When you’ve been single for an extended period of time, it’s easy to get set in your ways.
You eat what and when you want, go to sleep when you want—your calendar, your time, and your heart is your own.
While it may have felt lonely at first, it can quickly feel liberating.
As we create our own schedules and spaces independently, we often forget what it is like to open up with someone else. That vulnerability that ultimately connects us with someone can feel more scary than rewarding, especially as more time passes without that openness.
Here’s how to start opening yourself up to a relationship.
Embrace the discomfort
So many of us have become increasingly uncomfortable with being uncomfortable—especially when it comes to dating. The reality is that dating can be awkward, clunky, and downright strange.
However, when you’re not willing to have these odd experiences with dating, you cannot move into the closeness and meaningful connection that a relationship provides. By having honest expectations and choosing to laugh rather than gawk at the goofiness that dating can bring, you can begin to embrace what a new relationship might eventually offer.
If you choose to stay on the sidelines, you won’t get those rewards that come from choosing a little discomfort at times.
Know your values
Dating and opening yourself up for a relationship is so much more meaningful when you know what you’re looking for.
Many people make the mistake of entering a relationship based solely on chemistry and news flash—that heat doesn’t last forever. It doesn’t mean that you can’t maintain a physical closeness but it will not sustain the relationship for years to come.
Instead, you need to identify while you’re single what your values are and what you value in a relationship. Perhaps you value family, freedom, security, compassion, or humor as just a few examples.
If you intentionally enter into a relationship where these values are aligned, it can create a safer and more solidified space. However, if you let the relationship “just happen,” it’s more likely to flounder and leave you eventually missing your singlehood.
You can still be single, in a way
Just because you enter into a relationship doesn’t mean you should abandon what you’ve loved to do as a singleton. The problem is when people think they need to leave behind their individual identity for the sake of a relational identity. We call this enmeshment—even codependence.
Instead, strive for a healthy interdependence where you can both rely on your partner while maintaining your independence. Thus, you should keep up your exercise routine that you love, go places where just you want to go, and see all the same people that you saw when you were single.
A new relationship merely adds rather than replaces. When you’ve made time for yourself in the relationship, you are able to open up and offer your energy without resentment.
Understand your fear
We all have reasons why we may be holding ourselves back from trusting a relationship and fully investing in it. Do you know why?
Much of the time we operate from that primal sense of fear without understanding where it’s coming from. When we don’t understand the source, it can be hard to find the solution.
For example, perhaps you fear trusting in a relationship because your parents got divorced. Or maybe you were cheated on or you cheated in a previous relationship and now you feel like you can’t trust yourself. The best thing you can do is talk, write, and think it out.
Whether or not you want to be in a relationship, the best thing you can do for yourself is not only explore the why behind your avoidance of an intimate relationship, but then understand how you can heal and open yourself up again.
You can still be single and make space for others
As we talk about values, you may truly value not being in an intimate relationship right now and that is okay. You should never force yourself to enter into a partnership that you do not want.
There are many other relationships in your life that likely deserve tending. Whether it’s family, friends, or neighbors, how can you open yourself up to create more meaningful relationships?
It’s not just dating that requires vulnerability—it’s all of our relationships.
If we want to move past surface level (which, let’s be honest, gets boring quickly), we have to be willing to share when we feel frustrated, scared, disappointed, and hurt. These are healthy human emotions and even though they can feel scary to express, they actually inspire closeness with others.
It takes courage to live with this vulnerability, but you’ll see that you feel more connected to the people that matter to you.