February is considered by many to be the “month of love” thanks to a little holiday called Valentine’s Day.
The modern concept of Valentine’s Day has good intentions: honoring and celebrating love is a beautiful thing. However, the overly commercialized holiday places a lot of pressure on proving your love by spending money and supports the narrative that women have more value if they’re in a romantic relationship.
That’s just not true.
This year, we want to share our stories about learning to romance ourselves. It’s an empowering journey to realize the love we were waiting for, comes from us first.
You’ll hear from Bridget, who has spent the last year rediscovering herself after her divorce; Alexandra, who is learning to carve space for self-love in her new-ish marriage; Kamalani, who chose to leave the comfort of relationship with others to create a new relationship with herself; and myself, Magdalena, and the freedom I feel as I’m nearing 50.
We’re at different stages in life, but maybe you’ll find something to relate to or inspire you in all of our stories.
Between relationships, roommates, friends, and social media, at the ripe age of 34, I’ve never been alone. Like, ever.
This realization came to me as I was settling into my first night at an Airbnb after my husband told me that after eight years together, he just wasn’t in love with me anymore. It felt like I was free-falling: I wasn’t capable of being alone, I didn’t want to be alone, this wasn’t my story.
Spoiler: it was.
I spent MONTHS being uncomfortable with myself, but the more days I spent alone, I realized I didn’t feel comfortable because, honestly … I didn’t even know myself. I spent my entire life tethered to someone else’s schedule, desires, likes, and dislikes.
What did I even like? How did I want to spend a Saturday? I was a stranger in my own life, and there was only one way to become acquainted.
I had to become my own best friend, partner, and caretaker.
This set me off on a mission to essentially court myself. I set aside time each week to take myself out on a date, treat myself to a fancy rosé at a wine bar, drive to the beach for a scenic cappuccino, see that movie that no one else wanted to watch, because it’s what I wanted. I wasn’t prepared for the profound effect this small project would have on me, my wellbeing, and my self-worth. And like in any budding relationship, those weekly dates left me wanting more, so I would carve out more and more time each week with the person I was starting to fall deeply in love with: myself.
Not going to lie, the first time I went to a place and heard myself say “Table for One,” my heart felt broken. It sounded so lonely – one? Are you not waiting on someone? But the more and more I practiced, it became increasingly more normal.
Dating myself has been one of the most intimate and provocative experiences of my life. Not only has it deepened my self-relationship, but I notice the way I interact with others now to be more meaningful, too. I’m more present and grateful for shared time.
Alone time will allow you to recharge, reset your mind, unwind and relax without the pressure of the environment. It’s an excellent opportunity to think about and plan your life, be mindful of the present moment, and be able to make more conscious choices.
Dating yourself will help you connect with who you are and teach you valuable things about yourself, leading to personal growth. Plus, you can do whatever the hell you want, which is always fun.
I’ve pulled together my five favorite tips that helped me get started in my self-love journey.
- Set a time – Dedicate a specific time and day each week to do something solely for yourself.
- Plan – Just like you do for friends or a romantic partner, make a plan! Look up cute coffee shops or one of those biodynamic wine bars you’ve been curious about.
- Get Ready – Look, you can do anything you want in sweatpants, but getting gussied up can perk your mental state, too. Do whatever makes you feel like your best self. Hair, makeup, the works, this is your date!
- Ditch the phone – It’s easy to be connected 24/7, but this is time for YOU, not to spend it looking at other people’s lives through a screen. Bring a book or magazine if you think you might need a little crutch to get started.
Enjoy – Trust me, and no one is looking at you, no one is thinking it’s weird that you’re sitting alone nibbling away. So take a deep breath, relax, and savor the moment.
I married at the age of 27 in the fall of 2019. When I look back on our wedding day, I am mostly grateful we were able to gather with so many of our loved ones in celebration right before the world as we had known it changed.
My husband and I had a delayed honeymoon in January of 2020. We came back from Costa Rica to the first whisperings of the news regarding Covid, and by March we were like so many other couples – locked down together in a tiny one-bedroom apartment, with just ourselves and our dogs for company.
I remember reading articles early on with headlines like “More couples than ever are breaking up during Covid.”
Makes sense, but thank goodness that won’t be us, I would think. We’d been together for almost 5 years at that point and had always loved spending significant amounts of time together, just the two of us.
