“You’re imperfect, and you’re wired for struggle, but you are worthy of love and belonging.” ~Brené Brown
For years, I felt unfulfilled in my relationships. I often felt drained, and as if I was the only one giving and doing things for others.
I couldn’t quite understand what I was doing wrong and why relationships were so challenging for me. All I wanted to do was to feel loved and supported. Why couldn’t I get that?
Then, nearly three years ago, after a bad breakup and a ton of other relationship challenges, I reached a breaking point. I knew I had to make some serious changes, so I found myself a therapist, a ton of self-help books, and a few other self-development professionals.
Through this journey, I’ve learned several lessons that have helped me find and create the fulfilling relationships that I have today. Here are four lessons I learned.
1. We have to accept people where they are.
Even though I wanted more depth, intimacy, and support in my relationships, I had to learn to accept that others didn’t always want the same things I did; or, they did want the same things, but they were simply not ready for them at that point in time.
In learning this lesson, I was able to let go of idealistic dreams that some people would one day change and appreciate those relationships for what they were.
Many times we are unfulfilled in relationships because we are lying to ourselves. We choose to reject what is while clinging to our own idealistic dream of what could be.
When we accept relationships as they are, we open the door to connecting with others who are able to give us what we know we deserve.
2. Love begins on the inside, not the outside.
One of my all-time favorite passages on love begins, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.” When I was younger I interpreted this as though I had to find someone who was patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, and so on.
I thought it was telling me that I had to judge other people according to that criteria to determine if it was truly “love” or not. I thought it was about seeking it in the external world.
Then, when I heard this verse a couple years ago at a friend’s wedding, I had a huge “ah ha” moment: This verse has nothing to do with looking for these traits in other people. It’s telling us that this is the love that we can find within ourselves.
It is the love that makes this universe exist and keep it together. It is a love that we all possess.
We are not meant to seek love externally in the world but to connect to it within so that we can create even more of that love in the world around us.
The love that we seek is something that we already have. When we make the conscious effort to tap into that inner love and express it in the world, we can then begin to see all the love around us.
3. It’s more painful to fear being authentic then to actually be authentic.
I always held back my inner truth in relationships because I feared rejection. Deep down, I felt that I wasn’t good enough or worthy.
I feared that others would automatically reject me if I expressed my unique, genuine interests and talents. I felt that by blending in with people, I’d guarantee acceptance.
The reality, though, is that it took so much more effort, more strain, and more heartache to hold on to this fear.
As I have gradually learned how to simply express my authentic truth in relationships, it has not only made my relationships better, it has also given me more energy that I can put into more proactive things.
4. We get what we give.
Even though I often felt like I was giving a lot in my relationships, what I was giving wasn’t necessarily healthy. I often gave to others in order to be accepted and avoid rejection, because I feared being vulnerable. I was giving out of fear, not from a place of inner love.
If you want others to be more real and vulnerable, then you have to be more real and vulnerable. If you want others to openly discuss feelings, then you have to openly discuss feelings. This doesn’t guarantee they’ll reciprocate, but it opens the door for the type of relationship you’d like to have.
Many of us know what we desire in our relationships, but we don’t realize the importance of our part. We have the ability to create the tempo. If we are willing to set the example, others will be more likely to follow and reciprocate.
The more we realize the power of our own actions and align them to our heart’s true desires, the closer we’ll get to creating relationships filled with love, support, authenticity, and fulfillment.