Relationships Won’t Fulfill You If You Don’t Fulfill Yourself First
If you can’t learn to enjoy your life when you are alone, a romantic relationship won’t change that. It might excite you and entertain you for a little while, but ultimately, when the honeymoon ends, you are left right back where you started.
Our culture is rife with toxic messages about romantic relationships being all-consuming, intoxicating, saving us from our lives and ourselves. We are sold the idea that our lives are incomplete until we meet our “other half” as though we are half without a romantic tie to another. We are sold the idea that the happiest day of our life is the one in which we become legally bound to another human, and that we are in this limbo of waiting for our lives to “start” until we meet “the one.”
It’s not just marketing that has us hungry for love. Love is as addictive to our brains as cocaine, and we can choose to approach romance, dating, and relationships with the understanding that we are being influenced by some heavy hormones: namely, vasopressin, adrenaline, oxytocin, and dopamine.
Biologically, this is part of our DNA as it keeps our drive to reproduce and continue as a species strong. As the seeds of lust and attraction are planted, we inevitably create more humans.
How many times have you either experienced or witnessed this scenario:
You meet someone, and there is a spark. A romantic encounter is pursued, it grows, and one or both people start dropping friends, hobbies, and don’t talk about anything else except their new beloved. They become obsessed, and begin to lose themselves in the relationship. Sounds like a drug addict, doesn’t it?
As a former serial monogamist, I used to believe romantic relationships were the key to happiness. If I was single, I was guilty of downloading dating apps or smooching someone new within days of a breakup. Despite loving my alone time, being single for too long was something I avoided, even though I didn’t actually feel any happier once I was in a relationship.
I love love, don’t get me wrong. Who doesn’t love falling in love, having regular sex, a plus one, and someone to cuddle up with at the end of a long day? Love is a beautiful thing, and a delightful drug: the high can easily last years, and the comedown, in comparison, can be brutal, but is generally manageable with good friends, a good cry, and a whole lot of self care.
Romantic love should be celebrated. It is literally and figuratively life giving. Intimate, vulnerable, human connection is hard to match. It even benefits our health, resulting in a longer, less stressful life.
The idea that you need romantic love to be happy and fulfilled, however, is simply false. The idea that you need romantic love to be or feel whole, as if you are a half without it, is complete and utter nonsense. A half of what, exactly? A person? A soul? A half of a heart shaped piece of jewelry?
One study even found that unmarried, childless women are the happiest demographic, so, perspective is everything.
While it can be delightful to be in a relationship, it’s not a necessity, and it certainly shouldn’t be your main source of happiness. Putting that much pressure and expectation on any one person (or thing) is doomed.
Think of it this way: would you rather date someone who has nothing going on except you, or someone who has their own life, friends, hobbies, interests, and all that much more to share with you when you do come together? Having a life is hot, there’s no denying it.
While healthy romantic love brings us some of life’s greatest pleasures, growth, inspiration, connection, comfort, and security, the idea that we are incomplete without romantic love is exploited as a marketing tactic. Think about how many mega million and billion dollar businesses profit from this idea: dating websites and apps, the entire wedding industry, cosmetic surgery, the lingerie industry. You get the jist.
Even turning on the radio, we hear completely toxic messages in most music of all-consuming, addictive, codependent love, not blinking when we hear song lyrics comparing relationships to heroin.
PUMP THE BREAKS!
Love shouldn’t be a band-aid we put over our pain, engulfing our lives so that we no longer “need” anything else. Finding a partner isn’t the key to happiness unless we know how to fill ourselves up and find that happiness independently first.
If you rely on obtaining happiness from your relationship, you are setting yourself up for disappointment. We can never control other people, and our relationships and partners are always changing and growing, and not every single season is going to be rainbows and butterflies.
Of course, it feels really good to give and receive love, and of course it feels amazing to enjoy all the benefits of love.
Here’s what I’m not saying: Don’t you dare be fooled into being happy when you receive cupcakes and kisses and orgasms from your lover! THIS ISN’T HAPPINESS! That’s not what I’m saying at all. You should enjoy the shit out of those times and be grateful for them while they last.