At first, it was wonderful. We were both working remotely from home (I’d been working from home for two years at that point), and enjoyed being around each other 24/7. We took long baths in the morning since he no longer had a commute, hugged and chatted and kissed throughout the day, cooked more meals together, and cuddled on the couch with a movie or TV show to end the day (that was already pretty normal for us!).
It had always felt so good to spend time with him that it took me a long time to realize how much I missed the ways I had been spending time with myself.
Now, I’m just at the beginning of figuring out how to create that space and time for myself, without feeling like I’m neglecting my partner in the process. So far, this has mostly looked like giving myself time each week to catch up on “my” TV shows and practice yoga. But I know I need more, so here are the “dates” I’m planning to take myself on in February and not feel guilty about leaving my husband at home:
- Reading date with a good book at a local coffee shop
- Nature date at the nearby conservation area to go on a walk with my dog
- Gym date to swim laps and be with my thoughts
- Friend date to visit a friend in the city and not make it a “couples date”
It could be that I’m turning 30 this year, or the ways the pandemic turned the world upside down, or that I’m in the midst of my Saturn Return (or all of the above) – but I feel a stronger desire than ever to get to know who I am on a deeper level. I plan to stay curious and loving with myself every step of the way.
“Do I want this to be my life forever?”
I asked myself these words one blistering day in Phoenix. Puffy, red cheeks, and makeup streaks falling down my face. When it hit me: I’d never once in my life made autonomous decisions, acted upon my own dreams, or lived in accordance with my own desires. Instead, I jumped from relationship to relationship, where it felt safe to hide the comfort of another.
That’s when I made the decision to walk away from a five-year relationship.
Looking back, it was one of the best decisions of my life. But, that doesn’t mean that it was easy, that I was always sure, or that I wasn’t led by fear each step of the way. I had to unlearn the entire life I had built for myself while accepting the fact that my life was no longer going to be spent with the man I thought would be my husband one day. I grieved.
I stepped into the unknown and into myself for the first time in my life. Started exploring what I like to do by taking myself out. Began meeting new people while aligning my time with my values.
I spend nights dancing with my friends, cooking what I want, laughing with strangers, spending my money how I want, and dressing for myself. It isn’t all “Sex in the City,” although I have resonated with Carrie (and maybe Samantha) more times than I can count. It is messy, and it is beautiful.
I love living in accordance with my own rules, schedule, freedom, choices, and am finally learning to love myself. The love that I put aside to nurture another has found another home: me.
Looking back, if I were to tell myself four things, it would be this:
1) There are blessings waiting for you that you can’t imagine yet. Doors must close for others to open. Make space for the possibilities that await.
2) You are more capable than you think. Trust your heart and intuition.
3) At the end of the day, you can’t fully love another without knowing what it’s like to love yourself. Fill your cup, so you can pour into another when the time is right.
4) Nothing is ever black and white. Embrace the gray area and release what you can’t control.
One of the things I LOVE about getting older and getting into peri-menopause is not to give a f*&k.
In my twenties, I would go to every party, wedding, and event because I felt a deep sense of obligation. It was the right thing to do. To be polite, to be respectful. I also experienced a fair amount of FOMO (fear-of-missing-out) which exhausted the heck out of me. But dating really took the cake – I was in and out of relationships because I didn’t want to be alone.
As I reach the end of my forties (I’ve just turned 49 years old) and enter peri-menopause, I’ve observed a big shift in how I perceive and am perceived, some of these lessons include:
- I think far more often about the imprint I will make on this world and the legacy I will leave behind.
- I accepted the fact that not everyone will like me and that’s totally fine.
- I don’t have to go to a party, wedding or event if it’s not someone or something I deeply care about.
- I don’t have to be on top of everything to feel like I’m worthy, in-the-know, current and relevant. I pick down-time any time now.
- It feels really good to be alone unless I meet someone who is amazing and I don’t feel like it’s a compromise on either side. In the meantime, I’ve discovered the power of women’s circles and my dogs’ unconditional love.
- Valentine’s Day can just be my dogs and I snuggling together watching a romantic comedy, maybe calling a girlfriend for a good laugh.
I’m not suggesting that you need to feel this way. There are millions of women who are in happy, healthy and fulfilling relationships.
If that’s not you, maybe you find that heading for perimenopause or menopause has freed you from a lot of the social norms and shackles including Valentine’s Day, and you just don’t give a f*&k.
After reading our stories, we offer you this challenge: Take yourself on a date. Let us know what you get up to, and how it felt to treat yourself to a little romance. And if you have your own story to share – we’d love to hear from you.