Going to therapy helped me meet the love of my life

From the moment I created a Hinge account at the end of 2019, I knew exactly what I was looking for.

For example, one thing I was absolutely certain about was that I wanted closeness, so if someone failed to communicate frequently and consistently, I simply moved on.

This self-assurance led me to finding the man of my dreams – but I wasn’t always this confident when it came to finding love.

In my early 20s, I found myself dating a string of emotionally unavailable partners who only intensified my anxious attachment style and self-loathing.

People who worked crazy hours and had little time for me, or only came to London for a visit, or had just got out of a long-term relationship.

People who had completely different lifestyles and interests from mine and were unresponsive to my emotional needs. 

I realised I was dating as an escape and I often shrunk myself for someone else’s comfort. I felt like I was going crazy, as my feelings and experiences were never acknowledged or validated.

When I confronted an ex about sending mixed signals or tried to address what had gone wrong in the relationship, they would dismiss it or stop communicating altogether, leaving me picking up the pieces and drowning in intense emotions.

I felt powerless against my anxious attachment style and my repeatedly wrong choices of partners. At the same time, I was dragging myself to a job that made me feel like an outsider, which damaged my self-esteem significantly.

I was stuck. My thoughts kept going in circles. It dawned on me that if I continued down this path, I’d never escape my own personal hell.

It was then that I realised I needed professional help – my last hope for a better life.

All of this led me to start therapy in 2019.

When I came to my therapist’s office for the first time, I felt like a hollow shell of myself.

Over time, therapy helped me accept myself and understand that I was capable of validating my own experiences and meeting my own needs in healthy ways.

An example of a maladaptive way to soothe anxiety after a breakup is to contact an ex, which can lead to further emotional distress. In contrast, a healthier way is to acknowledge the anxiety, let it pass, take deep breaths, and spend time with close friends and family, which was what I did.

Going to therapy became my anchor. My healing work empowered me to make my own judgements and embrace every facet of my identity including being a woman who thinks and feels a lot.

I learned that I was indeed powerful and could protect myself by setting strong boundaries – the ones I deserved to have.

Meanwhile, I changed my lifestyle – I stopped all romantic interactions with men and started doing things that strengthened my sense of self such as playing sports, doing improv, learning to swim, cycling to work, and travelling solo. 

When I finally put myself out there again after months of a self-imposed dating hiatus, I approached it from a place of strength and self-love. I was determined to find someone who was compatible with me and could add real value to my life.

In my mind, I was the one in control – the judge and the chooser – as opposed to waiting to be picked.

I had a clear goal of finding a serious relationship to be married. So I made sure my dating profile showed my values, where I was at in life, and what I was looking for. I only liked the profiles of people who piqued my genuine curiosity and admiration. Then I let them approach me and show their intention.

A few days after creating my profile, I matched with Ashley.

From the very beginning, he demonstrated his consistency and emotional availability that was ever so rare in the dating world.

Our conversations flowed effortlessly. He was curious about my self-published book, which I mentioned on my profile. From there, we jumped to other topics like favourite books, movies, hobbies and interests, our Myers Briggs personality types, and so on, without missing a beat.

He initiated contact daily, saying hello or replying to my texts from the previous night. After a couple of days of chatting away, he asked me out on a first date.

He even purchased a physical copy of my book without me asking, which is a gesture that touched me and signaled his genuine interest in me as a person.

From the moment we sat down for our first date in central London, everything just clicked.

First, we grabbed drinks at a bar then had dinner in Kingly Court, in Soho. We talked and laughed like old friends. I felt like I could be fully myself around him.

Time seemed to fly by, and before we knew it, five hours had passed. As we said goodbye at the Tube station, he asked me out on a second date, to which I agreed without hesitation because it just felt so right to see each other again.

For our second date just four days later, he surprised me with tickets to an exhibition called Wildlife Photographer of the Year, and we continued to talk every day leading up to it, sharing more about our daily lives.

I was excited to see him again, but this time, I made a conscious effort to stay grounded and not get carried away. It’s easy to fantasise about someone you just met and want to be liked by this person so much that you disregard your own needs and wants.

So I reminded myself that I was looking for a serious relationship and I did not know him well yet. I focused on the facts that demonstrated our compatibility and his level of interest in me while allowing myself to be in the moment and be the receiver of his attention and affection like I was worth it.

This meant that when he complimented me or did something nice for me, I didn’t doubt his intention or feel indebted to him. Instead, I simply expressed my gratitude and reciprocated him.

We spent the day grabbing lunch at Tombo in South Kensington, visiting the National History Museum, and even braving the cold to stroll around Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park.

As we exchanged stories that communicated our values and built our connection, I felt comfortable enough to open up about my anxiety in relationships.

He listened attentively and asked detailed questions to understand it better like ‘How did you feel?’ and ‘In what situations do you usually feel like that?’, making me feel seen and want to share more.

As the day drew to a close, we didn’t want the date to end. So, we headed to a bar to warm up and continue our conversation.

That’s when he leaned in and asked the sweetest question: ‘Can I kiss you?’

Needless to say, I went in for it. It was our first kiss and we’ve been inseparable ever since.

He was – and is – the most funny, loving, patient and wonderful man I’ve ever met.

A year after our first date, he proposed with the most gorgeous ring and a heartfelt essay about what he thought of me as a person and his feelings for me that moved me to tears.

Last year, we had our dream wedding surrounded by close friends and family. In his vow, he said making me smile was the biggest accomplishment of his life, and he has done it every single day.

Looking back, my journey towards self-acceptance and love was not an easy one, but it was worth it.

Therapy and personal growth led me to a place where not only could I be comfortable in my own skin and love in a healthy, fulfilling way but also build a life I’ve always wanted.

For that, I am forever grateful.

So, How Did It Go?

So, How Did It Go? is a weekly Metro.co.uk series that will make you cringe with second-hand embarrassment or ooze with jealousy as people share their worst and best date stories.

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