How to Become Whole in a Relationship
Post written by Leo Babauta.
Letâ€™s take an example of a woman I know who spends a lot of her day wondering what her boyfriend is doing, looking for clues that he loves her, wondering why he isnâ€™t paying attention to her, worrying that heâ€™s flirting with other girls on Facebook.
(Note that this applies to both men & women; Iâ€™ve just chosen a woman in this example.)
Sheâ€™s not happy in this relationship â€” sheâ€™s dependent on him for her happiness, and unhappy when heâ€™s not providing the validation she needs, when he doesnâ€™t show how much he loves her. Sheâ€™s insecure, jealous, needy. This doesnâ€™t make for a good relationship, or a happy person.
What happens when you have some degree of this in your relationship? Youâ€™re not a good boyfriend, girlfriend, spouse. The other person feels like he (or she) has to keep making you happy, always be â€œonâ€ so that you wonâ€™t wonder whatâ€™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 Iâ€™ve done it myself, and had to learn the hard way that this doesnâ€™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 … theyâ€™ve found a way to be whole, independent, secure.
So letâ€™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. Letâ€™s take the simplest part of the equation first â€” just you.
When youâ€™re whole, you donâ€™t need someone elseâ€™s validation to be happy â€” because you accept yourself. You donâ€™t need someone else to love you in order to feel loved â€” because you love yourself. Thatâ€™s not to say you donâ€™t love to be loved by others, or want others in your life â€” but you already provide the foundation of what you need, all by yourself, by accepting and loving yourself.
When youâ€™re whole, you are not insecure, because you arenâ€™t worried so much about the other person leaving. Sure, it would be a great loss for your loved one to abandon you, but youâ€™d be fine on your own. You wouldnâ€™t be â€œaloneâ€ because you have the best company in the world â€” yourself. You know youâ€™d survive, be happy, do great things, even without that person. Thatâ€™s not to say you donâ€™t want your lover to stay â€” but you arenâ€™t always afraid of the possibility of that person leaving.
When youâ€™re whole, you donâ€™t need the other person to check in with you all the time, because youâ€™re happy on your own. Youâ€™re OK if they go do their own thing, because youâ€™re secure in your relationship and youâ€™re perfectly fine doing your own thing too. You donâ€™t need reassurance of that personâ€™s love, because youâ€™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 otherâ€™s company. Theyâ€™re not coming together because they need someone to love them all the time, because they need someoneâ€™s company all the time, because they need to be shown that theyâ€™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 didnâ€™t check in with me, why youâ€™re so distant today, why youâ€™re talking to that guy, what youâ€™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 otherâ€™s company. They donâ€™t need each other, but love each other and care for the other personâ€™s happiness â€” not worrying so much about their own happiness, because they are secure that theyâ€™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 youâ€™re not this â€œwholeâ€ person, and want to be? Realize you already have everything you need to be whole â€” you just need to let go of the insecurities, and realize how awesome you already are. You donâ€™t need improvement â€” you need to realize that the awesomeness is already there.
How do you let go of the insecurities? Thatâ€™s not so easy, because itâ€™s a slow healing process, but it starts by recognizing them when they appear, and then letting them go. Notice that youâ€™re worried about what your significant other is doing, and then recognize that youâ€™re worried they donâ€™t love you as much as they should, and that means you are worried youâ€™re not good enough … then let go of that worry. You donâ€™t need it. You are good enough.
If youâ€™re good enough, that means the other person will either recognize that and love you, or wonâ€™t recognize it (and therefore wonâ€™t be deserving of you) and will not love you, but youâ€™ll be fine because youâ€™re OK on your own. If youâ€™re good enough, youâ€™ll be good enough with or without this person. Thatâ€™s not to say you want the person to leave, or donâ€™t care about the person, but you know that youâ€™d be OK if they did leave you.
Knowing that, youâ€™re OK no matter what: whether that person is on a trip, out with friends, working late, even angry with you. Youâ€™re good, as you are, on your own, and you donâ€™t need anything else.
When worries about whether youâ€™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, youâ€™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 youâ€™ve learned this wholeness, you can come together with someone else with confidence, love, compassion, security.