Who says we need a partner? No, seriously. I want you to think about who is telling you that you need a partner to be fulfilled, happy, and content with your life. A friend of mine recently explained her decision to remain in a city she had already decided to leave. She explained, “I feel fulfilled in all other aspects of my life except for finding a partner”, and so she stayed. Many of us have been told all of our lives that we need to find a romantic partner in order to be happy.

Reliance on a Partner for Happiness

However, what happens when you put all of that pressure on a partner to make you happy and fulfilled? It’s a recipe for disaster. When you rely on another person to make you happy, it is likely you will try to force the relationship to work even after multiple red flags. These red flags don’t necessarily mean your partner is a bad person, but may serve as a warning sign that something is wrong and that the relationship should end before things get worse. When we aren’t happy with ourselves and we are looking for someone to make us happy, we may cling to that person as we believe they embody our happiness. 

Low self-worth & running from our problems

It’s possible that our self-esteem is low and is still recovering from a blow it may have taken in the past. Low self-esteem could be the result of many different situations such as parental criticism, bullying, or intimate-partner violence. This low self-esteem leads to difficulty with loving and accepting ourselves, which then leads to us searching for a partner to validate us. 

As digital nomads, we often are accused of running from our problems. However, there may be a grain of truth in this accusation. For example, travelers have made the decision to move abroad after a break-up. Is this a bad thing? Not necessarily. It depends on the avoidance of the problem. Some location independent travelers dedicate their time to self-development and learn a lot about themselves after starting their journey abroad. This might look like therapy, a meditation or yoga retreat, a reflective solo road trip, or a silent vipassana journey. It could also be as simple as holing yourself up in your Airbnb for a few days and doing nothing but journaling about your thoughts. Self-awareness could take on many forms and it’s important to experiment to see what works best for you.

Traveling and self-searching

How do I find myself? How do I find happiness? You might have heard before that traveling is a way of finding yourself. However, it could also be a way to escape your feelings and keep yourself so busy and distracted that you avoid your own company. You might be scared of being alone with your own thoughts and feelings because you know that you may not have fully processed the past yet. Not dealing with past issues can be detrimental in the future, especially when you meet a partner. 

Finding yourself is a process of deep self-inquiry and mindfully changing your perceptions, thoughts, and behaviors. You don’t need to travel to work on yourself and find peace with who you are as a person. You don’t need a partner to boost you up because you got this. You need to know your self-worth before entering a relationship so that you and your partner can flourish.

Unhappiness with a partner

Why do people stay in unhealthy relationships? Most of the time it has to do with low self-esteem and a misconception that this partner embodies our happiness. What we must remember is that happiness is found within. We often fail to understand that it doesn’t matter if we have found a partner who wholeheartedly loves us, because if we don’t love ourselves, we will never be happy. 

In addition, it’s unfortunate that most people get tired of constantly boosting someone’s self-esteem, and grow weary of being a rock for someone who is not making any progress or self-growth. That lack of healthy self-esteem can cause a partner to become frustrated, subsequently becoming fed up with the neediness and clinginess of someone who needs constant validation and reassurance of his/her worthiness. 

Slow and steady means you’re ready

So, how do you know when you are truly ready for a relationship? When you stop being scared that you won’t find a partner. We spend so much of our lives searching for love and validation from a partner instead of looking within and finding out how to love ourselves. Why? Because it’s easier, or because we have been told repeatedly by society that finding a partner is one of the most important milestones in life. Once you have come to terms with being single and fully understand that you can achieve self-actualization without a partner to validate you, that is when you are ready. 

Some people do great on their own self-growth journey, while others enlist the assistance of therapists like myself to help guide them through this process. Once you have something to contribute to a relationship other than simply an expectation that this relationship will bring you happiness and joy, you can truly be satisfied. You’ll notice that once your self-esteem has improved, the energy you exude will attract potential partners. From there starts the process of finding a mate and putting in the effort to make the relationship sustainable. 

Before you restart this search for a partner in order to fill a void you think you can’t fill yourself, take some time to reflect and ask yourself what it is that you really need. Once you have become comfortable in your own skin and are comfortable being alone, you are ready to find a partner who you can share your happiness with, not someone who will simply be an embodiment of your happiness. 

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