Raise your hand if you want to roll your eyes each time someone says, "Dating is supposed to be fun!"
I mean, it's true. Dating is supposed to be fun. It provides opportunities to dress up, hang out with someone new, eat some delicious grub, and see good movies. Most folks think that stuff is fun.
But there's certainly more to it than that. There's the texting. The uncertainty. The awkwardness. The questions.
And all the feeeeeeeelings.
So, if you raised your hand, I give your eyes full permission to roll away. Yes, dating is fun. But it can be pretty darn stressful, too.
Now, I wouldn't be a therapist if I didn't gently remind you that not all stress is bad. Learning how to cope with stress in healthy ways is what life is all about, after all. Also, stress is inevitable. So trying to avoid it is probably only going to stress you out more. As they say, what we resist persists.
That doesn't make it any easier to deal with how unpredictable dating can be, though. I know women who would give just about anything to know whether or not their crush is actually looking for something serious. I'm sure you do, too. And we've all had countless conversations trying to help our friends decode the mixed signals they've been given. (Or perhaps it's YOU who's trying to decode mixed signals.)
All the stress and confusion makes it tempting to straight-up ask: "Hey! Do you like me? And do you want to be with me?!" But that's easier said than done. It can be terrifying to put yourself out there and potentially get hurt. No one likes getting hurt. No one likes looking silly.
Hence, the stress. And the self-doubt. And the discontentment.
So if dating is stressing you the heck out right now, I'm sorry. I'm sorry I can't tell you why So-and-So is doing this and why So-and-So is doing that. I'm sorry I don't know why you've been single for so long and I'm sorry I have no clue what So-and-So's last text means.
I'm sorry if you feel lonely and vulnerable and tired of being alone and ready to finally meet someone and annoyed that all your friends are getting married.
I'm sorry. I may not be able to wave a magic wand and make all your dating troubles go away, but what I can do is tell you this:
1. Chances are, there's nothing excessively wrong with you. Any circumstance that's causing you to doubt that probably isn't right for you. Repeat after me: "Nothing is wrong with me." Then, go get this book.
2. The stress you're experiencing right now should be balanced by a good amount of fun. When it comes to dating, stress is normal. Stress without a little fun, however, is torture. Avoid torture. Seek out fun.
3. You deserve honesty -- from others, of course, but especially from yourself. Don't lie to yourself and don't justify bad behavior. Mom was right. Honesty is often the best policy.
4. You're allowed to take a break from dating, to catch your breath and to think. Just make sure you're not swearing off dating out of fear, but rather, out of care for yourself. Remember, when it comes to this love train, YOU ought to be the conductor. Not fear.
5. If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: Your worth is not determined by whether or not you are the apple of someone else's eye. Want to experience true freedom? Work hard to mentally disconnect your self-worth from anything outside of yourself, including your relationship status.
6. Settling isn't just about how others are treating you. It's also about the way you treat others, and the treatment you accept from yourself. It doesn't hurt to routinely ask yourself how you are doing in those areas.
7. When you're feeling stressed out, overwhelmed, disheveled, and sad, that's the perfect time to TREAT. YO. SELF. Watch this video for inspiration.
8. While you're looking for love, don't forget to foster the love you have for yourself. Be nice to yourself. Take care of yourself. I'm not going to spout off cliches like, "You won't find love until you learn to love yourself," but I will say this: Regardless of whether or not you're single, loving yourself feels a helluva lot better than not loving yourself. So why not do things to make yourself feel better?
9. With regard to married people, it's probably a good idea to take their words with a grain of salt. Of course you can be friends with them, but just because someone is married doesn't mean they're a relationship expert. For some reason, however, people love to "help" single women, and it's up to you to let them know when they're missing the mark. So when someone's advice makes you feel badly about yourself, try to determine whether it's rooted in any sort of truth. If it's not, let that married "wisdom" go in one ear and out the other. (That includes my advice, too, by the way.)
10. Your heart is brave. Please don't forget that. Each time you're sent a confusing text. Each time you get hurt. Each time another friend gets engaged. Each time someone asks, "Are you dating anyone?" Each time February 14th rolls around and you want to crawl under a rock. Each time another person you were excited about disappears and you have no clue why. Each time singleness feels so incredibly lonely and you don't know what to do...
When stuff like that happens, find a way to remind yourself that your heart is brave. And if you simply cannot, lean on someone else who can. It might be an exaggeration to say that love is a battlefield -- but it certainly requires bravery.
And when it comes to bravery, I promise your heart already has what it takes.
This post originally appeared on akirahrobinson.com.