My best four-legged friend taught me about myself and what to look for in a partner.
When I started over dating after my marriage ended, it didn’t take long to realize how far I was out of the game. The rules had changed during my years of couplehood. Even worse? My messy divorce destroyed my confidence.
So, in an effort to get back on my dating feet, I did what a lot of other mid-life, newly single women do — I read women’s magazines and the latest books by dating authorities. In the end, I was confused and even more anxious.
Fortunately, my beloved Shih Tzu, Sharon, was there to help. She taught me five key things that helped me stay grounded, and, eventually, find my wonderful partner.
Here's what I learned from my four-legged friend:
1. You are lovable enough.
How tempting is it to go on a journey of physical self-improvement after a painful breakup? But sprucing up your appearance and wardrobe is just an external improvement. You wouldn't want to be in a long-term relationship with someone who fell in love with your clothes and hair, right? There's no emotional journey there.
Sharon certainly knew when she looked her best, and she expected everyone to acknowledge it. But she NEVER questioned her lovability (even if she had been rolling in fox poo). She knew she was lovable — no matter what. And you are, too. It's time to start training your self-love muscle.
2. You are equal.
Shih Tzus are quite grand little dogs, and historically, they were the dogs of the Chinese Emperors. Legend has it that they lived up Emperors’ sleeves and provided an invaluable service within the Forbidden City: keeping the Emperor warm through chilly winters. They don't have a problem believing the value of the contribution they make to their humans. They have no problem eye-balling emperors or anyone else. And if they can do it, so can you.
You cannot afford to dive back into the dating pool telling yourself some story about how you're less equal for any reason — from your looks to your age, or your weight to your financial and personal circumstances.
3. Meet people where they are.
Sharon loved people. ALMOST every single person she ever met, but if she didn’t like someone, she would NOT be won over by their efforts to be nice to her. She totally trusted her judgement. Some people were simply not for her, yet she never used a one-size, fits-all approach with people. If they were worth knowing, in her opinion, she would initiate the connection. But she did so mindfully. I could almost see her assessing what they wanted and/or needed from her (as opposed to what she wanted/needed from them).
Did it work? You bet it did. Sharon had a vast and varied fan base, and she cured a few lifelong dog phobias. She just knew that people like to be around what makes them feel good. That doesn’t mean you have to flatter, or jump through hoops to please dates, it just means that you need to be mindful.
4. Be present.
If you’re like most women, you have quite a lot of internal "dialogue" — questioning and doubting everything. Be warned, you shouldn't have an external dialogue like this. You know what it's like to talk to someone and see their eyes wander off to scan the room and see whether there is someone or something more interesting around? Well, that’s exactly the message you give when you’re with someone but mostly inside your own head.
When you’re with someone, you must be present and smile. It’s actually smarter because you’ll learn more about them than if you were wrapped in your own thoughts.
5. You have nothing to prove.
This one is important enough for me to say it again: You have nothing to prove. There is NOTHING you need to prove to a date or yourself. Let’s face it, Sharon had a dog’s life (not the most thrilling or varied life in the world), but she enjoyed it. Instinctively, she knew that her life was worth living well.
So many women give the impression that their life without a man is a wasteland. But really, there are plenty of good things going on that they simply aren’t seeing. When you start to focus on the good stuff and stop defining yourself in terms of whether or not there is a man next to you, life becomes MUCH more enjoyable.
Annie Kaszina, PhD, author of "Do You Choose Your Dog More Carefully Than Your Husband?" is a writer, speaker, and leading Women's Relationship Coach. She's spent 10+ years working with bright, successful women who don't really believe how lovable they are, helping them to show up as the amazing, irresistibly attractive women they truly are. Her free report "The Three Simple Steps to Magical Relationships" is available for immediate download.