THE BLOG

If You're Looking For Love, Try Looking Inside First

16/02/2017 12:51 GMT | Updated 16/02/2017 12:51 GMT

It's over. Until next year.

Shop assistants are busy dismantling a huge wall of red hearts, radio DJs are back to playing pop instead of smoochy tunes and smug couples are less ubiquitous than they were.

If you're single, it's safe to come out now. Thank goodness for that.

But if you've just endured another Valentine's evening hiding at home with a meal for one and a box set, you might have resolved to try and find someone to love by this time next year.

Maybe, as I write this, you're resurrecting a neglected online dating profile, scrolling through Plenty of Fish or joining a Meetup group.

I know that feeling. I made the decision to look for love repeatedly over the years. Only every time I dated or got into a relationship, I hit a brick wall.

I either couldn't bring myself to fancy the decent, reliable guys or I kept being attracted to men who were unavailable or who refused to commit. My relationships often followed a bewildering pattern - I'd get close to someone and then suddenly decide I didn't like him anymore or I'd give my heart to a man who was attached to someone else, wedded to his job or who lived abroad.

I thought there was something wrong with the men I kept dating until I realised I was the one who kept choosing them. A light went on and I saw that I was the common denominator in all my failed relationships.

I set out to understand where I was going wrong and my journey took me to surprising places. I revisited my childhood and saw myself as an eight-year-old girl sat on my father's knee as he told me he was moving out. I relived the heartache of that moment and understood the decision I had made: never again would I love like that; never again would I subject myself to that level of pain.

Guided by the belief that love equalled loss, I deliberately sought out men with whom there was no chance of real intimacy - commitment-phobes, men with partners or men who were gay. Either that, or I would find fault with every good guy I got close to.

It was only when I understood what was driving my relationship patterns that I could begin to change them.

If my experience rings any bells - if you are drawn to unavailable types or you cut your relationships short - it might be worth exploring what's driving your behaviours too.

To do this, can I suggest you try some of the steps I took?

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Photo credit: Creative Commons

In order to fall in love, I first had to connect to my feelings and get in touch with the pain I'd been running from for years. I had to build my self-esteem and turn myself into someone I'd gladly date. I had to identify and challenge my unhealthy relationship patterns, let go of lost loves and understand why certain men triggered me into running away. I had to make space for myself and for romance and learn to date without exposing my heart to too much hurt. Finally, I had to make bold choices, challenge my fear of intimacy and fight hard for my dreams.

As I did so, I transformed. At the start of my journey, I was a high-flying Reuters news reporter who travelled with the prime minister, all the while binge-eating to cope with stress, chronic low self-esteem and a bad case of imposter syndrome. I was fiercely independent and had no space for romance.

Today, I have a much slower pace of life. I write, coach, live by the sea in Dorset and walk on the beach as often as I can.

My life has changed hugely but the most important change - the one that enabled me to fall in love at 43 - has been on the inside.

So if you are single and would like to be in love by this time next year, can I suggest you slow down, look inside and explore your inner blocks to love? You may experience some growing pains, but trust me, the rewards are worth it.

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The steps outlined above are taken from How to Fall in Love - A 10-Step Journey to the Heart.