Let’s just rip the bandaid off: I got dumped. At the time, I felt shocked and upset, but with some distance, I am so happy the relationship ended and it really was the best choice for both of us. Part of this mindset came from me making a conscious decision to learn all about my new self and to fall in love with her.
What do you value?
One of the hardest parts of being single after so many years was untangling what had been ours and what was still mine.
Many times, in conversation with loved ones, I have used the metaphor of a closet. I would say that on the days I felt like opening the closet marked “me”, I could open the doors and find an assortment of items, like clothing and shoes inside of a closet. And the important work of self-love for me was in taking each of those items out one by one and trying them on and deciding whether or not I still loved that thing, whether I wanted to be wearing it at all, and how wearing it made me feel.
Parsing my values apart from the things that had become synonymous with my relationship was extremely important in discerning what actually mattered to me as an individual. I got the chance to give up a lot of things that I realized did not give me any joy, to reclaim things that I had stifled or hidden in the interest of coexistence, and to discover brand new things that had never entered this closet but now I wanted to hang up with pride.
What was I hiding?
A short, non-comprehensive list: astrology, “bad” TV, junk food, beauty products, and social justice.
I still remember that two of the first things I did just for myself were: taking myself to the movie theater to see “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” and bingeing “Love Is Blind” on Netflix. It’s the kind of thing that my ex would not have tolerated, but I thought it was hilarious, trashy, and, quite frankly, it was a fun way to spend a weekend.
Date #1: Go out on a date to a movie theater by yourself. And go all in! Pick a movie that you think will really be excellent (or excellently terrible), buy your ticket in advance if you’re Type A like me, and, when you arrive, buy all the snacks you want. There are no rules when you’re treating yourself. You can even dress up or dress down to your comfort level.
Date #2: Stock up on snacks and hole up on your couch/in your bed with an easy-to-binge series. Wear cute pajamas and pamper yourself a little, if you want. Choose something that will make you feel good, like “Ted Lasso” or “Invincible”. But wait, maybe a series isn’t your thing? Grab a book or two instead and make it a marathon reading day. May I suggest “You Can’t Break Up With Yourself: Falling In Love With Your Epic Life” by Mikaela Kostaras?
“Beauty products” seems like a funny thing to put on this list, but it’s true. When you’re budgeting together, sometimes it makes sense when the other person tells you not to spend money on certain things. Or, as part of a shared values system, you start to think that those things aren’t worth spending your money on. But once I discovered how much fun I had using a sheet mask, a whole new world opened up to me.
Date #3: Book yourself a trip to a spa and enjoy the luxury of it all by yourself. Look for a basic facial package or a regular massage if you think your body could use it. Fun tip: sometimes you can pay a small additional amount to add an “aromatherapy” option where they just ask you what scented essential oils to put in the air during your service. It’s an instant boost of chic.
Date #4: Maybe it’s COVID-19 or maybe it’s the cost, but you’re not ready to hit the spa. The good news is, your bathroom can be a great place to make an at-home space experience. Start with low lighting/candles for ambience. Pick up tools from the beauty aisle at any store: sheet masks for low-maintenance care, clay masks and serums for more effort, a cute headband for your hair, nice towels, lotions, maybe even nail polish and/or cuticle cream for an extra special, relaxing night to yourself.
What did I discover?
A short, non-comprehensive list: hockey, Formula 1, manicures, meal kits, and crop tops.
I have grown to love so many new things, and I’m lucky to have made these discoveries with the help of my loved ones. My sister texted me one day and said, “I think you would really enjoy going to a hockey game.” She was absolutely correct, and I even had the good fortune to become friends with some other girls who I met there.
Date #5: Take yourself on a date to an event that interests you, or that someone you love is interested in just for the experience. This could be an autumn or holiday market, a 5K or yoga in the park, a sporting event, an art gallery or museum exhibit, a poetry reading, a concert or a theater performance, or anything else your heart desires. Even if you walk away glad that you never have to do that again, at least you tried it.
Realizing that I needed to learn how to cook more than three things made me feel scared. It seems like everyone else already knows how, or they learned from someone who knows a lot. I didn’t have anyone like that and I never saw the joy in cooking. A solution presented itself to me in the form of an Instagram ad: a meal kit subscription. I have full control over which meals are delivered and how often when I use the app. I usually skip two weeks in a month because I can use the meals from the first two weeks and can avoid wasting ingredients.
Date #6: Teaching yourself a new skill is highly beneficial. If you haven’t had anyone in your life teach you about car maintenance, maybe that’s where you want to start. Maybe it’s whittling, which one of my friends picked up back in 2020, and she has really enjoyed creating little treasures out of wood scraps. For me, it was learning to be patient with myself in the kitchen. I can assemble all my little ingredients based on the instructions and wind up with something delicious. Or maybe not, like the time I totally did not nail the sauce for that meatball recipe. But that’s okay, too, not the end of the world, and I definitely still ate the meatballs. It boosts my confidence every time I get something right, or I get the chance to do something familiar and say, oh yeah, I’m an expert at dicing up some garlic.
Does nothing on this list sound appealing to you? That’s great news, actually, because you just saved yourself a boatload of time and money that you don’t need to spend. Why go on bad dates with anyone, much less yourself? Treat yourself right by taking the time to find out what you really want to get out of a date and make it happen. And if you need a buddy, my DMs are open.
I have been on a journey of self-discovery and self-love that has helped me explore new parts of the world from my couch and meet new people from all walks of life. At the end of the day, I know that the most important relationship in my life is the relationship with myself. Focusing on how much I love her and how much I want her to be happy has been the closet door I have always wanted to open.