Your romantic life is like a house—it needs careful maintenance if you want it to last and serve you well. Sometimes all that’s required is a little soap and polish to put a shine back in your search for lasting love. Yet it’s also possible that after years of neglect, or a poor design to begin with, a full-blown renovation will be necessary. If you suspect you fall into the latter category, fear not! Here is a four-step guide for getting the job done:
1. Inspection. People whose house needs remodeling commonly convince themselves that problems they can’t see don’t actually exist. Consequently, they find any excuse to avoid the basement where water is seeping through the foundation, or the attic where squirrels have been carrying out renovations of their own. They believe that ignorance is a key component of blissful denial. So step one is to take stock of where you stand. This means grabbing a clipboard and examining yourself with brutal honesty. List all your sagging floors, leaking faucets, and peeling paint. Where do you feel worn out and in need of improvement? Eating habits? Lack of exercise? The people you hang out with? The way you spend money? You’ll know when an area of your life is out of balance by how it makes you feel to examine it closely. The reason for turning this uncomfortable spotlight on yourself is simple: You can’t fix what you don’t acknowledge as a problem.
2. Design. Thankfully, the next phase of renovation is much more fun. This is not the time to get out the hammers and pry bars—that comes next. Contrary to what your elementary school teachers told you, success at this point depends on your ability to daydream. If you saw need for improvement in step one, imagine in colorful detail what you want to be instead. Be thorough and very specific. If your physical appearance was on the list, visualize the new you, confident and complete. Want to be more outgoing? See yourself as the life of the party. Picture the new car, the clean apartment, the more fulfilling job. Fill in the desired details, like an architect’s conceptual drawing.
3. Demolition. This phase is fun too, if undertaken with the right attitude. Now that you know what needs to change in your life—and what the new you should look like—it’s time to make a (purposeful) mess of things. If you stop after step two, all you will have accomplished is a lot of useless reflection and wishful thinking. Now is the time to get busy and tear things up; knock down walls; raise the roof, if you must. Are old habits keeping you stuck? Smash them. Relationships that hold you back? Say goodbye. Clothes in your closet that tie you to an old self-image? Give them away. Be ruthless and relentless until everything that stands between you and your vision is in a dumpster where it belongs—because you can’t replace what you don’t first clear away.
4. Reconstruction. Finally, it’s payoff time. Nothing is more satisfying than watching your vision take shape before your eyes. After the chaos, it’s fun to choose new paint colors, pick out fresh fixtures and furnishings, and find the perfect curtains. The result is a place you can be truly proud of—and that others will want to visit as well. What will you put in place of your old habits and attitudes? Who will your new friends be? Your new interests and goals? You get to decide. Make sure the answers are all uplifting, affirming, and life-giving.
What does all of this have to do with dating? Well, you can’t expect someone else to care for you until you properly care for yourself.