Everyone wants to be loved, especially romantically. But before committing to a romantic relationship, commit to yourself.
A basic longing that all of us have is to be loved. The primary way that we navigate towards getting the love we desire is to be in a romantic relationship.
Love and pain go hand in hand because love is such a core longing that we end up willing to do almost anything to get it, including staying in partnerships where we lose our sense of self.
Here are five qualities to cultivate in yourself before committing to a relationship.
Step one is always to ask yourself: What do I want? You won’t be able to show up fully in a relationship that is thriving and constantly growing if you don’t know what you want out of the relationship.
Our biggest misconception is that the other person has exactly the same ideas around relationships, or even what love is. This includes thinking about sexual needs, emotional needs, and spiritual needs. When both partners are self-aware, they can have conversations about these needs.
2. Boundary Setting
We often think that boundaries create a lack of freedom. In reality, boundaries create freedom. When you know what works for you or what doesn’t work for you and you are able to communicate that, both you and your partner know how to navigate the relationship. The opposite of having boundaries is having default assumptions—which are often wrong assumptions.
We can think that once we are in a relationship, this is how it’s going to be forever. You aren’t the same person right now as you were last year, so how can your relationship be the same? Being open and available to change is a key part of growing into deeper levels of connection.
Never want to have a fight again? Openness is the quality you want to cultivate. A fight occurs when we believe that someone isn’t acknowledging our values or perspective. When you and your partner are open, you can put yourself into your partner’s perspective and see their reality, and although you might not agree, you can understand where they are coming from.
Ask yourself: Am I open about my perspective? Am I able to see things from other people’s perspective, too?
How can we expect another to love us if we don’t understand how we want to be loved? This means exploring love in all areas of our lives, starting with how we love ourselves. I like to explain self-love as the ability to accept who we are no matter what we might consider our faults to be, while also acknowledging our desires to grow and thrive.
Loving who you are shows your partner how he or she can love you, too. It is important to share with your partner what love means to you and how you feel loved, and the only way to know this is to explore the idea of giving and receiving love in your own world.
Ask yourself: How can I accept even more of who I am?
It’s great to have self-awareness, know your boundaries, cultivate openness, and know what love means to you, but if you can’t communicate all that ...
Communication is the tool that allows for an interweaving of your internal reality with that of your partner. Communication means being vulnerable with yourself and sharing your deeper feelings with your partner, even though it may feel scary to be so open.
You can learn to be a great communicator. Once you are clear on the four other qualities, you can have conversations with friends or family sharing your feelings and asking to be heard (without needing any feedback). Know that people do love to give advice; it is okay to specifically ask just to be listened to. The more often you practice sharing your deeper feelings, the easier it becomes.
Ask yourself: How can I honor my own needs and know that I am safe to share my deeper feelings?
Cultivating these qualities doesn’t automatically mean you’ll have a pain-free relationship. However, it does mean you’ll understand yourself better, know how to handle those pains, and communicate your needs and have difficult conversations with your partner, which all lead to easier resolutions.
A relationship is a dynamic flow between two people who both have needs, desires, and possibly previous relationship baggage. How you show up for yourself is how you’ll teach your partner to show up for you, and that’s how we feel fulfilled and loved up in our relationship.
Read more about building healthy relationships: “How to Have a More Healthy Relationship.”