Relationships are hard. That’s something I’ve figured out both from first-hand experience and from seeing friends struggle with their own personal lives. There are so many reasons relationships can be difficult but I think relationships will often fail because of the emotional baggage some of us bring into them.
This emotional baggage can be anything from insecurities and poor self-esteem to baggage from previous toxic relationships and childhood trauma. Living with emotional baggage can be exhausting and can end up making us feel miserable, completely unhappy with ourselves.
And so sometimes we think that finding the right person and starting a relationship with them will make us feel better. There is a good reason to believe this, healthy relationships make us feel good about ourselves — we feel loved, wanted and cared for.
However, the reality is this; while healthy relationships are great it’s exceptionally difficult to start something healthy when one or both parties are fundamentally unhappy with themselves.
There are reasons for this but they all boil down to the same fundamental rule; if you don’t love yourself how can you possibly love someone else and treat them well?
People will more times than not walk into a relationship with all the best intentions but inevitably end up hurting their partners not because they mean to but because they really can’t help it.
For example, someone with significant insecurities about their appearance can grow to doubt their relationship and resent their partners because they simply don’t think they’re good enough for them. Someone who’s been cheated on in a previous relationship can become jealous and act irrationally thus creating a toxic environment for their partner. I can go on and on with more examples but they all boil down to one thing:
Your relationship with yourself is your most important relationship because it is upon this relationship that you build your relationships with everyone around you.
Learning to love yourself will often involve a lot of soul searching. If it helps you can start today by writing down a list of things you’re good at or a list of your best qualities. It’s important to be honest with yourself and give yourself credit where you deserve it. I know this better than anyone, we are often our harshest critics.
But what if I meet someone who’s really great?
I’m aware that some of us are lucky and do end up dating people who are genuinely understanding and supportive. They become almost like a crutch we turn to for help with our unhappiness. They do a fairly good job.
That is until they leave (something which of course they’re entitled to do), leaving you to limp your way back home. My point is this; becoming too dependent on your partner means you lose your entire support framework when they pack their bags and leave. This is bad because it often leaves you in a much more vulnerable place than you were before.
There is a good argument to be made for becoming self sufficient and emotionally independent. “Emotional independence” scares a lot of people away. People tend to think emotional independence means becoming cold, isolated and uncaring — nothing can make you angry, sad or happy. This can’t be further from the truth.
Emotionally independent people experience all emotions and these emotions are largely tied to how they see themselves rather than how the world sees them. I can’t overstate the importance of this but you will feel more in control of your emotions and thus your entire life. This results in a much improved headspace.
Personally, I feel slightly embarrassed at how much emphasis we as a society put on dating, coupling up and settling down. Am I the only one? Our dating lives are such a big talking point that you’d think it’s all we ever did and that being single (especially if it’s for any extended period of time) reflects some personal or a moral flaw.
Unfortunately, we end up tying our self-worth to our dating life. The pressure is intense especially today in the age of social media and dating apps.
“You need to find your perfect partner, you need to find them right now!”
I think it’s important to take a step back and look for some perspective. There will always be time no matter your age and you will always have options in the age of Tinder. So take a deep breath and relax, you’re not missing out on much.
What you’ll realize I hope after you’ve taken this break is that there is so much more to life than dating. Spend time with yourself finding out who you really are and what things you enjoy doing. Spend time with friends and family and properly appreciate them. Go to therapy and talk out any unresolved issues. Focus on your work and professional life if it makes you happy.
At some point you’ll feel you’re ready to begin a new relationship and you’ll realize then that the wait was worth it all along.