“Before you can get into a relationship, you should be happy by yourself.” We hear that and mistakenly think it literally means “you should be happy being alone.” We assume the wisdom imparted here is to not want relationships, or even to stop looking for one. But that’s not what this quote means at all.
Being happy by yourself means you need to take responsibility for your own happiness. This is not just semantics. This means recognizing the areas of your life that don’t’ feel fulfilled — if you don’t feel good about yourself, you’re bored with your job or feel disconnected from your friends and family, or aren’t happy with what you’ve accomplished. These are all issues that only you can solve; a relationship won’t solve them for you.
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We grow up with an idealized notion of romantic relationships. We’re told that when we find the right person, things will be perfect. We believe that any emptiness or discontentment we feel in any aspect of our lives will disappear once we find the right partner. But the Jerry Maguire idea that “you complete me” just isn’t reality. You have to complete yourself.
Yes, relationships can be amazingly distracting. In the initial phases when the sparks are flying, nothing else seems to matter. But this is a temporary Band Aid, because as the sparks calm down you’ll be left with the same unresolved issues you had before the relationship started. Even better, you could peg those problems on your partner, or think there’s something wrong with the relationship because you don’t feel so great (hence the advice to make yourself happy before getting involved).
The point is, sooner or later you have to take responsibility for your own life. Whether you’re single, or involved in something serious, you have to take care of yourself. And while it’s easier to blame our lack of happiness on not having someone or having someone that’s not acting the right way, life is rarely that simple. As important as our intimate relationships are, they will not magically fulfill you.