Let's talk about why you don't need to be 'healed' before dating

a man and woman
Do we really have to be ‘healed’ to date people?Hearst Owned

What do we owe the people we date? Respect? For sure. Clear communication? Definitely. The most ‘healed’ version of ourselves? Hmm, not so sure on that one.

Yet the conversation around whether we need to be ‘healed’, ‘doing the work’, or even just in therapy in order to be dating never seems to go away, does it? Recently, a tweet from Holistic Nutritionist and wellness writer Arielle Simone went viral, in which she claimed that nobody “should be dating until their shit is together”.

For Arielle, having your shit together includes “eating healthy, working out regularly, having a morning routine, a spiritual practice, a therapist, and financial discipline” because, as she suggests, “things like that have to come first”. People were quick to point out that this isn’t always possible, particularly given the current cost-of-living crisis and the price of therapy.

While working on yourself and being aware of your flaws can certainly make you a better partner, what that looks like will be different for everyone. For some people, it might look like having a fitness routine, while for others it might look like binning Strava off altogether. Being able to run a 5k isn’t going to have any bearing on whether or not you’re fit to be in a relationship. Romantic relationships are not something you have to earn by being a ‘productive’ member of society with a gym membership and a BetterHelp subscription. Lots of people will never meet the cultural benchmark of ‘having their shit together’ and shouldn’t be relegated to a lifetime of singledom because of it. What’s more, many X (Twitter) users pointed out that beyond the fact that large swaths of people are unable to access therapy or financial independence, it shouldn’t matter even if you can and don’t.

“My main purpose of the tweet was to encourage more people to be their own love of their own lives. To prioritise yourself, to commit to doing the things you say you're going to do – this way we can trust ourselves more,” Arielle explains to Cosmopolitan UK. “When we do not take care of ourselves, we tend to attract people who are not that great for us. Our level of discernment is jaded because our sense of self, taking care of yourself is jaded. For me, the more I take care of myself, the more I honour my body, my mind, and my soul – as a result, my level of discernment is better. I'm able to easily recognise when something or someone is not for me.”

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Taya Iv / 500px

But Arielle is far from the only one who feels this way – discourse about ‘healing’ has become wide-spread across social media. On TikTok, creators discuss ‘Dating in your healing phase’, usually concluding that it‘s best to steer clear of dating altogether to avoid ‘disturbing your peace’. Even The Gottman Institute, which was set up by Dr John Gottman, author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work and his wife, have weighed in on the discussion by asking “Do I Need to Heal Before Dating Again?”.

Jodie Slee, a psychotherapist who specialises in relationship therapy says that in a ‘perfect world’ people would fully work through any past trauma or cognitive blocks before wading into the world of dating “So as to not let the past negatively impact the present.” But, she explains, “we don’t live in a perfect world and so if someone great comes along, it’s better to be open an honest about where you are in your healing journey and communicate what you need from someone and what you have capacity to offer at this time. The right person would be patient and understanding.”

What’s often left out of the conversation is what it actually means to ‘heal’, and, perhaps more importantly, what we’re supposed to all be healing from? Unlike healing from a wound, where there is a clear beginning (the injury) and end (when you are no longer injured), healing in the dating sense seems to have morphed into a perpetual state of self-optimisation – one where we’re trying to heal from the fallibility and messiness of the human condition itself.

This might be why so many self-proclaimed ‘healed’ people seem to promote a level of self-isolation. “No one tells you how hard it is to date when you’re healed because you see red flags in everyone,” one TikToker asserted. ‘Being healed’ has come to act as a way of distancing ourselves from all the glorious, difficult parts of being and loving a person. This is perhaps less surprising when you consider the term’s roots in wellness circles that position health and wellbeing as an individualistic pursuit of self-betterment.

Here’s the dirty little secret: you can’t get better without other people. You can’t think, journal, or meditate your way into trusting people again after you’ve been betrayed. You have to take the plunge to get proof that other people can be trustworthy. Demanding that people should only date once they’ve reached a certain level of ‘healing’ (one that conveniently aligns with capitalist ideas of success) is a way of trying to protect yourself from the possibility of getting hurt.

“If someone meets the right person, who themselves have done the necessary psychological work it may provide an accepting and safe context for someone to explore and nourish themselves or provide a healthy template to build a relationship on,” explains Jodie, but she also cautions that this can be different for everyone and depends largely on what kind of trauma you’re healing from. For some people, dating may trigger unresolved issues and people may need to take a step back to look after themselves.

No relationship will be completely perfect because no two people ever can be. Your partner will inevitably hurt you sometimes (emotionally and unintentionally, to be crystal clear) and you’ll hurt them too. That’s just what it means to love someone. While it’s admirable to work on yourself so your so-called ‘baggage’ doesn’t cause unnecessary problems in a relationship, you are not required to be perfectly healed to deserve love. In fact, you never will be ‘healed’ unless you get out there and work on your shit with other people. Or, you know, you’ll never be ‘healed’ at all because we’re all flawed in our own wonderfully chaotic ways. We shouldn’t have to strive to achieve a constant of inner-peace, one that can apparently only be achieved through paying for therapy or gym memberships, in order to earn companionship with others, particularly when community is so vital to our mental well-being.

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