From the well-meaning to the mean-spirited, I've gotten a lot of advice about how to do all of this, and while some of it was helpful, a lot of it turned out to be mostly untrue. I'm not saying that these snippets of advice are untrue for everyone, but they weren't true for me and they may not be true for you either.
1. You'll find love when you're not looking for it.
Finding a partner was something I felt like I was always doing, almost in an OCD way at times. It seemed like every attractive man I passed was a potential date, and I started looking for wedding bands right away. It was a pretty strange way of experiencing the world, mostly because it made me feel insane.
When I met Carolina Man, my ring-finger obsession had waned a bit, but I was still very much thinking about my life and how I wanted a partner. Being crystal clear about my wants and desires actually was part of what attracted CM to me in the first place.
My truth: I found love where I wasn't expecting it.
2. You need to be ok with being alone before you're ready for a relationship.
Looking for love and being happy with yourself are not mutually exclusive. Self-acceptance is about being satisfied with who you are, not necessarily your circumstances. In fact, it's in part about being able to discern the two. As in, just because life's shitty at times doesn't make me a shitty person. The problem comes when you want any relationship just for the sake of having one rather than one that's a good fit.
When I met CM, I was taking good care of myself and working on the inner critic bullshit. That upped my self-awareness and helped me be in tune with what was going on internally.
My truth: I needed to be self-aware of my feelings and desires before I was ready for a relationship.
3. Don't date more than 10 years older.
Confession: no one said this to me. I said it to myself! I set up this arbitrary decade limit for how old I'd date. I thought there would be no way I could relate to someone older than my oldest brother who's 37. When I was online dating, I immediately eliminated anyone older than that.
But CM is hardly an old man! I do have fun picking at him that when he graduated high school I was just going into kindergarten, but in all honesty, he's young at heart, goofy, and keeps me laughing. That's way more important than how many birthdays he's had.
My truth: Don't make age a non-negotiable.
Life is unpredictable. We can go through it trying to avoid hardship and heartache, but in the end, we get hurt anyway. So, why not just take the chance?