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Should I Be Happy Alone?

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Dear Athena,

I have had a series of events happen in my life over the last few years that have drained most of my self-confidence and self-esteem. I struggle each day to find ways to stay positive and work my way back to feeling good about myself, but I keep finding myself back at square one. I haven't really dated in a couple of years. Occasionally, I do get interested in someone and my outlook improves, but luck is not on my side lately in making a connection. I can't decide if it makes more sense to keep trying to find someone as a way to help regain my mojo or if I should focus on being happy alone first and then feeling confident about starting a relationship. Between multiple jobs and parenting, I have an evening every couple of weeks to myself. Not much to work with. Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?

Please help,

Stay Put or Push On?

Dear Stay Put or Push On,

It sounds like you've been through a lot. Life is tough; I hear that. Focusing on your work and your kids is part of moving on and staying grounded. But providing for your family as a single parent while being attentive and devoted at the same time is a challenging balance.

We don't get a pat on the back for taking care of our children or doing our jobs and paying the bills, but wouldn't it be nice if we did? Consider this my pat on your back. Keep on keepin' on. You're doing important work. The rewards are not always obvious, but they are there. Believe me.

I understand why you think that dating could be a positive reinforcement in your life. Being with someone who makes you feel good and turns you on makes getting out of bed a little easier, and your steps a little lighter. But even the glow from this newfound love will eventually begin to dim. You'll settle into a routine with one another — and while that is normal and healthy, the problems you had before will be waiting for you when you're back from the honeymoon phase.

That's the thing: Dating isn't a solution to a problem. Starting a relationship won't cure what ails you. You have to figure out what it is that's ailing you first. Only then can you truly share your life.

I say it's time to talk to someone. Whatever you've been through needs to be healed, sorted, packed up and put away. Closure is important. Sometimes it's impossible to manage life's trials on our own, and you don't have to. Maybe a friend or HR at work can recommend a therapist. Even if you only go for a few sessions, making peace with your past is the ultimate gift you can give to yourself, and your kids.

As for dating, if there's someone you like and want to pursue, go for it. If you don't have time for in-person connections, try online dating. But don't put so much pressure on it. Dating can't be about finding someone who will "fix" you. It's about getting to know someone, sharing a laugh, relieving some stress and giving yourself permission to feel joy. You deserve it.

Yours,

Athena