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As women, we are sold many myths in society, especially about finding “the one.”
We’re made to believe that we have to look a certain way, that attracting a partner is our primary job, and that our partner should be our prince charming whom we’ll meet before we’re 30.
For much of my life, I carried around all these pressures. I prioritized dating, endlessly searching for someone to share my life with until I felt disappointed and alone. I ended up making myself into a beautiful outer shell that ultimately felt empty and unlovable on the inside.
When it came to building a relationship with a partner, I was so disconnected from who I really was that I found I couldn’t allow myself to be loved. When I was in a relationship, I began morphing myself into what I thought my partner wanted and reinforcing the belief that I wasn’t enough. When we’re believing these myths, no amount of love from another person can make us feel like we are enough. So, I pushed every man who claimed to love me away.
At age 35, I had built a successful psychotherapy practice in midtown Manhattan and had everything in my life that I wanted except that one thing—a partner to share it with. I grew tired of sitting around waiting to find someone, as I realized this was entirely out of my control.
I decided I would begin to live for me. I wanted to create a life where fulfillment, deep joy, and satisfaction was in my control.
I thought to myself, “If I let go of wanting to find a partner and could do anything with my life, what would make me happy?” “Move to Bali” came to mind. It had always been a dream of mine since discovering the place in 2016. I decided to go for it.
I took all my fear and grief with me to Bali. I became willing to risk losing everything because of an unshakable longing for the feeling of home I had always felt there. I assumed my practice would fall apart, and that this would be a one-year adventure before I returned home to rebuild it. But I followed my heart and decided to once and for all make myself happy, to find wholeness inside myself instead of in a relationship. I chose to stop relying on a man and the illusion that romantic love was the thing that would make me feel complete.
Bali proved to be everything I imagined it would be and more. I realized the fundamental truth behind “following your bliss”—when we find what fulfills us and when we find our own wholeness, we stop needing others to tell us that we are worthy. Instead, we find a deep love and acceptance inside of ourselves, and everything changes.
In taking the time to befriend all the different parts of me and become whole, I found a partner and created the love relationship that is beyond what I could have imagined.
Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) offered some skills that helped me find a greater sense of myself and an inner wholeness.
Give these a try, and you may start to find that you can feel complete with or without a partner.
1. Living life according to your values.
One of these skills is creating a “values and priorities” list. The idea is to choose one to three areas in your life that feel most important to you and to set goals that can be broken down into small action steps to help you create a life that is more aligned with the things that are truly important to you.
2. Increase pleasant events.
This is about adding small positive experiences to your everyday life which, over time, can lead to a life that feels more satisfying and enjoyable.
This can be taking a bubble bath, treating yourself to your favorite latte and savoring it by tuning into all of your senses with each sip, painting, dancing, or going for a walk in a beautiful place in nature. The key to this skill is to be mindful of the pleasant event as it is happening. Try not to multitask; turn off your phone and fully attune yourself to the pleasure of the moment.
3. Practice being mindful of your emotions.
To become whole, we need to get in touch with the parts of us that are in pain. When you notice yourself feeling lonely, yearning for a partner, or caught up in fear that you may not find one, you can practice the RAIN mindfulness technique: recognize, allow, investigate, and nurture. This is how you get to know all the different parts of you, and ultimately learn to love and accept them all.