by Leo Babauta
Let’s take an example of a woman who spends a lot of her day wondering what her boyfriend is doing, looking for clues that he loves her, wondering why he isn’t paying attention to her, worrying that he’s flirting with other girls on some social network.
(Note that this applies to both men & women; I’ve just chosen a woman in this example.)
She’s not happy in this relationship — she’s dependent on him for her happiness, and unhappy when he’s not providing the validation she needs, when he doesn’t show how much he loves her. She’s insecure, jealous, needy. This doesn’t make for a good relationship, or a happy person.
What happens when you have some degree of this in your relationship? You’re not a good boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse. The other person feels like he (or she) has to keep making you happy, always be “on” so that you won’t wonder what’s wrong with your relationship, always supply your needs, never have the freedom to do his own thing while you do yours. This makes for a tough relationship, and if it lasts more than a few years, long-term problems usually develop.
I know because I’ve done it myself, and had to learn the hard way that this doesn’t work well. Almost everyone I know who has had relationship problems has had some of these same issues. And the people who have healthy long-term relationships have found a way to be whole, independent, secure.
So let’s take a look at how to become whole in a relationship, and in the process, be happier and be a better partner.
What a Whole Person Looks Like
Before we can talk about relationships, we have to focus on one person, because when you have two people the equation gets a little more complicated. Let’s take the simplest part of the equation first — just you.
When you’re whole, you don’t need someone else’s validation to be happy — because you accept yourself. You don’t need someone else to love you in order to feel loved — because you love yourself. That’s not to say you don’t love to be loved by others, or want others in your life, but you already provide the foundation of what you need, all by yourself, by accepting and loving yourself.
When you’re whole, you are not insecure, because you aren’t worried so much about the other person leaving. Sure, it would be a great loss for your loved one to abandon you, but you’d be fine on your own. You wouldn’t be “alone” because you have the best company in the world — yourself. You know you’d survive, be happy, do great things, even without that person. That’s not to say you don’t want your lover to stay — but you aren’t always afraid of the possibility of that person leaving.
When you’re whole, you don’t need the other person to check in with you all the time because you’re happy on your own. You’re OK if they go do their own thing, because you’re secure in your relationship and you’re perfectly fine doing your own thing too. You don’t need reassurance of that person’s love because you’re secure.
Two Whole People Coming Together
A solid relationship is two whole (or at least, fairly whole) people coming together because they love each other’s company. They’re not coming together because they need someone to love them all the time, because they need someone’s company all the time, because they need to be shown that they’re loved.
If one person is whole but the other person is needy, dependent, insecure . the whole person will do the best that he or she can to help the other, but over the long run will feel weary of all the neediness and insecurity, and will feel resentment. If both are needy and insecure, there will be constant fights about why you didn’t check in with me, why you’re so distant today, why you’re talking to that guy, what you’re doing when you go out with your friends, etc.
But if both people are whole, they can be apart and are secure enough not to worry about the other person, and are happy being alone. They can come together and be happy, enjoying each other’s company. They don’t need each other, but they love each other and care for the other person’s happiness — not worrying so much about their own happiness, because they are secure that they’re already happy.
The respect each other, and themselves. They are compassionate for each other, and themselves.
This is a relationship with two whole people.
So what if you’re not this “whole” person, and want to be? Realize you already have everything you need to be whole — you just need to let go of the insecurities, and realize how amazing you already are. You don’t need improvement — you need to realize that the awesomeness is already there.
How do you let go of the insecurities? That’s not so easy, because it’s a slow healing process, but it starts by recognizing them when they appear, and then letting them go. Notice that you’re worried about what your significant other is doing, and then recognize that you’re worried they don’t love you as much as they should, and that means you are worried you’re not good enough … then let go of that worry. You don’t need it. You are good enough.
If you’re good enough, that means the other person will either recognize that and love you, or won’t recognize it (and therefore won’t be deserving of you) and will not love you, but you’ll be fine because you’re OK on your own. If you’re good enough, you’ll be good enough with or without this person. That’s not to say you want the person to leave, or don’t care about the person, but you know that you’d be OK if they did leave you.
Knowing that, you’re OK no matter what: whether that person is on a trip, out with friends, working late, even angry with you. You’re good, as you are, on your own, and you don’t need anything else.
When worries about whether you’re good enough crop up, recognize them, let them go. When worries about whether the other person loves you crop up, recognize them, let them go. When fears of the other person flirting with someone else crop up, recognize them, let them go (worst-case scenario: the person cheats, you leave them, you’re OK on your own).
Recognize the fears and worries, and let them go. Relax into this new space of being OK with yourself, being happy on your own, knowing things will always be OK.
Once you’ve learned this wholeness, you can come together with someone else with confidence, love, compassion, security.
Take a minute to consider your current or recent relationships — possibly with a romantic partner/ spouse, but also possibly with a good friend or family member. Have there been times of dependence, insecurity, jealousy, a lack of trust, neediness? Or is it characterized by independence and security? If insecurity and neediness are a problem, what fears are holding you back? Can you let them go?