Do you remember this song?
“(Girl) and (boy) sitting in a tree. K-I-S-S-I-N-G. First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes a baby in a baby carriage.”
My girlfriends and I used to sing it all the time as children while playing jump rope in the street or tag with the neighborhood boys. It was fun, juvenile banter that we shared and no newcomer on our block was immune to it.
This song continues a message that society has played on repeat from generation to generation. It starts with romance with the intention of that romance leading to marriage. After some time has passed, the couple has a baby. However, the reality for so many women has not followed those steps nor the outcome.
Many women have fallen in and out of love by the time they get married or are even considering it. Some women have had babies and others have bypassed marriage altogether. However, this message is not about a woman’s choice to be married or have children. This message is for those who get stuck in the pattern of falling in love for the sake of being loved by someone without first taking the time to love themselves.
If you’ve ever been in relationship after relationship without taking the time to love yourself and connect with who you are, what you love, and who you want to be by yourself, how can you know who you are, what you love, and what you want to be with another person?
I had a friend, who after several years of being in and out of relationships - falling in love too quickly and feeling devastated when those relationships didn’t last - come to me for advice and support on how to get and keep “Mr. Right”. It seemed like she could always find a man, but never keep one long enough to lead to the altar.
My advice to her was to take time to focus on herself. I didn’t want her to get into another relationship that resulted in hurt and disappointment, nor did I want her to settle for anyone just for the sake of being in a relationship and being “in love”. I knew deep down she didn’t want that either.
She was looking for her life partner. She was looking for her happily ever after. However, in doing that, she wasn’t giving herself time between relationships to deal with the hurt, pain, and failure of the relationship and how that affected her. She wasn’t considering how she’d altered and sacrificed a portion of herself within those relationships to try to make them work. She wasn’t considering how often she changed herself to be an image of a woman her man-at-the-time wanted instead of the woman she truly was. She needed to spend time embracing who she was and what she needed from the relationship in order to grow…and eventually find her “Mr. Right” - if that was even going to happen.
If my friend’s story resonates with you, here’s my advice: focus on loving yourself first. What do you love about yourself? What do you hate about yourself, but can learn to love because it adds to your perfect imperfections? What energy do you like to surround yourself with, but can also bring to those around you? What makes you laugh? What makes you cry? What makes you take time to think and reflect even if it’s not something you really want to address? What forces you to go deep below the surface, confronting those things that are painful so that you can come back up stronger than before? What challenges you to do and be better?
These are the things that start the journey to self-love. It is because of self-love that you learn not to negotiate with the things that make you happy. You learn to not sacrifice your beliefs or values to make someone else happy. Self-love causes you to realize when you deserve better from your partner. It causes you to realize when it’s time to move on rather than stay and continue an unhealthy cycle of hurt, pain, promises, and forgiveness without forgetting.
In learning how to love yourself first, eventually, you learn to identify when the right type of love enters your life. You realize when the right type of love values and respects you. You realize when the right type of love doesn’t require a disclaimer or conditions. You realize when the right type of love leads to everything you desire and more.