12/18/2012 05:28 pm ET

Two Words for Every Bad Date I Ever Had

I'm not sure if it was the warm Hawaiian breezes, the sparking ocean or the doorman who mysteriously knew my name, but the moment I arrived at The Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua, I knew I'd never quite be the same.

Shortly into my stay, I met Clifford Nae'ole, the resort's Hawaiian cultural advisor and a gentleman who seems to carry generations of wisdom in every word he speaks. He told me about a spiritual exercise entitled "Hiuwai and E ala e," where he meets with people in the pre-dawn hours at the beach. There, participants reflect upon negative actions from the past that may be affecting their well-being today. The purpose of this exercise is to recognize those actions and then to wash them away into the ocean, freeing you to move clearly into the new day.

I love the idea of this process, especially as it relates to dating. Like many online daters, I've indulged in the negativities of my own experiences. I admit I did my fair share of regaling friends and family with my horror stories often becoming the "single girl floor show" at parties. As I sat on the beach in Maui, watching the sun rise in the sky, I realized the most important thing a woman can possibly know about dating: Each bad date is a gift.

I thought back to the "player" I went out with, the man who was so smooth and suggestive that he couldn't have made his end goal more obvious. At the time, I loathed what he stood for, but now I realize that he taught me the importance of choosing to date men who were looking for true commitment. Then there was the man I dated who was just like me in every way -- same education, same interests, similar job. I went out with him several times, thinking everything was just too perfect on paper. Honestly, I hated the guy. Lesson learned: Don't date yourself. I thought about the MBAs and entrepreneurs who were so impressive with their chef dinners and extensive expense accounts. Each of them taught me that I admire drive, but I need more emotion than they can offer. I remembered the men I liked who didn't like me back and was reminded of my own vulnerability and how easy it is to be hurt. Most of all, I thought about the many men who are smart, talented and wonderful in a million ways, but with whom I just didn't "click." I realized that each one of them kept me going. Each one of them made me feel like there was hope of finding "the one" in the end. Throughout this process of dating, I met many people. Several became close friends, some are now dating friends of mine -- and one of them became the love of my life.

The day after that sunrise, I stood on a seaside bluff, encircled by a ring of flowers. There, my boyfriend knelt before me and asked me to marry him. It was the happiest, most meaningful moment of my life. When I said yes, it was with a confidence fueled by enough experience and history to know that this is truly "it." Without every disappointment, frustration and let down leading up to meeting him, I would not be the same. So as my own personal "Hiuwai and E ala e," I have just two words to say to every bad date I ever had: Thank you.