Dating is hard. Like really hard. Especially when you’re in your 20’s, a Black woman and let’s face it, encountering a pool of potential partners that are either emotionally unavailable, way too available or just not the right fit for you.
And why is dating so difficult? Instagram quotes and 280 character-limited tweets try to answer this question on a daily, if not hourly basis.
The truth is we don’t really know. One thing that often occurs, though, and that which we might only admit to ourselves when inebriated during happy hours with friends, is that we haven’t managed to cope with our own emotions. Our past and the traumas that came with it.
All the while, we inch dangerously closer to fulfilling a burning desire to finally do the scary thing: love someone, and fail at it too. Are we ready? Do we even love ourselves enough to love another in a healthy way?
Whether the answer is yes or no, the bottom line is this: there is no running from emotional trauma, there is only getting through it. As long as we try to flee from our hurt or pain, it will always be there lurking, ready to pounce when we’re at our most vulnerable. Possibly worse, it can negatively affect the people we are interested in too.
“You can’t love anyone else until you love yourself.”
When we see “love” as an action rather than as a feeling, the infamous quote “you can’t love anyone until you love yourself” begins to make sense. Pushing for your own emotional growth and maturity is self-love. Moreover, it is not only of social importance but can be a predictor of academic and professional success (Romanelli, Caine & Smith, 2006).
It’s hard to come to the conclusion that you are not familiar with emotional management: the ability to process hurt, pain or neglect in a way that won’t lead you to self-perpetuate harmful coping mechanisms. It’s also never too late to accustom yourself to it.
So how do you process negative emotions and memories? How do you flex your ‘emotional regulatory’ muscle? And perhaps most importantly, how do you mediate relationships with others who have trouble doing the same?
There isn’t one strategy or solution to getting at the root of your issues. However, some useful methods for processing your triggers, behaviors and emotions that have worked for others are below:
If you’d like to end a chapter to a book that just seems to keep opening itself over and over again, try some self-reflection. In fact, it is suggested that self-reflection is one of the three key components for personal development (Nesbit, 2007).
In short, reflection provides us the opportunity to learn from our experiences, assess our actions and adjust them if necessary for similar events in the future.
Reflect, process, repeat.
We first learn our emotional coping strategies through our parents (Mirabile, 2010). Whether healthy or dysfunctional, our parents are our first filters as to how we should approach the world.
In fact, we can learn to internalize our emotions as early as pre-school, which can lead to academic difficulties in school. Poor emotional self-management can also lead to negative externalizing behaviors as well (aggression and poor social interactions).
Needless to say, meaningful socialization matters. It helps us better gain the skills and tools necessary to handle conflict and become aware of others’ thought processes through experience and dialogue.
Connecting with others beyond surface-level interactions can quite literally help us regulate our own feelings.
Get out there and connect!
Open yourself to opportunities where you’re likely to bond with others and share the gleeful moments as well as the throes of life.
When dealing with conflict and the following ways our brain reacts to it, empathy can provide a sort of relief.
Let’s be honest, it’s kind of exhausting to attribute others’ perceived negative actions to some character flaw or attribute of theirs. That’s because in reality, we know that we make mistakes too and may not always live our lives in ways others understand.
So remember, behaviors are often manifested in invisible ways. Try to see life’s occurrences through various lenses.
With these broad thematic strategies, we hope you’re able to find specific tasks that you can use to develop emotional maturity. Although this may not lead you to the love of our life, it may support you in healthier and more fulfilling relationships with others as well as ourselves.