A new year is upon us.
It's a time to make resolutions most of us won’t keep (but here’s to being optimistic), and it's also a time to reflect and take the lessons learned to make this next year even better.
I write about relationships for a living, and as a result, I am all too familiar with the areas where most women go wrong. (I used to be one of them.)
Most women are looking for lasting love with the right guy, but very few know what it actually takes to get that.
That’s because most of the dating advice out there focuses on the wrong things and the superficial things that don’t really make a difference.
So let’s talk about the things that do matter.
Here are five small tweaks and mindset shifts that will help you get the love you want in 2016:
1. Start dating smart.
A lot of women write to us in order to understand why their relationships always fail, why guys treat them badly and why they always get hurt.
The common thread in most of these cases is these women are choosing men who clearly are not husband or even relationship material.
Yet, they are hoping by some chance these men will suddenly transform to be the knights in shining armor they want.
This type of situation doesn't exist anywhere aside from cheesy romantic comedies.
If you choose to pursue a relationship with a guy who clearly isn't relationship material, then you're setting yourself up to fail before you even begin.
All the advice in the world isn’t going to help you if you’re choosing men who clearly can’t give you what you want.
Maybe he’s immature, maybe he has emotional issues or maybe he’s just not a very good person.
Don’t waste time on guys who won’t commit, can’t commit or don’t believe in commitment.
Date the guys who want what you want.
See this list of non-negotiable qualities that make him “the one” in order to weed out the not-worth-your-times.
2. Make yourself a vessel to receive love.
It doesn’t matter how much you put yourself out there or how many dates you go on; you will never find lasting love if you aren’t a vessel to receive love.
We can only accept as much love from the outside as we feel on the inside.
If you don’t already feel good about yourself and feel worthy of love, then you will never truly believe someone else can love you.
You may find yourself in the same situations over and over, constantly chasing after emotionally unavailable men and being totally put off by the available ones who really do care about you.
It’s a common phenomenon most of us have experienced, but few take the time to really uncover the root cause of it.
You can get by financially, physically and even socially with negative, self-defeating beliefs haunting you every step of the way.
However, love dredges up all that is unloved within ourselves.
If you have a negative perspective or negative beliefs haunting you, your love life will drag all of these issues to the surface and force you to deal with them head-on.
3. Break up with the ghosts of boyfriends past.
Sure, you may have broken up with these guys, but have you broken up with the damage they left behind?
Are you over it? Have you healed from the pain it caused?
They say time heals.
This is true to an extent, but it isn’t a passive process.
Time helps you forget, but healing is an active process. You need to put in a certain amount of work to get there.
Otherwise, it will just linger beneath the surface and surprise you when you least expect it.
Maybe you’re still holding out hope your ex will see the light and show up at your door with a bouquet of flowers and a declaration of love.
Maybe you hate your ex and hope his life is filled with pain and suffering.
Or maybe, you’re somewhere in the middle.
It doesn’t matter.
If thoughts of your ex (or exes) are still occupying space in your mind, it’s blocking you from finding the love you truly want.
The first guy I ever truly loved cheated on me, and I let it define me for years.
I was ravaged and took the entire thing out on myself, not trusting my own judgment and thinking it was my fault.
I thought I was flawed in some way, and if I was better, then he wouldn’t have strayed.
I thought it would get better in time (eventually I did see how this was the best thing for me), but it was always there, following me like a piece of toilet paper stuck to my shoe.
I felt it on a visceral level with every guy I dated, and sometimes, innocent things would cause disproportionately strong responses.
For example, early on when I started dating my husband, he would say things like, “I’m not going anywhere,” and this would send me into high alert.
I would feel immediately tense and on guard, waiting for some looming threat to strike.
My blood pressure would race, and I just felt this need shut down and hide behind my emotional wall.
It didn’t take much self-examination to understand where it was coming from.
The ex who cheated on me used to say the exact same thing, and clearly that didn’t turn out too well.
The point is, pain can stay with us for way longer than we realize, especially when we don’t actively try to heal.
It took far more years than it should have to realize that him cheating actually had very little to do with me and that it wasn’t my fault in any way.
Any relationship has one of two outcomes: it’s either going to last forever, or it’s going to end.
The end is rarely ever pretty.
Remember that it’s not you.
Sometimes two people just aren’t a match, and that’s simply the truth of the matter.
Seeing it this way rather than seeing it as a reflection of yourself is a much healthier approach.
Your painful past doesn’t have to continue to define you.
Just because things didn’t work out in the past, it doesn’t mean they never will in the future.
No matter what you’re holding on to, make an effort to release it so you can attract the love you want.
4. Stop stressing over it.
Whether you’re single or in a relationship, make a resolution to stop stressing over your love life this year.
Here’s the thing about stressing and worrying: It feels like you’re doing something productive, like this energy you’re expending will lead you to some magical place of clarity and insight.
But, it doesn’t.
Instead, the only thing you succeed in doing is making yourself crazy and anxious for no reason.
There really is no need or use for stress in a relationship.
If it’s right, then it will work. If it’s not, it won’t.
When you stress about your relationship, it poisons your interactions with your guy, and he feels a certain level of pressure and expectation coming from you.
The more you can eliminate stress and worry, the more control you are going to get.
The more you free yourself from stress, the more people will feel free around you.
Those people, especially your guy, will want to be around you and be close to you.
Stress and anxiety can be contagious.
We instantly sense when we are around someone who is stressing, and it is off-putting.
Try to just keep calm and enjoy things for what they are in the present moment.
Don’t worry about where things are going, when he’s going to call you his girlfriend or why he took so long to text back.
Quiet those thoughts and remind yourself they aren’t serving you in any positive way.
Trust the timing of your life.
Trust that things will work out as they’re supposed to because that really is how it usually goes.
5. Learn to love yourself.
I know it’s trite and maybe a little cheesy, but that doesn’t make it any less true.
Above all else, the best thing you can do to attract more love into your life is to genuinely love yourself.
The hottest woman to a guy is a woman who is thoroughly happy with who she is.
Don’t change who you are because you think that's what he wants.
You need to find someone who likes the entire picture, not just pieces of you.
You can't hide who you are forever.
All you'll do drain your energy trying to portray yourself as someone you're not.
Your real self will always come out in the end.
If he doesn't accept you for who you are or doesn't like you for who you really are, how can you expect to ever have a happy, healthy relationship with him?
If you show who you really are and he leaves, it means it was never going to work.
That's not a loss.
Don't blame yourself for what you did wrong because it never would have worked.
You lost nothing.
All that happened is you discovered you were incompatible.
Discovering you’re incompatible is great.
It saves you months or years of heartache and distraction, and it frees you up to find someone who is the right fit for you.
If you are authentically being yourself and living your life with integrity, when another person shows up and loves you for who you are, you won’t need to try to impress him.
He will love you for exactly who you are, and it will take zero effort on your part.
The more that person gets to know you, the more he will fall in love with you.
He will start liking you as a person, not some version of you.
Remember a relationship will never fill an emotional void, complete you or make you happy. (Although, it can certainly add to your level of happiness.)
You have to show up to a relationship whole and happy going in.
If you show up broken, the guy will either leave, or you’ll attract the type of guy who will take advantage of you, then leave.
Being in a relationship doesn’t determine your worth; only you have the power to do that.
Instead of focusing on finding a guy, focus on being the kind of woman who can have an amazing relationship.
It all starts with you.
It starts with you being your best self.
That’s where all the other resolutions can come into play: stop smoking, eat healthy, join a gym, spend more time pursuing your passions and focus on letting go of your demons.
Commit to being your best self, and everything else will fall into place.