7 Vital Choices for Happy Relationships

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” ~Lao Tzu

A little over a decade ago I thought I was going to marry my college sweetheart and become a young bride, which made it all the more devastating when happily ever after didn’t pan out. When we broke up, I felt literally like I lost a limb, complete with phantom sensations of his hand in mine.

It didn’t take long for a dark guilt to bubble up—a constant festering reminder of all the mistakes I’d made. I was highly unstable and insecure back then, and most of my relationships revolved around holding me up.

In the ruins of that romance, I didn’t know what scared me more—that someone else might hurt me again, or that I might hurt them enough first to deserve it.

I simultaneously felt an aching need to fill in the hole where he’d been and an overwhelming sense of nausea at the thought of being with someone else.

For eight years I ping ponged from fling to fling and extreme to extreme—putting myself out there far too soon or completely hiding my authentic self; expecting mountains to move or anticipating the worst; choosing the wrong people and refusing to let go, or choosing the right people and running away.

In each case, I either burdened the guy with a body bag full of my fears and insecurities, or dragged it around myself wondering why dating felt so exhausting.

I learned every lesson the hard way, after first proving myself completely insane by doing the same things and over and over again and expecting different results.

I’m now in a peaceful, loving relationship, and I realize the journey to this connection had more to do with loving myself than finding him. No relationship with someone else can ever compensate for secretly believing you don’t deserve it.

While I by no means know everything, I feel the hard part isn’t knowing what makes a healthy, happy relationship, but actually applying that knowledge consistently. It’s a lot easier to make a laundry list of lessons than it is to put them into practice, especially when heightened emotions are involved.

So I’ve done something a little different to explore the different ideas that support healthy relationships. As I often do, I put a question out to the Tiny Buddha Facebook page: what’s the key to a happy relationship?

I took a sampling of hundreds of responses and grouped them into seven tips. For each one, I listed a few simple ways to apply those ideas right now. If you’re not currently in a romantic relationship, a lot of these can still apply to the other relationships in your life.

7 Important Vital Choices for Happy Relationships

1. Practice self-love first.

It seems like you can only have happy relationships if you can be happy with or without them. ~Erika Gonzalez

Know that it is not the other person’s job to make you happy. The only person who can do that is you! ~Christi Emmons

The ultimate kicker: be honest with yourself about who you are. ~Kelly Bell

Know that you can be yourself and still be accepted. The best relationship is when you bring out the best in each other, and you are purely content when neither has anything to say. ~Stephanie Schwenning

Take it off the page:

  • Make a list or mental note of all the things to appreciate about you. Realize everyone has flaws, and there’s a lot more right with you than wrong with you.
  • Work on forgiving yourself. The past is the past and you deserve to put it behind you, but no one else can let it go for you.
  • Be good to yourself today. Practice yoga, meditate, or take a walk.
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