Romance is one of those words that is defined differently on the societal and individual levels. Culturally, certain images, behaviors, objects, words and other signals are generally accepted to fall under the umbrella of romance. Think: soft music and candlelight, dancing in pairs (be it slow swaying or vibrant salsa), sweet desserts and lingerie, vacations just for two.
But on the individual level, every person has their own ideas of what makes them feel the most romantic, from the common (bubble baths and backrubs) to the very personal and private – a specific memory of a moment, a person, a mood. I’ll give you a moment to drift back from whatever memory that conjured.
I’d like to see us move away from the idea that romance is reserved for the coupled, something that single people can only wistfully wish for.
I’m not going to devalue the kind of romance that evolves between people. It’s powerful, it’s real, it’s in a class of its own. But let’s not put it on a pedestal as something only the lucky ever get to touch. Romance is for everyone, in whatever flavor you like it.
It’s a message I’ll never stop trumpeting: self-love is essential to having a healthy loving relationship with another person. It’s one of the sexiest things you can do.
But for many women, self-love doesn’t come naturally. We’re conditioned to find fault, to apologize, to compete, and to give selflessly to our families and careers.
For this reason, self-love is not just something you pull out of thin air: It has to be cultivated and practiced. Love is, after all, a verb.
You’ve heard of the Golden Rule, to treat others as you’d like to be treated? Let’s look at that idea from another angle: treat yourself the way you’d want an ideal partner to treat you.
Set aside regular time to indulge in some physical self-care. This might include a daily skincare routine, a weekly bubble bath, a detox cleanse, a new haircut or color, a facial or manicure – whatever you need to feel refreshed. This isn’t shallow or frivolous. Your body does a lot for you. It’s not everything you are, but it is part of who you are. Care for it and meet its needs.
Do something just for you.
One of the most romantic things I’ve experienced recently was taking a solo vacation to Asheville, North Carolina. I’d never taken a vacation alone before, and I reveled in the freedom to do everything on my own time, choose every activity and meal, dabble in the nightlife, and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Appalachians. Would I have enjoyed it as much with a partner? Sure, but it was still wildly romantic on my own!
Vacation is a large-scale splurge, but you can do smaller things just for you too, whatever your budget. Get yourself something off your wishlist. Devote some energy to a personal project or dream. Block off some private time to read, draw, practice yoga, or engage in whatever your art is. Sign up for a class, workshop or retreat, or get a ticket to a performance or movie.
Invoke your sensual side.
Just like romance, sex is not something only the un-single get to enjoy. Getting comfortable with your own sexuality is something that translates well to when you do find yourself with a partner.
Hands-on self-love is one angle of this and something that probably merits its own column, but I’ll say this: there’s no shame in perusing the Pure Romance catalog and letting your thoughts wander where they may.
The other angle is tapping into your sensuality as well as your sexuality. There are so many different ways to bring this part of you forward. Some women may find it emerges through something physical like dance or Kundalini yoga. Maybe a boudoir photo shoot or a burlesque class tickles your inner vixen.
Others may express it creatively via poetry, literature, art, or music – either crafting it themselves, or enjoying their favorites. (I have one playlist full of songs that strike just the right note. I may or may not have been listening to to it while I wrote this.) It might even be as simple as slipping into a particularly slinky dress or using silky-soft sheets on your bed, if you’re a more tactile person, or indulging in a rich or chocolatey treat to tease the taste buds. Just ask yourself, what could a romantic partner tempt you with? And go get that!
Cultivating self-love by consciously getting to know what makes you feel good, physically and emotionally, is an empowering experience. Making it a regular practice in your life benefits you whether you’re single or not, so in whatever way feels comfortable to you, invite it into your life.