isn’t going to land on your doorstep like an overnight Amazon package; you have to work for it.
Many people fear taking that first step because they feel they’ve acquired “baggage.” But I don’t like that word “baggage.” It bears such a negative connotation that it can scare us into forever solitude. It’s easy to look at our past relationships and see only the negativity they brought. But instead, I encourage clients to reframe them as the best kind of teacher: experience.
Take Time to Reflect
One of the best ways to protect, yet nurture, a healing heart is to take some time to reflect after going on dates. If you do have a bad date, take some time to think and determine why you didn’t have a good time. Were there red flags that set you off? Perhaps they were rude to the wait staff. Or did something from your own past get triggered that you unfairly have appropriated to your date? This self-reflection will help you narrow down the character and values you’re looking for in a partner as well as help you identify what still needs attention within yourself. Maybe you’re looking for spontaneity in a partner, or perhaps you need someone who’s excited about a movie night with your kids. Invite your past experiences, your new values, and your interests and let them guide toward your special someone.