I’d always been somebody who felt relationships completed me. As if I were somehow lacking without one. I’d lose myself in them – giving up my identity, my personality to them. Going along with them, with what my boyfriends wanted and who they were, I actively, if subconsciously, promoted selfishness in these men. I put their needs, wants and desires first and stifled my own. Sometimes to the point of not realising I had any. Then would be unhappy at how these boyfriends didn’t consider me, didn’t think of me, didn’t treat me respectfully.
About ten years ago, I went the other way and cut relationships out of my life for nine lonely years. I thought I couldn’t find the right man, that there were no good ones out there. That love was for other people. Other people could do successful relationships. I certainly couldn’t. I gave up on the idea of being in a relationship. I resigned myself to being single for the rest of my life.
What I didn’t realise then is that I had been aiming low in my relationships, in my choices of boyfriends. By that I mean that I was behaving in ways and thinking so poorly of myself that I was attracting what I felt I deserved. And what I felt I deserved was so little, so small, so unloving.
I have since realised, through a sometimes turbulent yet very healing relationship that my thinking was upside down. You can’t expect to receive from another that which you are not prepared to give to yourself. I have learned some important things about being in a relationship. Mostly about myself.
1 – Know who you are and what you are worth.
Focus on yourself. I don’t mean that selfishly, but stop continually giving without receiving. Don’t lose sight of your own needs. Stay firmly yourself. Keep your own interests and live your life. Know your own boundaries.
Don’t compare yourself to anybody else, real or imagined. Your views of who they fancy, their ex, the girl or boy in the shop that they like, is your perception. If they do ogle other people, speak incessantly about their ex, then yes, talk to them about it. But always know that it is not a reflection on you. You always have a choice. You agree to accept their behaviour, or you do something about it.
Don’t accept any shit, if they say or do things that aren’t ok, don’t just take it. You are worth more than that.
2 – Take full responsibility for your own actions and behaviour.
Don’t become the other person, merge into them or lose yourself in them.
You bring all your baggage with you from your last relationship. You and only you are responsible for shedding this. Your baggage is not their fault. It is not your fault either. It is good to see it for what it is and to work on letting it go.
They can’t make you do anything, it is ultimately your choice. Your behaviour is your own. If you react in ways which are not healthy, aren’t ultimately for the good of the relationship, or for either one of you, you will damage it, and each other.
The focus has to be on the relationship, as if it were a 3rd separate person in the relationship.
But at the same time, don’t take responsibility for their actions or behaviour. These are fully their own.
3 – Be fully present in each moment.
The past is gone. You can’t keep dredging up things that happened, throwing them forward in an argument. If that issue you’re throwing at them wasn’t resolved then, it needs to be and soon. It can’t be used as ammunition.
People do change, things change and develop. If you don’t allow yourself to notice this, to be aware, but live with a past image of what was true, you will always be at least one step behind. The past is gone, the present moment is all there is. Don’t judge them on past behaviours that are no longer valid.
Of course, if they are a serial cheater, or are abusive to you in any way, that is not Ok. Those issues need to be addressed, and fast.
But mistakes and human frailties are completely normal and to be expected. You are not perfect either. And wouldn’t you want your mistakes and slips ups to be forgiven and forgotten?
4 – Listen
Really listen, with your full attention – both to them, and to your own intuition.
Respect their opinions. You don’t have to agree with them. You may often not. But respect that these are their thoughts, their feelings, their experiences that they are sharing with you, entrusting to you.
Treat them gently, and kindly. Hear what they are trying to tell you.
Listen with your heart. Really see them, acknowledge them. Validate them.
It is so important.
5 – Accept them for who they are.
I don’t mean to accept abuse or bad behaviour, but accept that they are who they are.
They are the person you fell in love with. They are fully formed, their experiences and life have moulded them, shaped them, often scarred them. They stand battle proud before you. The essence of who they are is formed.
They aren’t you, you can’t control them. And why would you want to control them? Surely you couldn’t hold any respect for somebody you could manipulate and force to behave as you would want them to at all times?
Of course, you can ask them to change some behaviours, to modify some actions, in the same way that you must be prepared to be asked to do the same. But their essential self, their being, is their own. If you don’t like the way that they are, then why did you get together with them in the first place?
Don’t try to change them. Accept that they are who they are, yet also can and do change.
6 – Give up attachment to outcome.
Give up trying to control or manipulate.
This has been a difficult one for me. I have been engrained with the fairy tale, the wanting to walk off into the sunset together, as many of us have been. It has been really hard for me to let go of attachment to outcome, of letting go of unfounded expectations. It isn’t a fairy tale. It is real life.
There will be days when reality will be all too real, too vivid and will cover the sunshine of your emotions. Sometimes you won’t feel the love. You may know it intellectually, but you won’t always have that heart stopping, that pitter patter sensation. Then it will flood back. It will take a moment, a remembering, a look, a touch, and all the feelings will come to the forefront. They haven’t gone anywhere in the meantime, just been buried under every-day life.
It is very freeing not being attached to outcome. You can free up the large part of your brain that has been spent working out different end points, different stories and just go with the flow. Be present. Be open to possibility, be in the moment, acutely aware that anything can happen. It is a good state to be in.
7 – Love yourself.
Truly, deeply, all-encompassingly, warts and all.
Accept that you are great as you are, that you are unique and that you are so very worthy. See your strengths and weaknesses for what they are. They aren’t tied to your ‘somebody other’. Their opinion doesn’t define you. Or sway you. You are you. They do not fulfil you or complete you. You are you. Perfect as you are. They add to your life, not fill the gaping void. You are not missing anything if you are single. You are gaining from being in a relationship but it is a bonus.
The more you value and love and appreciate yourself, the more somebody else can do the same, and see all you are and what you have to offer. Love yourself enough to know your own worth.
Only through loving and valuing yourself can you do all the above.
These are lessons I have learned the hard way, through sometimes difficult experiences, through tears and frustrations and fluctuating emotions. They are important lessons though, which I will carry with me. Having learned them has made my life easier.
If you truly love yourself, you will believe you are worthy and therefore will attract somebody who loves you – really loves you entirely for who you are – somebody who adores you, wants to be with you, somebody who fancies and desires you, exactly as you are.
Somebody who revels in the individual and unique beauty that is you.
Don’t settle for anything less. You deserve it.