After spending four years in an incredibly high conflict divorce, one would think I would be leery of ever uttering the words, “I do” again. Last month, I stood in front of my fiancé, our families and a minister and I got married. I go forth with confidence in my new marriage and my decision, because I approached marriage much differently this time and I hold an abundance of self-awareness.
My advice to those who are newly divorced and thinking about entering the dating world: The most important piece of advice that I have is to love yourself before you try to gain the love of others. The feelings that come with being in love are addicting. The highs of being in love allow you to forget the day-to-day feelings of insecurity, angst and self-doubt that many women struggle with. I encourage you to feelthose feelings instead of pushing them deep down inside because eventually, and when you least expect it, they will rise to the surface once again.
Once you’ve felt the uncomfortable feelings and have acknowledged them, I encourage you to work on them. A garden doesn’t grow without nourishment and you can’t grow as a person without nurturing and caring for yourself. Dig deep to understand your feelings and work through them with tender loving care. Emotional wounds are wounds even though you cannot see them. Find ways to work on these emotions whether it is through journaling, therapy or long walks on the beach.
If you discover something that you don’t like about yourself then by all means, fix it! You can fix yourself but you can’t fix anyone else. Forget the craft store, become your own do-it-yourself project! Hold yourself accountable with goals and rewards. Be easy on yourself because change doesn’t happen overnight.
Take yourself on a whirlwind courtship and discover who you are. Go to the movies and buy yourself a beautiful bouquet of flowers. Go to dinner in a fancy restaurant overlooking the ocean and then take a walk in the evening air. Learn that silence is truly golden and embrace the quiet times to soul search. Ask yourself all of the questions that you would ask someone on a first date. Learn to fall in love with who you are.
Entering the dating world: Listen to your gut feelings, and pay attention to every single red flag. If something does not feel right to you then explore that feeling. Go to your quiet place and ask yourself what advice you would give to your sister or best friend. Many times, we hold others in a higher regard than we do ourselves. Pay attention to what your inner voice is telling you.
Love shouldn’t hurt. It sounds like common sense and even a bit cliché however; I encourage you to let the simplicity of that statement resonate in your mind. There will be ups and downs, anger and moments of frustration but real love does nothurt. Use borrowed judgment when in doubt by talking to trusted friends or family members. Heed the advice of those that you admire.
Always remember: You can’t have a healthy relationship with others until you learn to have one with yourself first.
Tina Swithin is the author of "Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom's Battle," and popular blog, "One Mom's Battle." She is a contributor for the Huffington Post, HopeAfterDivorce.org and FamilyShare.com. Tina has two daughters, and lives in sunny California.