“Happiness mainly comes from our own attitude, rather than from external factors.” ~Dalai Lama
If you get married today, there is a 60% chance that your relationship won’t last. Is finding true love really that hard or is there something else going on?
A research group from the Heriot-Watt University found that many people have a “warped sense of the perfect relationship” and “unrealistic expectations from their romantic partner.” They concluded that they got these unrealistic expectations from Hollywood love stories.
These movies have us longing for a Cinderella or Prince Charming who will sweep us off our feet and make us happier than we have ever been. But can we really expect our partners to make us happy? Is that even fair to them?
When I figured out this wasn’t the right approach to a relationship, I had already been in two failed ones. “Failed” may not be the right word, because I don’t regret them and I’m still friends with both of my exes, but these relationships were based on needs, from both partners.
After the second relationship, I was single for a long time, and that’s when I started working on myself.
When I started to see some changes in myself and in my life, I felt the desire to have a girlfriend again. I mentioned this to my mentor, and he said, “It’s not the girlfriend you want; it’s what you think she can give you.”
This was a real eye opener for me.
I realized that this desire was my ego telling me there was something missing in my life and that I needed to find someone else to fill this gap for me. I didn’t have a person in mind yet, but I was already being unfair to her by expecting so much of her. I was demanding love.
Demanding Love Vs. Sharing Love
If you expect your partner to make you happy, you are demanding love. If you were happy when you were single, you’re more likely to be happy in your relationship. And when you’re happy, you can focus on “sharing your love” instead of “demanding happiness.”
Do you see how this can make a world of difference in your relationship? When you go from “needing” love, affection, and support to fill a hole in yourself, to “sharing” love and happiness from a place of fullness, your relationship (and life!) will blossom into something truly amazing and lasting.
The Love Illusion
Not expecting anything from your partner doesn’t mean you can’t rely on them for support. It just means you don’t depend on them to ease the discomfort of being with yourself.
Even if it seems like they do that for a while, the absence of discomfort will be an illusion. It’s like taking aspirin. You may not feel the headache anymore, but what caused the headache is still there.
If you don’t like to spend time with yourself, you most likely don’t really love yourself. And if you don’t love yourself first, you cannot sincerely love someone else—or let yourself be loved by someone else.
What “True Love” Really Is
When two people get together and start working on themselves—when they aim to grow together instead of avoiding growth by depending too much on each other—they build a connection on a higher level. Couples who understand that this is the greatest gift they can give each other will be the happiest couples; they will experience true love!
4 Tips for a Loving, Lasting Relationship
1. Love yourself First
Many people don’t realize that their feelings toward other people are largely determined by their feelings about themselves. Learning to love yourself will not only benefit yourself, but also your partner.
A couple of ways to start loving yourself in action:
The mirror exercise: Stand in front of the mirror, look yourself in the eye, and say, “I love you. I really, really love you!” Don’t just say the words; try to feel them. It may take some practice, but if you do this two or three times a day for a couple of minutes, you will feel the results!
Practice self-acceptance. You are a magnificent human being. You may have some flaws, but that’s okay. Everybody has flaws and we all make mistakes. You can learn from them, accept them, and even be grateful for them, because they have helped form the person you are today.
2. Choose to be happy.
True happiness comes from within. Nothing or no one can “make” you happy. When you are a happy person because you choose to be, this will rub off on your partner, or attract more potential partners if you are single. Being happy feels good on the inside and looks good on the outside!
A few ways to choose happiness every day:
-Practice gratitude and optimism. People who see the world optimistically see opportunities and love everywhere they go. There’s truth in the saying “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at will change.” Make a habit out of gratitude. When the sun shines on your face, when someone lets you cut in line, when someone smiles at you, say “thank you.” You don’t even have to say it out loud; thinking it will do just fine.
-Don’t let others determine how you feel. Try not to worry about what others say, think, or do—even if they talk badly about you. You can still respond to them, but don’t let it affect your level of happiness. The moment you get emotionally involved you have lost your inner peace.
-Accept your circumstances. You cannot control everything that happens in life. Sometimes, bad things happen. We cannot escape from this; we can only accept it. Choose to accept the circumstances you can’t change instead of causing yourself to suffer.
-Have fun! Find something you love to do and do it on a regular basis. For me, it’s snowboarding. Even though I’m physically exhausted after a day of snowboarding, mentally, I’m fully recharged.
-Meditate. Meditation was the foundation of my whole transformation process. I still meditate two hours a day. But if you are just starting out, fifteen minutes will do. Meditation will help you with all the points above; it will give you focus, mental clarity, and inner peace. It takes some practice, but if you put in the effort, the results will astound you.
3. Fall in love when you are ready, not when you are lonely.
Don’t compromise or get into a relationship for the wrong reasons. Being alone isn't the same as being lonely. When you love yourself, you don't mind being alone sometimes because you are spending time with your best friend. Ironically, being in a bad relationship can make you feel like the loneliest person in the world.
4. Do not lose yourself in a relationship.
Make time for yourself, pursue your own goals, and do things without your partner. Maintain a healthy balance between your personal time and your time together.
Putting yourself first in a relationship might seem strange at first, but it makes perfect sense. If you go into a relationship expecting your partner to make you happy, your partner might expect the same from you. Do you really want to be responsible for your partner’s happiness? That’s quite a responsibility to take on.
Wouldn’t it be much better if you and your partner entered a relationship and committed to becoming the best people you both can be while sharing your love with each other? No needs, no expectations, no obligations. Do you see how in a relationship like that, love has the freedom to grow into something truly amazing?
Photo by Paul H. Photography