Personally, I don't believe in puppy love. At least, not in the traditional sense. It's been my experience that whenever people use that term it's a way to minimize a love relationship based on one's age. My first love? It happened when I was 18. He was a teenager too. And although we're both in our 40s now, we still run into each other from time to time and admit that our "young love" was one of the most mutually impacting, to this day.
My point? When we get involved with someone, we "fall in love" and things don't work out, I don't think it's smart to act like what happened wasn't love at all. Just because things don't turn out the way we want them to, that doesn't mean the experience wasn't real. If anything, I just think that each time we love and move on, we learn more about what love really is, in preparation for the bigger love that is to follow.
Me? Based on what I currently believe I know about love, I feel that I have loved four men. What hindsight has caused me to accept is that each one taught me something that has caused me to expand my view of love—love for a man and, more importantly, love for myself. Just because we aren't together, that didn't mean the love wasn't real; it just means that the season came to an end so that I could learn more about the vastness of love…elsewhere.
Honestly, I think embracing this kind of mentality is the first indication that you're ready to love again. When you don't look back and diminish what you had with someone else but, instead, you can see the beauty and divine purpose within it, that's when you can receive what's next.
If a past love experience wore you all the way out, what are some other pretty telling signs that you're in a healthy and mature place to love—again?
You’re Not Looking for a Man to Fill Some Void
The reality is that all of us have voids in our lives; some are just bigger (or in different compartments) than others. But the reason why it's not the best idea to look for a man to fill a void in your life is because, typically, when you do that, the void has something to do with what you should be working to fill on your own. If that doesn't make sense, peep some indicators that you have a pattern of looking for guys to fill voids—you tend to rebound a lot; you hop from shallow relationship to shallow relationship; you rush relationships; you mistake sex for intimacy and you'd rather be with someone—almost anyone—than be alone.
There's nothing wrong with wanting to be in a relationship. After all, humans are relational beings. At the same time, one of the best indications that you've healed from the past and are truly ready for what is to come is you are happy and whole as a single woman. Also, a man isn't going to complete your life so much as he will enhance it. And until that man comes along, you know you'll be fine whether you're with someone or…not.
You Know the Difference Between Being Lonely and Being Alone
Remember how I said that people who look for void fillers, they would rather be with just about anybody over being alone? Let's look a little deeper into that.
One of the biggest lessons that comes with singlehood is knowing the difference between being lonely vs. being alone.
What sets them apart? People who are alone, they don't look at it like it's a death sentence or even anything to be ashamed of. People who are alone, oftentimes do it by choice because if someone doesn't have what they are looking for, they'd rather pass than settle. People who are alone have such full lives that they don't have a ton of time to reflect on whether they are lonely or not. People who are alone don't see the need to wait on a date or even their friends before going out; if no one else is available, they will head out anyway.
Lonely individuals? They read all of that and broke out into a cold sweat. To them, being in a relationship is the solution to their chronic loneliness. As a result, a relationship doesn't really serve as a support system; it's more like a crutch.
When You Think About Your Ex, You Have Peace About the Situation
This one is big. Some of my exes, we're actually pretty cool with one another; not besties but definitely not afraid to run into each other at the mall and give an earnest hug. Then there are those who, I am totally fine with never seeing again. EVER. But something that both categories of men have in common is when they randomly run through my mind (or someone brings them up), I don't feel any type of way about it. I'm not mad. I'm not plotting revenge. I don't even feel the need to rant or vent about their qualities that caused us to end things in the first place.
We shared an intimate season and so, that's a part of me. At the same time, nothing about what was is going to affect—meaning infect—what is or what will be. This means that the next guy doesn't have to worry about me comparing him to my ex or judging him based on what my ex did or didn't do. He's got a totally clean slate. Just as it should be.
Your Reason for a Relationship Is Not to Prove Some Point
I promise you, the older—and wiser—I get, the less things I feel like I need to prove to anyone. You should feel the exact same way. I mean, just look at what prove means: "to establish the truth or genuineness of, as by evidence or argument". If you're walking around trying to make the things in your life appear true or genuine, either you've been out here fakin' the funk for a long time now or you need to find some new people to be around.
This is especially the case as it relates to matters of the heart. No matter how much you loved your ex, how long you were with him, why the two of you broke up or how quickly he bounced back and got with someone else (shout out to Nino Brown's insight on this topic right here), you are absolutely NOT ready for a new situation if your only motive is to prove that you can move on too.
The last time I had a boyfriend is when I was 32. He's since lived with someone and some other stuff since then. Chile, I don't care. The love I once had for him hopes he'll find his fit; he deserves it. In the meantime, I'm not gonna get myself into something that isn't the best for me just to prove that I can.
When you've truly healed from a relationship, you know, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you have nothing that you need to prove. To anyone.
You’d Finally Prefer the Man You Need vs. the Man You Want
Did you know that only 14 percent of men in the United States are over 6' tall (maybe that's why a lot of celebrities are so short; tall is the exception and not the rule)? This means that my preference for at least 6'3" or up is going to make finding Mr. Right a bit of a challenge; especially since I'd also prefer him to be in the Godiva chocolate range (preferably someone who resembles the lead in one my favorite web series Mind of the Single Male; he's dope and so is his real-life wife. I love Black love!). On the physical tip, those are some of the things that I want; they are not necessarily things that I need.
That's a part of how I know that I'm ready to love again because I used to have a pretty counterproductive habit of putting my wants before my needs—attractive before committable; funny before mature; sexy over spiritual (hey, I'm just being real). But after having to nurse my heart back to life, more times than I can count, needs are a whole lot more important to me.
By no means am I saying that I'm going to settle for the short and hefty pastor who has absolutely no sex appeal (I broke down how I got over that in "My Eureka Moment for Why I'm Not into 'Nice Guys'"); I'm saying that rather than just focusing on what I desire on a semi-surface level, I'm now open to what's truly necessary for my next relationship to remain healthy, strong and able to go the distance.
Character is the "cake", the need. Sexiness is "icing", the want. Cake before icing (but yes…icing is much appreciated too).
A Relationship Will Enhance Your Already Amazing Life
You wanna know how you can truly know that you're ready for the next—and, if all goes well, final—love of your life? It's when, if the perfect man entered into your world right now, you'd have to stop and consider if he is going to cramp your style because your life is already so full and fulfilling.
Recently, while talking to a male friend of mine, he asked me if I was freaking out (on any level) since it had been so long since I've been in a relationship. I thought about it and said:
"My hormones have those moments, for sure, but you know what? Until a man can love me in the way that I know I can love a man, I need to remain single. I'd be settling otherwise."
That's basically my motto these days. I want to find love again, but not just so I can be in a relationship. What all of the past loves have taught me is until—and unless—someone can top all of what I've already experienced, my life, as it is, is pretty darn good. I'm in love with it and myself. "He" will have to get in where he fits in. And honestly, that's how I know that I'm about as close as I can get to being ready to love…again.
Featured image by Getty Images