The one and only thing we can do to help our relationships stick? Learn how to love ourselves, first.
It doesn’t make sense, does it?
My relationships were my priorities—I worked on them and I worked hard.
I sacrificed. I compromised. I supported.
I did everything I thought I was supposed to do as a member of a committed relationship and yet, they all failed.
I thought that since we were in love, I could be happy with this person and that person; I hoped things would work out if I tried just a little harder—“I’ll take care of this person and his needs and he’ll take care of me and mine—right?” He may have tried to take care of my needs at first but by constantly putting myself on the back burner, I told him that it was ok for me to be there and there I was—a martyr of my own love.
So, what happened? How could such good intentions go so wrong?
All the people involved with my failed relationships are not responsible for my happiness; they didn’t owe me anything because I chose to compromise. To myself, I owed the respect and caring I wanted from them.
Why do we stay in relationships in which our efforts are not reciprocated?
If you’re like me, you put on blinders and tell yourself that things will change soon—just hold on a little longer and it’ll all be worth it. I told myself that his attention would return when he wasn’t so stressed at work; that he’d do something in return the next time around—that this move on my part would be followed up with a move on his part soon.
But soon never came, work stress never dissipated and the only person who moved was me—both physically and emotionally.
As time went by, my energy faded. My desire to please this person that I loved waned and I lost the motivation to “make it work.”
By the time I spoke up about my needs, my cup was too empty to keep giving. My heart had taken stock of its low fuel and put up subconscious blocks against letting anymore leave lest I be stranded by the side of a lonely, loveless road. At this late date, there was nothing that could be done to save the relationship and the best thing we could do was to move on.
Why did I let relationship after relationship get to this point?
For one, I grew up in a culture in which we’re told that relationships are part of what make a “complete” adult (along with jobs, houses, white picket fences and golden retrievers). My self-esteem was low enough that I put my desires aside because the health of my partner and my relationship were more important.
In doing so, I totally missed the point of how I needed to be a complete person myself in order to be in a healthy, complete relationship.
How can you make sure that you’re taking care of yourself in the midst of the emotional obsession that is being “in love”?
Relationships do need to have a give and take on all sides and there is often compromise. My lesson wasn’t that I should quit trying so hard or that I should be more selfish; my lesson was that I needed to learn how to take care of me in order for my partner to take care of me, too. You take care of yourself first, your partner will take care of him or herself first and then you’ll both have the power you need to brighten each other’s lives.
Before you get into a seriously relationship, take stock of things that are important to you and don’t budge (too much) on them.
Do you like to go backpacking and be in the wilderness for days at a time? Would you love to share that experience with your partner?
Maybe you shouldn’t date someone who prefers air conditioned hotels and considers a walk through the park to be trudging through the backwoods.
Sure, it’s ok to compromise on those things on occasion (like stay in a hotel instead of hiking away from society) but don’t let the years go by and the backpack collect dust in the corner because you’re compromising every single time.
That only makes you sad and—possibly, resentful.
Another way to ensure the best self-care is to up your regular dosage of self-respect. You need to respect your own needs. Don’t alter your lifestyle too much just to match his or hers. Just because they are a vegetarian doesn’t mean that you have to give up meat completely—if your body feels better with an omnivorous diet, keep eating that way! Do what feels right for you even if the person with who you spend the majority of your time lives life a little differently.
You also need to know how to communicate with your partner.
These days, I’m a huge fan of All the Communication, All the Time. My partner isn’t going to know how to show me love and respect if I don’t tell them the best ways to do so.
It’s a mutual conversation and we’re both in on the action.
I suggest starting with each other’s love languages—if you know how each prefers to communicate, you can communicate more effectively.
We all know that you can’t go out looking for a relationship to “complete” you; we need to be a whole person on our own first (we all know this, right?).
You also can’t enter into a relationship as a whole person and expect to stay that way if you don’t continue to work on your own sense of self.
[image: Pixabay via Google Images]