You’ve heard the old saying that you have to love yourself before you can love anyone else. There’s a lot of wisdom in those words. If you haven’t learned how to love yourself, you’ll struggle to find satisfaction in your relationships. Loving yourself requires taking responsibility for understanding what it is that you need in order to feel joy in your relationship. And it involves getting those needs met in a way that leads to your partner feeling loved as well.
Understanding how healthy marriages work makes easy to see why learning to love your self is essential for having a satisfying relationship. Positive psychology researchers have found that people who have the happiest relationships get most of their needs met most of the time. These couples are able to successfully meet one another’s needs because they’ve learned how to identify what will make each of them happy and to negotiate agreements for achieving mutually satisfying experiences.
In order to have your needs met, you must realize what they are and be able to assert them. In order for you to be able to meet your partner’s needs, you must discover what they are and be willing to meet them. In order to sustain the positive energy necessary to meet each other’s needs, you must consistently work out win-win agreements that keep you and your spouse feeling the marriage is fair.
If you don’t feel that you’re getting your needs met, the relationship will feel one-sided and frustration and resentment will build. But if you’re not getting what you want in your marriage, whose fault is that? If you think that your partner is responsible for meeting your needs, then you’re going to frequently feel angry, hurt, or worried. Ultimately you’ll become disillusioned with your partner, and develop serious doubts about whether they really love you.
The problem with believing that someone else is responsible for meeting your needs is that you’re giving your power to be loved to that other person. A parent loves a child by constantly attending to their needs. As you develop into an adult, however, your relationships will no longer work if you maintain a childlike dependency on the other person. Over-dependence on other people eventually leads to desperation and despair.
Sometimes people try to control their partner to get them to do what they want them to do – only to end up polarized in a power struggle. Or they unilaterally please the person in the hope that their partner will somehow guess what it is that they need in return.
Lack of loving yourself is especially evident when you become critical (of yourself or others). Judging means that you’re allowing your mind to generate negative emotions, which is the opposite of what you need in order to experience love. Criticism keeps you from directing your attention to what you could be doing to create love. It allows you to blame someone else for your unhappiness. That way you don’t have to face your fear that you’re not good enough to have love in your life.
Happy people, on the other hand, recognize that they’re responsible for cultivating love in their life. They see themselves as equal to others, and understand the importance of fairness in their relationships. Their underlying belief system reminds them that they are loved and worthy of getting what they need. Their strengths-based approach to life affirms they’re a loving person who’s capable of meeting their partner’s needs. Their relationships become secure as they develop the daily ritual of discussing what each partner needs and how those desires will be fulfilled.
Loving yourself entails peeling back the layers of distraction that come from the demands of the external world. It involves focusing on what you need in order to be balanced, healthy, and happy. It’s an inner exploration that requires slowing down, calming down, and getting down to your core values.
Happy people ask themselves everyday what they need to feel love. They refuse to harbor unloving feelings, dismissing them in favor of forgiveness. They regularly replenish their loving energy by connecting to the higher power, which enables them to tap into the ultimate source of love. They choose their thoughts for the day as carefully as they choose the clothes they’ll wear.
How often do you take the time to pray or meditate on what you need for love to flourish in your life? Are you periodically refocusing your mind on creating loving experiences during the course of the day?