It’s that iconic moment, marking the end of another year: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 … The clock runs out, the ball drops and the confetti swirls through the air. But what I find to be most ironic about this universal experience is that it’s marked by a very isolating act: a kiss.
All over the country, men and women are leaning in, marking the start of a new year with a long smooch.
What is it about the New Year’s kiss? It seems to signal an annual reminder that relationships are all-important. Well, that may be well and good for those lip-smackers out there, but what about those who are alone?
I remember those New Year’s Eve nights as a single young woman. I remember reflecting on the year that had passed and looking to the year ahead, hoping and praying this would be my year for love. Though there were many things I couldn’t control when it came to finding true love, there were certainly some things that I could.
If you found yourself alone at midnight for New Year’s, my challenge to you is to see this year as something new. Don’t let the isolation, fears, failures and loneliness of your past define you. Don’t let these things dictate where you are going or who you are going to become. It’s time for something new, and the change can start with you.
Take time to really think through your goals and vision for this upcoming year. You can’t control when and how you fall in love, but you can resolve, this year, to choose a few steps that will lead you closer to healthy relationships and a healthier you. Here are a few dos and don’ts to help you along the way.
1. Do renew your focus.
When you’re single, it’s easy to focus on what you don’t have rather than what you do. It’s difficult to shift that focus in a culture in which the very nature of the word “single” is defined as incomplete. Do yourself a favor this year by redefining singleness as a chance to invest in yourself, an opportunity to refine your character and chart the course for who you want to be. As marriage and parenting come along, this opportunity becomes more and more difficult. Take this time alone to get to know yourself, your habits and your hopes. Pursue your passions, your goals and your dreams. Shift your focus to what you have rather than what you don’t have, to who you are rather than who you’re not with.
2. Do get out of your comfort zone.
My comfort zone almost got me into lifelong trouble during my dating years. So set in my ways of thinking and living, I almost missed the opportunity to date, fall in love with and eventually marry the man of my dreams.
This year, take some time to really assess your lifestyle. Are you missing opportunities because you’re defaulting to what’s comfortable and easy? As Christians, we sometimes fall into the trap of excusing our lack of action as faith, but faith was never meant to be passive and stagnant. Be open to new opportunities and experiences. Start saying yes to things that seem uncomfortable or challenging. Faith that is alive requires movement, growth and action. Trust in God, and then allow Him to move you forward into the plan He has for your life, one step at a time.
3. Do set boundaries.
They say the definition of insanity is someone who does the same thing over and over again, expecting different results. Many men and women fall into the same unhealthy relationship patterns year after year because they fail to correct their mistakes.
Let this year be the year of new beginnings. Look out for unhealthy patterns of behavior and seek to change those patterns in your life. Start saying no to the kinds of relationships that continue to drag you down. Set emotional, physical and behavioral boundaries for yourself that determine where you are not willing to go—and then don’t go there. Take charge of your relationships rather than allowing them to take charge of you.
4. Don’t rush.
It’s tempting to jump into the arms of the first opportunity for a relationship. Though this tactic may work for the lucky few, the majority of men and women who rush into relationships end up with a broken heart and a wounded spirit. Don’t let the fear of singleness lead you into a relationship you were never intended to be in. As contradictory as it may sound, time will always be on your side. Take the time to build a friendship, and allow your relationship to grow as naturally as possible.
5. Don’t settle.
When it comes to relationships, have a list of majors and minors—major items in a relationship that take top priority for you, and minor things you’d prefer but aren’t deal breakers. Some of the most difficult relationship problems come when people settle when it comes to the major items, despite their importance. It’s essential to know what’s important to you. Take the time to think through your majors, and commit to keeping them at the forefront of your relationship no matter what (or who) comes along. God knows what is important to your heart. Trusting Him with your relationships means believing He will bring you what is best—not what is OK, not what is pretty good, but what is best. Minor on the minors—but be sure to major on the majors.
6. Don’t despair.
No matter where you may be on your timeline of finding the person God has for you, don’t be discouraged. For those who are believers, God promises that even in the most difficult and lonely times, He has a plan that is good (Jeremiah 29:11). Part of what it means to have faith is to trust in God and then go out and live with confidence, knowing He holds the future and also sustains your present. Don’t long for the future at the expense of missing the here and now. For the believer in Christ, life was meant to be full (John 10:10)! Take heart, have hope and enjoy the ride.
Debra is a Licensed Professional Counselor, relationship expert, speaker and author of several books, including True Love Dates. Debra is also the creator of the popular relationship advice blog TrueLoveDates.com, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.