Special Notice: This post was originally published in December 2010 at The Daily Brainstorm, a blogazine compiling the best blog posts on topics including personal growth, simplicity, health, cooking, science and medicine, art, productivity, fitness, blogging, travel, and more. Since the blog archives only the current year, this post on relationships is not available at the site. I republish it here for your reading enjoyment.
If you’re looking for the perfect partner, the one who will be your soulmate, better half, or missing piece, give up now. Stop looking. There is no one who will complete you, it’s all a myth. There is nothing outside of you that will fill that hole inside. Even if you were to miraculously find the “perfect” partner, the hole would remain. It might seem to disappear in the whirlwind of love and romance, but it will always return.
So don’t look for your other half, and forget the fallacy that each person brings 50% to the relationship. For a truly healthy partnership, each individual must be 100% whole already. That yawning pit of loneliness can be filled by one thing and one thing only: self-love. Not selfishness, not self-absorption, but self-caring, the practice of loving and valuing oneself.
I should know, I tried for years to find that certain someone who would make me feel safe and whole. After much seeking, years of unsuccessful relationships, and a great deal of introspection, I found myself on the other side of a very painful breakup with someone I thought was my soulmate. Rather than immediately seeking a new partner, I gave myself the time to grieve and heal. It took several years of intense work to uncover my own unhealthy relationship patterns before I felt even remotely ready for dating.
There is much we can do to become whole. Here are just a few suggestions:
Be your own best friend
Observe how you treat your friends compared to the way you treat yourself. Would you say the things to a friend you tell yourself in your head? Would you treat them the way you’re treating yourself? Apply the principles of friendship to yourself.
Honor your needs
Putting others first is a trap many of us fall into, thinking that by helping and caring for others, we will receive the same in return. It’s much healthier to be honest about what you need and to let the other person be clear about what they need, so that you can find the best middle ground.
Instead of pushing yourself incessantly to achieve and produce, punishing yourself when you fall short, or denying yourself pleasure, allow yourself to recognize and take care of your needs. Start with the basics of getting enough sleep, eating well, and exercising. Move on to listening to your emotional and spiritual needs in different situations. If something doesn’t feel right to you, you have choices about how to respond.
Get clear on what you want from a relationship
Knowing what you want and don’t want is important for recognizing another person’s ability to meet those expectations. Watch out for rigidity, however. The best relationships are about supporting each others’ growth.
Give what you expect from someone else
Taking care of our own needs makes us available to our partners. When we give to ourselves, it’s much easier to give to others. Do you expect kindness and understanding from a partner? Then provide that to the other person. Give compassion and support. You will find it returns to you easily when you let go of having to have it.
Fill the hole inside
Do what you love, keep your hobbies, pursue a spiritual life – do whatever gives you joy and makes you whole. Support your partner in the same. When you can let each other be exactly who you are, each operating at 100%, coming together will result in a partnership far greater than the sum of its parts.
Does it work? I can only testify from my own experience. Three years after my break-up, I was finally ready to date. I hoped to find a partner but knew that if I never found someone, I would still be happy. I had friends, family, the skills to make a living, a home, and tools for living a life of peace and integrity. I let go of “needing” a partner, but not of hoping for one. And miraculously, when I let go of the expectation, he showed up.
Will it work for you? Only the universe knows, but I can assure you that any work you do to support feeling whole in and of yourself will not go wasted. We are all here for a purpose, which only each of us can determine by looking within. A partner is an enhancement, icing on the cake, not a reason for living. So let go of half-measures, go for the whole enchilada, and invest in making yourself complete.
Photo credit: D Sharon Pruitt