“The most exciting, challenging, and significant relationship of all is the one you have with yourself. And if you find someone to love the you YOU love, well, that’s just fabulous.” —Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) in HBO’s Sex and the City
If the holidays weren’t hard enough on those who have experienced the loss of a relationship, the pink and red heart displays that seemingly went up on December 26 may have added insult to injury. For those not currently in a relationship, be it by choice or otherwise, societal expectations concerning couplehood can be inescapable and are magnified by the largely socially constructed “holiday” known as Valentine’s Day.
It is my belief we are a product of our lived experience and our lived experience is largely relational in nature. Practically from birth, we learn about interacting with others by, well, interacting with others. Babies learn what makes their caretakers smile and that crying will get them attention to take care of their needs. Our lived experience encompasses a variety of relationships, including those with our parents, siblings, friends, teachers, authority figures, children, and, yes, intimate partners.
Relationships are an interactive experience. From relationships, we can learn skills such as effective communication with a partner, or how we want to be shown caring or love, as well as how we want to be as a person within the context of a relationship. Though relationships can be and hopefully are rewarding experiences, they can also be detrimental to our concept of self-worth. When relationships falter or end, sometimes we blame ourselves when the demise can actually be attributed to both people. Relationships can send us both good and bad messages about ourselves that we define ourselves by as well as internalize and carry over into other relationships.
Newsflash: Love doesn’t conquer all! If we understand and love ourselves as whole individuals, we not only bring more to the table in a relationship, but the relationship will most likely be far more fulfilling because it won’t define us in totality.
Striving to learn about ourselves from these interactive experiences called relationships can be invaluable. However, caution should be taken that we don’t end up defining ourselves solely in terms of any given relationship or any given external source. The only one who can or should define you is, yes, YOU!
In a world socially constructed for a party of two, it can be hard to embrace being a party of one. However, by dating ourselves and learning to truly love ourselves, faults and all, we can learn how we want to be and what we want to stand for in the context of any given relationship with another person, especially intimate relationships defined by the social discourses of something called love. Newsflash: Love doesn’t conquer all! If we understand and love ourselves as whole individuals, we not only bring more to the table in a relationship, but the relationship will most likely be far more fulfilling because it won’t define us in totality.
More importantly, being able to be with ourselves outside the context of a relationship makes us stronger and less likely to end up in unhealthy relationships. How often have you watched people you know jump from relationship to relationship because the anxiety of being alone is too great?
For those who are currently a party of one, whether by choice or circumstance, embrace it. Learn about yourself. Date yourself. Fall in love with yourself. It’s the most rewarding kind of love!
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