Growing up I never had a reference for a happily-married relationship. My parents had a troubled marriage and the impending divorce did not bring with it any love loss. That is not to say that the divorce was easy for me. I remember my father fondly; growing up we shared a special bond. But that bond was lost somewhere in my teenage years and 2007 was the last time I had any interaction with him.
Even in the early 2000’s divorce was a bit of a taboo in India. I can recall how a friend in passing had mentioned that her parents would not allow marriage into a family where the groom’s family was divorced. I shrugged, smirked and decided ‘I’ll prove the naysayers wrong – I’ll be the poster child of a happily broken family.’
Oh, how delusional I was!
As per research, children from a broken home are ‘five times more likely to suffer from mental troubles’. If I had known this 13 years ago, maybe I would have made better lifestyle (and dating) choices. If I wasn’t trying so hard to be normal, maybe I would have been better equipped to deal with my rampant emotions. I think I managed my external facade well. But internally, in every relationship I struggled to find a familiar bond. Even before giving it a fair chance, I had set the bar so high that a happy relationship was a mirage – always just a little out of reach.
Search for the One True Love
In 10 years of my dating life, I was in 7 relationships. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Let’s rephrase it. In 10 years of my dating life, I was in 7 serious relationships. Now that sounds crazy! I fell in love faster than I could change my relationship status on Facebook – Single, In a Relationship and after a while I just had it permanently on ‘It’s Complicated’. I was on the quest for true love, and nothing could stop me from finding my soulmate.
While I was in that phase, it didn’t seem wrong. I was a young adult and I had a right to explore my choices. But in the process there were obviously many heartaches and opportunities to self-pity. I oscillated between insecurity and loss of interest – never good things in a relationship. The warning sign was my constant need to feel loved and wanted, to have someone fight for me and to prove their loyalty. At the other end of the spectrum, I ran away at the first sign of long-term commitment, because ‘marriage was for losers’.
Looking back, each relationship taught me something. Without knowing why I was walking away, I walked away… but always ready to jump into the next available one. Most of the times I knew it wasn’t the right thing to do; I did it anyway. In the process, I learnt a few things about myself:
- Intellectual compatibility is underrated. Loss of interest or boredom was because I couldn’t connect with them on a deeper level. In the light of the day, while sipping coffee there was absolutely nothing to talk about.
- Respect and equality are non-negotiable. Enough said.
- Forcing or expecting them to change only brought me misery. After countless emotional dramas and breakdowns, the best thing I could do for myself was to walk away.
- It is important to have some common life goals. If he wanted to spend every weekend at home watching TV, it would never work in the long run.
- To be available emotionally, mentally and physically goes a long way. The guessing game is great when you’re in high school. It’s cute to walk around letting flowers decide if ‘he loves me’ or ‘loves me not’, but in the grown-up world its frustrating and disrespectful. No one deserves to be left hanging.
Key ingredient for a happy relationship
So what changed? Did I suddenly find the perfect guy?
The perfect partner doesn’t exist.
What has changed is my attitude towards myself. I strongly believe that self-love is the most important ingredient for a happy relationship. Earlier, my understanding of self-love conjured emotions of ego, pride, expectations and focus on ‘me’. Now, I still focus on myself but in ways that bring positivity and value in my life. My relationship with myself had to improve in order to attract the right partner.
I have also accepted that I need to work on myself a little more than others. I have come to terms with my dysfunctional childhood and an absence of a father figure. This realisation no longer cripples me. Truth be told, once I accepted this fact and embraced it, it almost felt like a huge load was lifted off my chest.
Today, I am happier and more positive. My relationship with myself is improving every day and practicing self-love allows me to:
- Forgive myself and be emotionally free
- Focus on things that bring me joy
- Avoid negativity and toxic relations
- Work on improving the quality of my life
“To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness”– Robert Morley
Today, I have been married for almost 3 years and before that I was living with my husband (then boyfriend) for 2 years. For the longest time I was against the idea of marriage, but when it came my way – at the right time, with the right person I was ready for it. The other relationship I am working on is the one I have with myself. I still have a long way to go, but the journey is proving to be rewarding.