One of the first major realizations I had in my 30’s was putting myself first. I find that I am better suited for a long term relationship now that I am learning who I am, and what I want.
A few years ago I entered into a relationship with a friend. We were friends for nearly 3 years, and after several misfires, crossed the line over from friendship. The beginning was great. We had good chemistry and this lended itself to our new dynamic. We complimented each other well. She was kind and caring and made me feel beautiful. I was there for her to listen and support her. To be her champion. We started dreaming of our future within weeks of dating. We were both quickly enamored with the other and our friends were happy for us too. We secretly joked about becoming a power couple and taking the queer world by storm. I was happy and comfortable… until I wasn’t. We hit a few small bumps in the road and managed to navigate them. Then we were confronted by bigger bumps (my desire to leave Boston) and family crises. We sat down and talked about how to move forward and get to the dream future we had planned. But our present was in dire need of attention.
Things reached a point where each morning I had to remind myself why I wanted to be in the relationship. When I began to feel lonely in our relationship, I reminded myself of how happy we once were, and reassured myself that we could get back to that place. I made adjustments to get us back to that good place. I tried to fix us. Eventually I realized I needed help with this. We sat down and had a tough conversation. I laid a lot of things on the table and invited her to do the same. We talked it all through and mutually decided to stay together. The fear of being single kept us together. Yet nothing changed and I began feeling lonelier. I confided in my close friends about what was happening; they were surprised and disappointed. One of my best friends would always say, “You deserve better than how she’s treating you.” I believed her, but not enough to walk away.
I had to choose between myself or the relationship. I had to choose to be single or stay in the relationship and the comforts it brought me. She was someone to deal with life with, a regular plus one, and a committed sexual partner. On paper the choice was easy. I needed to find a way to make the relationship work. I just couldn’t convince myself to stay with her. I was too unhappy. I broke up with her. We were both devastated. Yet, I learned a valuable lesson: being in a bad relationship is worse than being single. So I chose me.
At first, it felt even lonelier. Belongingness is a basic human need. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs list “belongingness” as the third level of needs. As humans, we are drawn to one another and the need to share space and intimacy with each other. Like most humans, I need to feel like I am connected to others. When I was 26 I moved back home to Cleveland Ohio. “Home”, but about 150 miles from my family. I spent a great deal of time alone in Cleveland. My job kept me more than busy but when the job was done, I mostly spent time by myself. This taught me self-sufficiency. I became comfortable going out to eat alone. I began to go to the movies alone. I felt more independent and assured myself. Yet I still felt lonely. I needed a community.
Two years later I moved to Boston and dove head first into finding community. I was blessed to meet so many amazing people. I built large social networks, close groups of friends, and an even larger network to connect with. I put all of my energy into maintaining strong connections. It was my goal to not go back to being the girl I was in Cleveland. I put my need to connect with others above everything else, including myself.
After the break up, I asked myself why I felt so lonely. I had great friends, a lovingly tolerant bio-family and a chosen family that made me feel loved for who I was every single day. I took the inevitable extra time that comes with being single to look at myself. After spending some time in reflection, it became apparent that I had no more need for that relationship. The relationship stopped fulfilling me. Instead I became bored. I was settling for the life that my ex-girlfriend wanted, not the life I dreamed of. What about my dreams and wants? Was I even on the right track anymore? I needed to find out what I wanted. I began to use a manifestation journal. I listed all the things that I wanted and needed in life, and I began to think of a way to get them.
I wanted to build a “Fempire”! My Fempire was a fun way to look at my future. As I thought about how to build this fempire, I looked at myself as the strong foundation. I asked myself to recall my strengths and to lean on those as I plotted a path forward. I began to be more compassionate with myself and more concerned for my heart. I realized the only person responsible for my heart was myself. I needed to do a better job of ensuring I was cared for and nurtured. The more compassion I showed myself, the stronger I began to feel. I woke up each day ready to take on the world. I was ready to be the best version of myself. I was ready to be me. I was ready to choose me. I was ready to value the person I was. I learned that I was worth all the time and effort I put into myself every day. Every single time I choose myself, I feel more empowered. I feel more self-assured and more confident in putting myself first.
I’ve been dating since that relationship. I am currently single and honestly a bit surprised by how comfortable I am with that. Not because I want to be single forever (I don’t) or because I’m not interested in dating (I am)! Instead, my comfort comes from knowing myself better. It comes from knowing what I want and working towards that. It comes from knowing my worth and my value and showing that to others. This is to ensure that anyone interested in me knows that I am building a fempire, and that I am only interested in people who will help me with the building. My firm foundation is set. Choosing me has helped me better chose who to share and build with.