I’ve had my fill of relationships.
A pattern emerges when I reflect on my past. I made similar mistakes, dated the wrong sorts of people and dated them for the wrong reasons. Finally, I realised how much time I was wasting trying to force relationships that didn’t need to be there.
Often I would settle for a partner because I liked most of his personality or I simply found him physically attractive. There were always things I would change about them, for sure, but I thought that’s how relationships were for everyone. We’re always told that relationships take compromise and that they’re a lot of work. I thought everyone settled at some point. We just meet someone we like most of the time, so we choose to stay coupled up with this person for the foreseeable future.
I would start relationships with others even though I was unhappy, and even when I had the sneaking suspicion from the very start that it wouldn’t work out. That’s always a bad sign when I knew from the beginning that the day would come when I’d be forced to break it off, yet I would stay. I would stay in unsatisfying and sometimes mentally and physically damaging relationships until something better came along because I didn’t want to be alone.
There was a time when I knew having a partner was better than being alone. Having a partner was a way for me to confirm that I’m in fact a person worth wanting, if that makes sense. I would jump from relationship to relationship because I needed a partner to be happy. I wanted my partner to ‘complete me’ as if he alone held the key to my happiness. And like Tracy McMillan, I didn’t want to be abandoned.
The problem with relying on another person to fulfil your happiness is that you will never be satisfied with the results. Your partner isn’t you and they can’t fully get inside your head. Even if you can somehow explain to them all the intricacies of what it takes to make you happy, they won’t be able to do it entirely to your liking. You might not realise it, but you are trying to transform your partner into someone they are not. And if you are so knowledgeable about how to make yourself happy, why not take the effort yourself?
Not only are we looking to the wrong person to make us happy, we don’t know how to be happy ourselves.
Eventually, I decided to leave everything up to chance. I had reached a breaking point. I stopped trying to find someone to make me happy and instead focused on making myself happy. Expending energy into making myself a better person would always work to my advantage, whereas the energy used in careless dating would almost always turn out to be a waste of time.
I was so busy working on my own happiness that I stopped caring about dating entirely. I found myself completely satisfied with my situation in life and everything was working out better than I had anticipated. I honestly thought I was going to be single for the rest of my life because I’m weird, and I was totally content with that. (I’m weird because I’m a vegan nomad who also happens to be a minimalist, hard-working, passionate, and independent, and then I become even weirder because I am happy with myself and not looking for any other person to complete me in that way.) I figured maybe there are two types of people: some people are meant to be partnered up, others are meant to be single.
I accepted all of this and pushed on. I dove head first into my passions and worked hard to achieve my goals. I promised myself that I wasn’t going to force a relationship on anyone. I would stop looking for a partner and live my life the way I want. I was happy with myself in the present moment and that was more than good enough for me.
Only when I stopped looking did I meet the perfect person.
Like Tracy McMillan suggests, the person you really need to marry is you. Make a commitment to yourself. Promise that you will always love yourself unconditionally, accept the mistakes you make and learn from them, and love others as they are without trying to change them. Only then will you be truly happy and able to fully love another person.