Welcome to one of the most dreaded, irritating or eagerly anticipated weeks of the year - depending on your current dating situation.
Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock recently, you’ll know that I’m of course referring to Valentine’s Day.
Being a love coach, I suppose it was inevitable that I’d be asked to write about what many refer to as the biggest consumerist cliché that exists.
If I’m honest, I’ve been procrastinating over this piece for at least a week now – mainly because I felt I’d already shared all I have to say about VD during my six years of blogging about relationships.
Thankfully, I experienced something yesterday that unexpectedly gave me a fresh and very modern take on it, and I actually think it may be one of the most beneficial and transformative love lessons any single woman could hear this week.
It’s a lesson I happened to have been reading about on the beach before we went out via my friend Dolly Alderton’s fantastic new book ‘Everything I Know About Love’ (if you haven’t got your hands on a copy yet, I insist you do so immediately).
And it’s a lesson I wish to God I’d known in the seventeen years prior to meeting my now-boyfriend Joe.
At the time of writing this, I’m lucky enough to be sat on one of the Gili islands off the coast of Bali, where Joe and I are spending the last of six months of travelling.
Last night, we went out to a reggae bar to celebrate the birthday of our friend Lucy, who’s joined us out here for a couple of weeks.
For most of the evening, the dance floor was commandeered by a group of gorgeous Chilean girls who exuded more sexiness and confidence than Angelina Jolie back in her heyday, and who seemed to be having triple the amount of fun the rest of the punters were having put together (bar us, of course).
What most struck me about these girls - who couldn’t have been older than their mid-twenties - is how very present they were with each other.
Although plenty of men tried to weedle their way in to their saucy little circle, the Chileans were simply not interested: this was a girls night out, and the only outsiders permitted to enter their fold were other girls they could twerk and take selfies with (which, joyously, included Lucy and I).
I feel sad to say that this is a far cry from how I used to behave on the majority of nights out back in the wild hedonistic years that made up my early twenties, where my excessive, exhibitionistic tendencies were merely a mask to cover up how lonely, insecure and unhappy I was.
I would often find myself departing from my girlfriends after a night out only to wander around the streets of Shoreditch by myself, looking for a man to distract me from my misery. If I hadn’t ended up in a new lover’s arms by dawn, I’d render the night a failure.
One of the main reasons women come to me for love-coaching is because of how much the thoughts and feelings surrounding their romantic life completely dominate and dwarf all other aspects of their existence.
Like twenty-three year old me, their friendships, careers and even families often play second fiddle to whatever dating saga they currently find themselves in, and the majority of their days are spent desperately willing a relationship to fall out of the sky straight in to their laps, while they torture themselves by trawling through the reams of engagement, wedding and couple’s holiday pictures plastered over their social media feeds.
Understandably, this leaves them feeling frustrated, less than and wracked with shame that their romantic reality doesn’t match up.
The first thing I tell these clients when they turn up at my virtual door is to stop beating themselves up for obsessing like this - because how could they not when advances in technology (and the 24/7 nature of it) has made it near impossible not to compare our love life to that of every Sue, Jill and Sally?
The second thing I tell them is that when it comes to finding a romantic partner to share your life with, it’s not about where they are that’s important, it’s about where YOU are.
I think the reason I’d spent all that time looking for potential suitors on nights out with friends is that I was terrified I’d somehow ‘miss’ the love of my life.
I’d be in the bathroom or looking the other way, and the man who could have melted away all my self-loathing would quietly slip out the door, totally oblivious to the love story we could have tumbled in to together.
It took me years to learn that, if I stopped looking for the romantic love I felt I lacked and instead directed all my attention towards appreciating and investing in the friends, family and pursuits that I already had in my life, the more empowered, confident and attractive I’d naturally start to feel as a by-product.
Ironically, the night that I fully mastered this lesson was the same night I met the man I’m now sat with in the Gili islands writing this piece.
I was at a festival with a girlfriend when our paths crossed – the same festival that only a year earlier I’d spent pretty much every waking moment scouring the muddy fields in search of good-looking boys to kiss and distract me from myself, but to no avail (Joe also happened to be at the festival that year, too – but I’m eternally grateful we didn’t meet then because neither of us was in anywhere near ready for a relationship at that point – much less one with each other).
This time, however, I made the commitment to myself to give all my energy and focus to the friend I was at the festival with, and the experience we were sharing together.
Whilst I was open to meeting new people whilst there, I was not going to waste one more second of my life prioritising a potential hook-up above what was truly important to me.
And because I wasn’t looking for love, I’d unknowingly created a space for it to find me – and all it took was a chance head-turn and meeting of eyes for the deal to be sealed.
No obsessive analysis of every glance, text or conversation.
No need to manipulate and maneuver to get my way.
Because love doesn’t need to be found; it’s already here – we already have it in abundance through the multitude of friends, family and experiences that light us up.
Tune in to that love by being 100% present, available and grateful for it, and I promise you, you’ll automatically become more attractive to romantic partners as a result, anyway.
So, if you happen to be single this Valentines Day, I encourage you to be like the Chilean girls and save all your adoration for the friends who already adore you, devote your time to the family who already want to hang out with you and invest your energy towards the passions that already fill you with joy.
And instead of going out to try and pull boys, go out and see how many new girlfriends you can make on dance floors, in grizzly toilets or in Turkish kebab shops at 2am.
You’ll never feel disappointed by not meeting the love of your life on a night out - or on holiday, or at a wedding - if that was never your priority in the first place.
Better still, you’ll create space for romantic love to show up when you (genuinely) least expect it.
NOW, I’D LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU:
Have you ever found yourself prioritising meeting a new love interest over being present with friends on a night out?
How did it make you feel, and what would you do differently today?
Look forward to reading your comments below <3
All my love,