How to navigate dating as an independent woman

9 November, 2021 / words by user

Written by Melissa Holdbrook-Akposoe

Image by @JourdanDunn

I haven’t had a history of being lucky in love, in fact, it’s one part of my life that I deeply struggled with. It also wasn’t something I enjoyed talking about because people like to make out that if you yearn for romantic companionship, you come across as desperate (which by the way is stupid AF and completely untrue). 

This void was really troubling for me in the past because having a successful relationship, marriage and family are things that I value highly. Those are the things that I define as success. Not how many millions my company has made. Money and occupational success is sweet don’t get me wrong but to me, they are not the be-all and end-all. There are way more fulfilling things to experience in life.

I decided to do some self-exploration to find out why my dating life was so abysmal and why I wasn’t attracting who I wanted to attract and most importantly, what it really was that I wanted in a partner. I ended up taking a 3-year hiatus from dating to do some self-enlightenment work which was both frustrating and exhausting. 

It’s not widely admitted but ‘finding yourself’ is one of the hardest journeys you can embark on. It may just be harder than A level maths (not that I even got that far but I’ve heard things). Any type of soul searching will completely exhaust you but it is a necessary practice to endure in order to live a life that is both peaceful and pleasing is to you. 

One of the things I did whilst on this journey was ask myself if I had what it took to be a good partner to someone else and the answer was no. I was quite interruptive, I had a short fuse and my head was harder than kola nut. There were lot of things that I had to unpack and work on and in turn, it made me a better person all around. The thing about relationships is that they work both ways. You have to ensure that you too are a good enough match for the person that you’re trying to manifest. Figuring that out and doing the work that comes with it is just as important as looking for a companion.

So now comes the part where I felt ready to open my heart to love again. When I came to the end of my hiatus, I decided to write down a list of things that I was looking for in a partner excluding anything to do with aesthetics, finances, or materialism. For a long time, I had created a vision of what I wanted my partner to be like but whilst on this personal journey, I realised that it was this very vision that was holding me back. You see, your mind is full of fantasy and it nearly always excludes realistic variables. The criteria I had previously created had things like ‘7 figure income’ on it but these were not the things I needed to be concerned about or focused on in the obsessive way that I once was.

I’ve dated rich men in the past and they were AWFUL to me. I realised that I needed to focus on character more than anything. Character really determines how someone is going to treat you. Not the lambo truck that they drive.

So when conjuring my list, I focused on character-based attributes. I wrote things down like;

– Compassionate

– Supportive

– God-fearing

– Driven

– Reasonable

– Kind

– Patient

– Empathetic

– Considerate

– Emotionally intelligent

I decided to pray on my list and left the rest to God and of course, he came through for me! What is so weird is that my partner has every single characteristic that I wrote down on my list (plus so many more bonus attributes) and I’ve never felt more content.  It took a lot of time and patience, but I finally allowed myself to be happy and fall in love after changing my mindset.

Finding a partner and falling in love takes a lot of trust, especially if you’re a control freak like me who prides themselves in taking autonomy over every part of their life. I really had to let go but there were a few things I did in order to do so.

Let’s talk about criteria. Speaking as your wisdom-filled internet sister, I really need to make a point of saying that your criteria, those ‘non-negotiables’ that you’ve decided on, you’re going have to start renegotiating sis! You really need to ask yourself, do you want to fall in love and live a happy and satisfied life? Or do you want the possibility of finding love to pass you by due to you nitpicking and ditching everyone you come across to wait for the caricature you’ve created in your mind? All I’m saying is being realistic. A lot of the time, the things you want in a partner do exist, but be open to the fact that they may not present themselves in the same package or circumstances that you were so sure that they would.

Think about it this way. What is the likelihood that you’ll find a person of your desired race, culture or tribe and that that person will also meet your financial and aesthetic criteria AND they are a good person? And then on top of all of that, what’s the likelihood that you’re even their type? Harsh, but these are questions I had to ask myself and that I’m exploring you to ask yourself. Looking back at the past, I don’t think I was being realistic or fair enough, something had to give. I think that a lot of people are depriving themselves of great relationships because they are too set on their vision but all I’m asking you to do is to reassess.

Be open to love and be open to opportunities. Allow yourself the possibility of a happy ending by discarding your rigidness. We live in a world where absolutely any and everything can be curated or conjured up, but this one sis, from what I’ve seen this one can’t. If you take anything from this, consider changing your perspective.

When I finally got into a good relationship I struggled quite a bit. Firstly, it was hard to accept that something/someone is good when you’ve only ever experienced the bad. It took a long while to develop trust. I also struggled with having to consider someone else in my plans when decision making and that was tough. Being a businesswoman who makes decisions for myself and others for a living, it was hard to get my mind around having to consult someone before I did things but I got there in the end. But out of all the things I struggled with, the hardest thing I had to battle against was learning how to be soft. 

I feel like I’ve spent my whole life fighting. Fighting to be seen, fighting to be heard, fighting to be understood so in turn, when I entered into relationships I brought that fighting spirit with me. One thing I will tell you is that no relationship will flourish with that energy around, but that energy can only disappear if a safe environment is created to allow you to be soft. I had never been able to feel soft in the past because I never felt safe. I always felt like I was in it alone, but now, I thank God that I have someone who feels like home and allows me to put my complete trust in him. That’s something that I really wish I realised sooner. I wish I knew that I wasn’t always the problem, the environment and the people I was choosing just didn’t bring out the best in me. I’ve spent a lot of life beating myself up for failed relationships but I’m so glad that’s behind me now.

I’m actually glad my journey through love has turned out the way it has. Although I felt like I wasn’t lucky in love in the past, I remind myself that my mum always says “hope that it’s not luck because luck runs out.”




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