Contributing writer Cynthia Kane submitted this post as a Reader Submission for Gurl. We love hearing your stories! If you’d like to submit your writing to Gurl, please send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From fourth grade until a handful of years ago, I was a serial monogamist where a break between relationships lasted, at most, a couple of months. The problem with this? I was never actually ready to be in all of these relationships. There was nothing about love that made me feel good, because I had put all of the responsibility on the relationship to fulfill me and make me happy.
I felt like as long as I had a boyfriend, everything would be fine, better even… but it never was that way. I often wondered what the problem was – why it wasn’t going well or moving forward, why we were having the same argument over and over again. I was never happy, no matter what he did or didn’t do. I wanted to be happy in a relationship, I just didn’t know how.
Finally, I figured it out: I had to start at the source, which was me. I needed to spend time by myself, figure out what I liked and didn’t like, think about the kind of life I wanted and spend time crying. I needed to accept that I was confused, complex and sometimes off the wall nutty – and that was okay! I decided to be single for a little while and focus on myself without anyone else’s needs or wants getting in the way. I went on walks, ate chocolate, watched romantic comedies and talked with my friends for hours. I was exploring the things that lit me up inside.
The more I explored the world and found what made me feel good, the better I felt. And the better I felt, the more I wanted to take care of myself. By simply listening to my wants and needs and not only respecting them, but acting on them too, I was learning that I was responsible for my own happiness. It was at this point that I started to redefine the role of a boyfriend in my life. I stopped thinking that a boyfriend had a responsibility to fulfill me and make everything good and started thinking that having a boyfriend was an add-on to my life, sort of like a bonus.
So that’s all great, right? I had figured out how to be good to go on my own, but… what about love? At that point, I was so used to being lost in relationships that I didn’t know if I could maintain my self-esteem while actually in one. But that was the good thing about all of my soul-searching – I realized that because I now knew what felt good to me, I wouldn’t put up with or allow myself to be in situations that didn’t make me feel good. I realized that I had to maintain all that made me happy alone even when I was dating someone. I decided that even in a relationship, I would keep doing yoga, taking classes and chatting with friends – basically, I would keep doing stuff that was just for me. I knew that the more I took care of myself, the better the relationship would be.
Now, some of you may be thinking that focusing more on yourself than other people is kind of selfish. But the truth is, taking care of yourself is actually what makes relationships stronger! If you’re happy with yourself, that means you’re no relying on your partner to make you happy. That means that you’re not acting needy, you’re not being constantly let down and you guys are probably fighting less. I realized that while I could still pay attention to what my partner wanted, I should be putting my needs first.
So what did I learn in the end? The way to be happy in a relationship is to take care of yourself, pay attention to your wants and needs and learn to love yourself. Once I figured that out, I started seeing love as a good thing rather than one heartache after another. And if I can do it, anyone can do it.
Can you relate to this story? Do you feel like you can’t be happy in a relationship? Tell us in the comments!