We often hear the saying that in order to find true love, we must first be fully healed and love ourselves completely. I disagree. Healing, self-love, and acceptance of the self are lifelong journeys for one thing. As long as you’re living, hopefully you’re continuing to discover new pieces of yourself and fall in love with all the sides that make up you. I’ve found that the right relationship will allow you to move towards the best version of yourself in new and profound ways through discovering aspects of the self, such as your personal values, suppressed character traits, and limiting beliefs.
Prior to my current relationship, I tended to attract relationships that were always a bit unstable to some degree. Perhaps they weren’t fully committing, or they never quite opened up in a way that made me feel a sense of trust with them. In some way or another, it always felt like the foundations of these relationships were rocky and could tip over at any point. Early on, the biggest difference I noticed from relationships of my past to the one I’m in now is how stable and full of ease I have felt since being with him. My current partner has been clear about what he wanted from the onset and I’ve always known it was me.
The sense of security and stability he provides me with is something I’ve realized I need in a relationship in order to feel safe enough to open my heart. This has been one of the biggest learnings for me—before this, I never realized what was causing so much discord in other relationships, and I now realize it was due to me staying in relationships that felt deeply unstable and unsafe.
It’s important we all take a step back and think about what our own personal values are when it comes to relationships. Do you need adventure? Monogamy? A deep friendship? One of the most beneficial things you can do for yourself is to really step back and think about the fundamental values you need to feel safe and then be clear with potential partners about these needs early on. The right person will give you exactly what you need to stay in integrity with your own value system.
When you feel safe in your relationship and have your needs met, you can move up the ladder, so to speak. If you think about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, safety is one of the foundational needs necessary before you can move up the ladder to things like love, belonging, and self actualization. Having a relationship that feels safe has allowed me to start tackling some of the upper tiers, including creating deeper connections and relationships with others, discovering a sense of spiritual belonging, and growing on a personal level.
The relationship we have with a partner is one where, over time, we peel back all the layers of ourselves and show up as our most vulnerable selves. This can be scary, because it leaves space for rejection and shame—space for pieces of ourselves to be rejected and shame over said pieces as a result. With the wrong partners, this rejection and shame can spiral and make it harder to connect with anyone as a result. However, with the right partner who validates and accepts all the sides of you, it opens you up to show up as yourself fully with others. You begin to accept the sides of you that you’ve repressed for so long. You slowly let go of the fear of rejection you’ve held onto, because you now see that it’s possible to be loved exactly as you are.
You also begin to see yourself more clearly than ever before. Now, I can identify why I think, feel, and react the way I do because my partner is like a mirror to me in some ways. I can spot the fears and limiting beliefs I’ve been holding onto. I recognize them now when I’m triggered by something my partner says or does. I’ve realized it’s generally not the thing that’s happening that is a problem, it’s what I associate with that thing that is causing discord in myself. For example, if I feel sad because I don’t feel I’m getting enough attention and in turn associate that with a lack of love from my partner, I now realize it’s not actually a lack of love from my partner, but a lack of self-love and attention from myself.
It’s uncomfortable to be confronted with the limiting beliefs you didn’t even realize you’d been holding onto. The reward is the choice you’re presented with when you shine a light on those beliefs—you can choose to keep them or choose a new belief system that’s aligned to your current life circumstances. You realize life is a series of choices and the life you build can be constructed and deconstructed as many times as you want, in whatever ways you want.
While healing and growth can happen at any stage of life, single or in a relationship, I’ve found there’s something to be said for the growth that happens in partnership. The closeness you have with another person in a stable relationship reflects back hidden needs, values, desires, and pieces of ourselves that we may not have discovered quite as easily on our own. The particular beauty of these relationships is that it’s a never-ending process of discovery and growth that allows both people to build a life of infinite potential.