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One of the most common misconceptions singles have is that finding a partner will somehow “complete” their lives — bringing them a sense of greater happiness or fulfillment. The reality? You’re far more likely to achieve romantic satisfaction if you already feel happy and fulfilled on your own.
At least, that’s what recent research says. This study, which examined numerous data sets of 11,196 couples, discovered that people who were satisfied with their lives, had a positive outlook and were free of depression before meeting their partners were significantly more likely to report being happy in their relationships.
In other words: working on making your life better without a partner will actually increase your odds of landing in a successful relationship.
“When you’re happy with your own life, you’ll only be prepared to invite someone in who is a good match and adds even more value to your life, rather than ending up with someone simply as an alternative to being on your own,” says relationship coach Emily Gough.
According to Gough, this effect doesn’t just help you find a better partner — it can also allow you to have better boundaries within your relationships, because you feel more worthy and confident.
Kate Maclean, Plenty of Fish’s resident dating expert, notes that you’ll also be more likely to attract people who are happy and secure if you exude those qualities yourself.
“If you have an expectation that a relationship will fix your life or complete you, it puts a ton of pressure not only on yourself to make things work, but on your new partner as well,” she adds.
With that in mind, here are some easy ways to cultivate satisfaction in your life — so that when the right person comes along, you’re primed to take advantage of the opportunity.
If you’re walking around with emotional baggage that you still haven’t worked through — whether wounds from childhood or betrayals from a previous relationship — there’s no time like the present to get on that, says Gough.
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“A lot of people try to skip this step and then end up in dysfunctional relationships,” she explains. “We have to start learning to accept ourselves from within or we won’t even be able to accept, receive or be fully satisfied with even the best relationship.”
Working with a licensed mental health counselor is ideal, particularly if you’re dealing with deep-seated trauma. However, if a therapist isn’t accessible to you (or you just want to try a different route), Gough says you can learn a lot from self-help books and podcasts as well.
The first step, of course, is acknowledging and owning what fears may be holding you back — as well as how they may be affecting you and your relationships. From there, you can start identifying healthier coping strategies that may help you work through these difficult emotions, like journaling, exercising, meditating, or breath work.
Above all, though, remember to be patient with yourself. Healing from past hurt can take time, and rushing the process won’t do you any favors.
When was the last time you took yourself on a date? Really wooed yourself? Asked yourself some deep, probing questions?
It may sound a little absurd, but Selective Search founder and matchmaker Barbie Adler recommends all of her clients “date” themselves while preparing to meet a prospective partner.
“If it fits into your budget, book yourself a solo trip,” says Gough. “You’ll learn more about yourself and how you relate to the world, and you can learn to appreciate the joy of your own company — which will make you realize how valuable your time and attention are to someone else.”
Even if a one-person getaway isn’t feasible for you right now, there are lots of other ways to date yourself.
For example, there’s no reason to wait until you have a date to check out that new cocktail bar or trendy tapas restaurant that opened up nearby — treat yourself to a drink or dinner there. At night, write yourself a nice, encouraging note to read in the morning and start your day with a tone of positivity and self-confidence.
Lastly, spend some quality time with yourself, whether that means going on a long walk around your neighborhood, cooking a killer meal, or working on a creative project. Being able to spend some solo time with your thoughts — and really enjoy it — will help you get in the right headspace for spending time with someone else.
Always wanted to learn guitar? Maybe it’s time to finally take some lessons — or even scope out a few YouTube tutorials. Miss playing sports? Go join a pickup hockey or basketball league.
“Oftentimes, love enters our lives when we are happily pursuing our passions,” says Adler.
Not only does pursuing these kinds of hobbies allow you to develop skills that’ll make you more attractive to dates, but it also builds up your sense of self-worth so you exude confidence to other singles.
Plus, doing things you love “just because” invites a sense of fun and play into your life, which is so needed when approaching the oftentimes confusing and disappointing world of dating.
Experts agree that one of the best things you can do while single to increase your chances of finding love is to focus on nurturing the relationships you already have.
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“Building friendships with like-minded people can drastically boost your happiness and satisfaction prior to finding a romantic partner,” says Maclean.
Not sure how to make new friends? Just bust out your smartphone. Plenty of Fish data shows that singles are putting an increased value on relying on and developing their singles communities. In fact, 69% of singles say dating apps are just as good for finding friends with similar interests as they are for finding romantic partners, and 59% of singles say they’ve actually met new friends via dating apps over the last two years.
“A strong community can help make the dating journey less stressful and more fun — so you don’t sweat the small stuff and enjoy getting to know someone without the pressure,” Maclean says.
Marlena Del Hierro, a life coach and dating coach, recommends that singles practice “radical self-care,” which means actively choosing to put your needs first. As part of that practice, Del Hierro says you may need to get rid of some habits, behaviors, or even people that are not serving your needs and overall well-being.
For example, if staying up late to binge Netflix is preventing you from exercising in the morning, or being your best self at work, it’s probably time to make a change in your sleeping schedule and bedtime routine.
Or, if one of your close friends has a negative attitude that you find draining or damaging to your mindset, then you may want to tell them how they’re affecting you, or limit your time with them and find someone new to hang out with.
“Radical self-care can mean spending time with people who lift you up and light you up, which may or may not be your current set of friends,” says Del Hierro. “Or it might mean that you need to change jobs if you’re not content with the work or environment.”
Taking all of these steps can go a long way in building satisfaction and fulfillment in your life — and who knows? Just when you start realizing that you don’t need someone else to be happy, “The One” might come along. Either way, Gough says the point is to create a life you’re excited about, no matter the outcome — if you do that, you just might meet someone who’s excited to be a part of it.
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