What I am saying is that you don’t need cupcakes and kisses and orgasms from your lover to be happy, and you shouldn’t let that be the condition for which you will be happy. These things will come and go, ebb and flow. When the honeymoon period wanes, we need to have a solid foundation of personal fulfillment and happiness, lest we start blaming our partners for our unhappiness, when really it’s a case of not being able to get the same “high” that we did in the beginning.
This is why many people jump from relationship to relationship. They crave the high that lasts up to two years: the honeymoon period, limerence, temporary insanity, whatever you want to call it.
We need to take personal responsibility for our own happiness.
Putting your happiness in outcomes, other people, and anything outside of yourself is giving away your power. Your inner world is always in your power. You can choose to let external forces control your every mood, and being happy only when things are exactly as you’d like them to be, or you can choose to nourish your inner happiness so that you can tap into it when you need.
Which option do you think is more sustainable?
If your single life doesn’t feel juicy and fulfilling on it’s own, it’s not the time to enter a relationship. You need to set that fulfillment bar. If you aren’t happy single, you run the risk of settling for breadcrumbs in a relationship when you deserve a whole damn cake.
It is so crucial to savor your single life, because it won’t last forever. If you don’t know how to have a fulfilling life on your own, you’re not going to bring much to a relationship, and it will surely fizzle out, and frustrate the both of you.
How to Flourish When You’re Single:
Learn to be alone with your thoughts. This is how you get to know yourself. Journaling, meditation, solo trips, walks, and long drives are opportunities that give you a chance to get quiet and find out what lights you up and makes you tick, and why.
Expand your knowledge. Read books that interest you, take classes, watch YouTube tutorials, attend workshops and seminars. Learn new skills. Seek out art and culture. Travel. Become a whole, interesting, fulfilled person all on your own.
Prioritize your friends, and make sure they are people that lift you up. Hug them. Hold hands. Snuggle. You don’t need a new boo to get a little affection in your life.
Treat yourself! Take yourself to lunch, for a pedicure, buy art or flowers for your house, and clothes that you feel beautiful in. Don’t wait for someone to lavish you in gifts and compliments, learn to give that to yourself.
Do it anyways! Have an event you want to go to and don’t have a date? Want to take a trip and none of your friends are free? Just go anyways. No one is judging you, and if they are, that’s their problem.
Exercise. Not only will getting into shape boost your confidence, but the regular dose of endorphins will keep your mental state high, and will help you sleep better.
Set goals and achieve them. Write them down. Buy a planner and pencil in small, achievable steps. If you want to make a ton of money or travel the world, no one is stopping you.
Be alone enough to know what interests you, what lights you up, and what makes you feel really good and prioritize that. Maybe it’s hiking, knitting, art, baking, dance, burlesque, or business. You can only find what you are passionate about by getting out and experiencing life, and knowing yourself well enough to know what truly makes you feel good.
Get out of your comfort zone regularly. We all like to cozy up with some Netflix, but it’s imperative you get out of your comfort zone and travel to a new place, take a class, or do whatever it is you’ve been telling yourself you want to do all year and just do it. It won’t be as scary once you’re there, and it will keep getting easier.
Love and romance are beautiful gifts that can light us up and supercharge our goals and dreams, but let’s not make the mistake of having our lives become our partners lives, or expecting love to fulfill all our needs.
Relationships are not about finding someone to fulfill your every need, desire, and whim. Relationships are about connection, love, intimacy, and growth. Other people are not responsible for the quality of our lives: that’s always up to us.
Our partners are just people with their own stuff going on. They’re going to have days where they need to rest, where they feel off or sad, and perhaps need to be alone.
When two independent people with brilliant, full lives come together, this is the stuff of lasting love. Because you’re both full already, and the love can overflow and explode between the two of you. There is no scarcity, no filling of voids, no outrageous expectations.
Life is meant to be enjoyed and lived, through all its ups and downs, whether you’re single or nourishing love you’ve already found.