I mean, if the relationship can’t survive the long term, why on earth would it be worth my time and energy for the short term? ― Nicholas Sparks
Hi, I’m Aimee, and if I were going to write a funny tagline on my social media feed, it would be this: ‘Aimee C. Teesdale – great at life, rubbish at relationships.’
You see, I’m a life coach, and while I am pretty good at making my life a success, I don’t seem to be able to do the same in my love life.
I’ve been in 3 serious relationships, and they’ve all ended within two years of them starting (the 3rd of which has only recently ended), and for a long time, I considered this to be quite a failing. Nevertheless, upon reflection, I’ve realized how much value I’ve taken from these experiences and how much I’ve learned. It’s this wisdom that I’d like to share 5 things about relationships that are more important than you think.
5 Things That Are More Important in a Relationship Than You Think
1. Don’t make your relationship the ‘be all and end all’ of your life
“Serious” boyfriend number 1 was someone I graduated with at university, and at that time, my relationship was everything. I couldn’t think of anything more important in my life than that. Especially since I felt like I didn’t have much else going on beside him, having moved to a new city, without many friends, not any hobbies or interests, a job I didn’t like and a lack of career direction and confidence.
We were head over heels in love, but after a few months of living together, it was clear that we were no longer heading in the same direction. We broke up, and it was devastating to be left with what felt like nothing. I vowed never to let this happen to me again, so I defined the different areas of my life that were important to me and started thinking about what I wanted for each one, with the aim of making it come true.
To this day I still use this plan to ensure my life is well balanced and to help me live a life I love. Now if a relationship ends, it’s only a small section of my life, and I still have so much else to fall back and focus on.
2. You don’t need anyone to make you FEEL happy
I often hear (single) people say ‘to be in a relationship is a basic human need.’ Of course, these people aren’t very happy because they feel something is missing from their life that they just can’t live without.
So I challenge them – it’s a basic human need for what? Do you need it to survive? Well, no, apparently not, it’s possible to live without being in a relationship. Do you need it to be happy? Well, no, there are plenty of people who are single and happy. There are also plenty of people who are ‘taken’ and miserable. Do you need it to feel loved? Again, no. A person can feel loved, and more accurately, worthy of love, regardless of whether they are in a relationship or not.
To think that a relationship provides us with happiness, or a sense of being loved, or a sense of security, is based on a myth about where our feelings come from. How we feel does not come from anything outside of us. They do not come from people, from jobs, from family, from friends or partners. They come from our thoughts. Period.
If you’re single and unhappy, it’s not because you’re single that you’re unhappy, it’s because you THINK you need a relationship to be happy and therefore you’re preventing yourself from feeling what you want – happy!
You may get into a relationship, and it may seem that it gives you happiness, but actually what’s happened is your THOUGHTS have changed. Then when your partner doesn’t behave as you expect or he doesn’t show affection when you want it, you will be left confused, wondering ‘why doesn’t this relationship make me happy anymore?!’
When I met my boyfriend number 2, I was longing for a relationship. I was working on cruise ships at the time and had been single for two years. It’s hard to find commitment on a cruise ship when people are always coming and going, and friendships were very quick to form but never to any meaningful depth. I wanted more. I needed more. But it was never enough because I was looking in the wrong place to feel better about myself. I needed to look inside, not out.
3. Core values matter
When I talk about values, I don’t mean the values that most people think of, like ‘honesty, reliability, security’ etc. We all prefer honesty, and we all tell lies. We all get annoyed when someone is late, and then we show up late ourselves.
By values, I mean the core principles and beliefs that form the foundation of your life. It’s where you spend most of your time, your money, your energy. What are you most interested in and where are you most organized?
For example, my core values and beliefs are:
making the most out of life and following your dream (spending your life doing something you love)
personal development and psychological growth
physical health and wellbeing
My life is based on these things. It’s where most of my money goes. It’s where I spend most of my time. It’s the things I can talk enthusiastically about.
Being with someone who has a similar belief system to yours, or a same set of values helps. It’s ok if your values are different. However, there needs to be respected for those differences, and they need not clash.
I’m not just talking about interests, but the beliefs and principles that shape what we do and why. For me and serious boyfriend number 3, physical attraction and mutual interests kept us together, but it wasn’t enough when it came to the day to day decisions, and we argued a lot. Value clash = relationship crash.
4. You can’t fit square pegs into round holes
No, this isn’t a euphemism!
What I’m referring to is accepting and respecting someone the way they are and the way they are not. You may not have to like everything about them, but you do need to be ok with it if they never change that thing you don’t want. Attempting to change someone is a catch 22 because the key to changing someone is to accept them as they are AND help them to change. But those with high motivation to change someone rarely accepts the person as they are, and the ones who accept them the way they have low motivation to try to change them in the first place.
5. Break-ups can be the best thing that happens to you
The same goes for any loss, grief, or hardship, but only if you allow them. Allow the negative thoughts and emotions to be there. Accept that you’re going to feel like sh*t for a little while. Otherwise, you’re just going to end up feeling sh*t for feeling like sh*t.
Use the opportunity to reflect on what you gained that can’t be taken away, such as learnings and lessons, memories, or adventures. Because it’s not the loss that causes our turmoil – it’s our resistance to loss that gets us upset (I’m sure you wouldn’t be sad about losing a few kilos off the scale, for example!). You CAN combat this by using the opportunity to gain much more: more friends, more new experiences, more time for you.