We have to be whole people to find whole love, even if we have to make it up for a while. - Cheryl Strayed
Following the end of my marriage, I was learning to dance on my own - learning the steps of dancing with myself after dancing as part of a couple most of my adult life.
And after an intense grieving process, I was ready to explore the world of dating again.
I was convinced that being in a healthy relationship is very much about being able to dance on our own first, that we can only be fully ourselves in a relationship when we don't rely on the other person to dance. And that we become magnetic to others by learning to be OK - and even enjoy - dancing with ourselves first.
Because if we are not OK dancing on our own, we'll accept the first person who is willing to dance with us -whether or not this leads to a great relationship - because we look to them to complete us.
Because if we are not OK dancing on our own, we'll create a relationship where we never have to dance on our own, where we're glued to the other person in a co-dependant, fusional relationship.
I had reached the point were I was starting to enjoy dancing with myself when I met someone. A man who is already changing my life.
I certainly don't have all the answers about becoming magnetic or meeting someone. And of course, a lot of things in the dating world are out of our control, including timing.
I simply want to share some of what I learned this past year - some of what IS in our control in how we can learn to dance on our own, becoming more whole or whole-ish as I call it - so that we can, if we want, more beautifully dance with someone else as well one day.
It isn’t about being completely whole.
I know people who are obsessed with needing to have healed all their childhood wounds or worked through all their flaws before they think they can be in a healthy relationship.
I thought I needed to totally have my shit together before meeting someone, and I can assure you I do not yet. I am still a work in progress.
Thinking we need to be whole before meeting someone is a form of perfectionism, which at it’s root is often about I’m not good enough.
We will never be totally whole anyway. There will always be more work to do, life will reveal to us more stuff we need to work through and healthy relationships are about growth for both partners anyway. We can grow both in a couple and on our own - growth is always a choice.
But it isn’t about looking for someone to complete us either.
It isn’t about someone else filling in the voids in us. Or our accepting to fill the voids in someone else.
I went on a date with someone who felt bored of his life and was expecting a woman to ‘entertain’ him, to make his life more interesting or exciting. I left that date running and never looked back.
Because we can never win when we are filling someone else’s voids.
And if we expect them to complete us, it doesn’t work either.
If we outsource our needs to someone else, expect them to know what we want, to make decisions for us or take care of us, this is not a recipe for a heathy relationship.
Because nobody else can know our own needs better than we can, and it is nobody else’s job than my own to state my own needs and ask for them to be met.
So while it isn’t about reaching a utopian state of wholeness, it isn’t about not having done any work on ourselves either and expecting other people to complete us either.
Perhaps a more realistic view is being whole-ish.
And being with someone we can grow more into wholeness with.
Here’s what I find can help reach a state of whole-ish.
We need to sort of like or at least respect ourselves
I think that meeting someone actually starts with…our relationship to ourselves.
If we don’t like who we are, why would we expect someone else to?
If we are not happy with our own company and cannot be on our own, someone else will always have the role of saving us from ourselves.
If we don’t believe we are worthy of love and we meet someone amazing who falls in love with us, we will always be questioning this. We will think they are crazy or not being honest. On a less conscious level, we will probably sabotage the relationship because we don’t believe we deserve to be treated so well.
As mindfulness teacher Sharon Salzberg writes:
If you’re trying to persuade someone to spend time with you and you don’t think you’re awfully interesting, that’s a hard sell, you know.
I believe we have to be someone we would want to date ourselves, even if this sounds weird.
Again, we will never reach a state of being exactly the person we want to be. Simply being on the path towards this is what matters, consciously working through our stuff.
We put up with unacceptable behaviour when we don’t believe we are worthy of better.
Become magnetic regardless
When we feel OK being who we are - when we are not perfect, we don’t look or act exactly the way we would want - and we accept ourselves and where we are anyway, something happens.
We dare to be more fully who we are. And that makes us magnetic to others.
This is what being attractive truly is in my book. It is much more of an inside job than the outside job society would have us believe.
It is about being aware of all the parts of ourselves, even the ones we don’t like. It is about being with who we are right now, and being OK with it, even if we are still changing.
It is about taking responsibility for ourselves, for our choices, for our desires.
That it’s OK to want what we want.
Being honest with ourselves about our flaws and strengths and needs is powerful - much more than striving to be perfect, to project a certain image.
No more hiding
When I signed up to online dating, I actually revealed something about myself that I thought might send some people off running thinking I was weird.
But my thought process was: If I can’t fully be myself with someone, it isn’t worth getting to know them.
We should never dampen down parts of ourselves or become less of something in order to fit someone's image of who they want to be with. Nor should we expect them to do this for us.
As Sharon Salzberg writes,
If you get a boyfriend and you can never reveal yourself, it’s not actually fulfilling anyway.
Dancing with someone
So one of the secrets to being able to dance with someone is actually dancing on your own.
Only then can you dance with someone who can also dance on their own, someone with whom you will dance together AND separately - two whole people coming together rather than completing each other.
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