I got married young. I remember always wanting to be married and wanting to have a family. I got my wish. Years later, however, as I celebrated my first Valentine's Day single, I received a gift I didn't know I wanted: self-love.
Like many stories I've heard, I went from relationship to relationship without much of a break. This is something the brilliant Elizabeth Gilbert talks about in Eat, Pray, Love. After my divorce, there was no relationship, but I thought there should be. I read the books, tried the dating sites, went on several first dates and even a couple of second dates, but it wasn't until I stopped and learned to love spending time with me that I really found love.
Entering a crowded room alone and spending Saturday nights or the Hallmark holidays (like Valentine's Day) alone took practice, but I can tell you that it became some of the best times and today, re-married, I can tell you that my marriage is very different in part because of the time I took to really enjoy being alone.
They say that you won't find true love until you learn to love yourself. While I had found true love early on (I'm married to my high school sweetheart), we have both commented that our marriage would not have worked if we had stayed together after high school. We had to become the best versions of ourselves before our marriage would be what it is today. For me, that meant falling in love with myself as a person. How could I expect him to love who I am if I can't love who I am?
Divorce redefined love for me. It didn't just change my relationship with my husband now, it changed who I am as a Mom. Because I took the time for me, I was more patient with my kids and had the energy to do things with them that I wouldn't have if I didn't take the time to love me. It's also taught them that it's not just OK for them to love themselves, it's necessary.
Love isn't always between two people, love starts with you. Today, I have a Valentine and I'm so thankful for him, but I'll never forget that I'm my own Valentine first.