The Blueprint To Blooming Love

Featured image: TONL
The first step towards cultivating a healthy romantic relationship? Working on yourself.

On the night of Valentine’s Day in February 2020, at a church mixer in Atlanta, I found myself face-to-face with a charmingly yet disarming sight: a beautiful brown-skinned man with a head full of curly locs, dimples that sat on his face in the shape of moon crescents, and a bright, captivating smile. He was fine! Instead of embracing the spark I felt when this man walked up to say “hi,” I built invisible walls around my scarred little heart. “He’s too smooth,” I thought. I reasoned that someone who was this attractive and had so much charisma wouldn’t commit to me down the line. Who hurt you, sis?  Perhaps it was my trail of past situationships gone nowhere, causing me to paint him with a broad stroke of suspicion. It was about time I confronted the barriers preventing me from finding the love I desired. It felt long overdue.  

The truth is, there is no actual blueprint for love—we’re all just trying to figure it out as we go, especially if we didn’t have healthy relationship models in our childhood. But one thing is certain: to attract and nurture fulfilling relationships, we must first go on a journey of self-discovery and growth. Sweet July sat down with Angela Nicole Holton, international dating and relationship coach and creator of the Conscious Love & Dating Method coaching program, to establish a customizable framework.

Part 1: Building Your Best Self

Holton tells Sweet July that self-awareness is a key step to fostering healthy relationships. We can’t change or address anything we aren’t aware of. We must realize that we are the common denominator in all our relationships—whether successful or not. 

Handle this step with care. It’s not an excuse to talk down on yourself. If we consistently say that we’re not good enough, we’re not loveable, no one ever likes us, no one ever chooses us, etc., we are only attacking ourselves. “We have to find a place of self-compassion for who we are and the choices we’ve made, good or bad—compassion for who we are striving to become,” says Holton. 

The active listening, healthy communication, respect, integrity, forgiveness, and kindness we desire from someone else in a relationship begins with giving and showing up for ourselves in those ways. That’s why Holton encourages people to date themselves how they want to be dated. “If you want someone who’s generous, romantic, adventurous and playful, be adventurous, playful, romantic and generous with yourself. Are you stingy with yourself? Are you bored with your own company?” She continues, “I often hear people say, ‘Oh, I want someone who’s got X, Y, Z, and they bring this to the table.’ They’re not even giving those things to themselves, but they want someone else to do that. That’s where you’ve got it wrong. Start to treat yourself like that. And then the people that come into your life will mirror and reflect your sense of value and self-respect.”

Part 2: Laying the Foundation

The next step in cultivating healthy relationships is defining what healthy love is and isn’t. What are your personal values and needs? What are your deal breakers? According to Holton, named as one of the top 10 relationship coaches in 2020 by Yahoo!, what makes relationships healthy is mutual love, respect, kindness, trust, honesty, and transparency. However, identifying your personal list is important. 

She also tells Sweet July that the best relationships are reciprocal ones. This doesn’t mean it will always be 50-50 because, realistically, relationships never are—especially not at the same time. But there’s a give and take from each party. You shouldn’t feel like you’re always giving the most or that the other is always just taking the most. 

Once we’ve identified what our version of healthy is, the next step is identifying our past relationship patterns and where they line up or fall short. 

Remember to approach this step with a healthy dose of optimism, not cynicism. Reflecting on what didn’t work in past relationships doesn’t mean future ones are doomed to fail. With new potential, I personally always waited for the shoe to drop, anticipating and expecting heartbreak. “Relationships never turn out well for me, so why would it be any different this time?” I’d reason with myself so I wouldn’t get my hopes up the next time. Reminder: It’s OK to get your hopes up. Actually, good relationship outcomes require a healthy dose of it. What doesn’t work out is another lesson about yourself and what you want in a future partner for the books.

Part 3: Opening Yourself to Connection

Valentine’s Day 2020, the day I met the man who would change it all for me, felt like every other time at first. It held no promises, just echoes of past disappointments and a dwindling well of hope. If you had told me I’d find a kindred spirit, a best friend, a fellow traveler on the path of faith, and my now (spoiler alert) husband, I wouldn’t have believed you. But it all started with a mind shift and the willingness to approach this budding relationship with reflective but hopeful energy.  

“If you think there’s a shortage of good men or good women, there’s going to be a shortage,” says Holton. “If you think that all men or women are alike or they all take advantage of you, guess what? They’re all going to do that. Whatever you believe is what you get.”

After your next date, Holton suggests that you ask yourself these questions: What made me feel comfortable on this date? What made me feel uncomfortable? How did I show up differently this time? “If you discover something new about yourself, there’s no wasted date,” she says. “Each date is a building block for you growing, learning and understanding more of yourself, and understanding more of who that partner is that you’re seeking.” 

And sometimes, another building block turns into the foundation for a lifelong connection. Sometimes, it does end up working out. My husband and I built a genuine friendship over four months, leading with vulnerability and fostering a profound intimacy that neither of us had experienced. We knew that on the other end of the FaceTime call (we started off long distance) wasn’t a perfect person, but we saw a mutual readiness to learn and grow together. When romantic feelings kicked in, we confided in one another that we were scared. We both had baggage and knew a relationship would call us to face that baggage, heal further, and stretch beyond our comfort zones. Before we started officially dating, I told my husband all I had the courage to do at the time was to test the waters of our budding relationship with one big toe. He laughed and lovingly encouraged me that the water was warm and we could get in together—one body part at a time. 

We began dating shortly after that; he proposed the day before our first anniversary; and we were married five months later. We did it scared, but it was our best version of healthy. You can, too.

You May Also Like...