Serial Monogamist No More

The fantastic clinical psychologist Dr. Lian Bloch offers advice on relationship problems.

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In a romantic pickle? Get your questions answered by clinical psychologist Dr. Lian Bloch, in a feature we call Love, Lenny.

Q: I'm 28 years old and just found myself ending a yearlong relationship after my boyfriend cheated on me. While at first I was devastated, I also stopped to realize that I've been engaging in a pattern of serial monogamy since high school. I'm going to be moving across the country in a month for work, where I'll be 3,000 miles away from any friends and family. This is definitely exciting, but I'm afraid I'll quickly fall into the search for my next boyfriend and repeat what has been a very unsuccessful relationship cycle. I'm a generally confident and decisive person, but when it comes to being alone, I've realized I don't even know how to do this. I know the most important relationship is the one with myself and that there are many other women around my age in my situation, so hopefully this resonates with anyone else feeling like this. Do you have any advice on how to become comfortable being alone so I can embrace being single?

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A: Being alone ain't easy for a lot of people, says Dr. Bloch, especially during the time in your life when you're bombarded with Instagram pics of your friends' sparkly engagement rings and romantic dream vacations full of head-size cocktails and identical beachy sunsets. But there are tons of ways to learn to enjoy being alone, and they all boil down to this: focus on yourself, not on anybody else. (Besides, that couple probably got into a huge fight about who cleans Mr. Whiskers's litter box right after they posed for that cliché sunset shot.)

This might seem foreign to you — as Dr. Bloch puts it, "socioculturally, women tend to be pressured to focus on others." But you need to do you for a while, to ask yourself: What makes me happy? Dr. Bloch has two specific methods for learning what thrills you:

Learn what makes you happy day to day.

Dr. Bloch suggests: "Each day for a week, log three activities or experiences that brought you joy. For example: starting the day with a workout, a happy-hour drink with a coworker, reading another chapter of a new book. Do more of those things."

Learn what makes you happy in interactions with others. 

"Each day for a week, log one notably gratifying interaction," says Dr. Bloch. "Reflect on what it was about that interaction that was satisfying. For example: having someone really listen to something that was bugging you, a deep-dive conversation about a current political issue, or a major laugh sesh during a phone date with a friend in another state."

Ultimately, figuring out what makes you happy, and doing those things, will allow you to know yourself better. And knowing yourself better will help you figure out exactly what drew you into serial monogamy with unsatisfying fuckwits in the first place. Or, as Dr. Bloch puts it, "Self-awareness provides the hindsight to understand what didn't go well in previous relationship 'cycles' and also clarifies what to actively pursue in a future relationship."

Enjoy your new town, letter writer, and treat yourself to a solo drink while reading the latest tabloid of your choosing. You've earned it.

If you want your questions answered by Dr. Bloch, email and put "Relationships" in the subject line.

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