After some terrible relationships, I avoided them altogether. They seemed to be the equivalent of a throat punch, and who wants to sign up for that?
I did eventually, though, put myself out there again. I got married and then it ended disastrously.
I could have sworn off relationships altogether, but even with my heart bulldozed, I knew I believed in the value of relationships.
Chris Peterson, a pioneer in the positive-psychology field, argues that healthy relationships may be the single most important determinant to happiness.
Healthy relationships may be the single most important determinant to happiness.
I did take the time I needed to be single. I was perfectly happy by myself then, but I knew that wasn’t a long-term happiness. No one can exist in a vacuum. I, for one, need supporters and cheerleaders. A romantic mate, one who sees me at my best and my worst, can be both, and I’m lucky that I met my current spouse who is that for me.
Love is not the only thing we need in a relationship. We also need mutual respect, compromise, sacrifice, understanding, and the willingness to work through even the roughest of times.
We also need to be accepted just as we are while also being encouraged to be the best version of ourselves.
Relationships, with the qualities I listed above, are worth it for these five reasons:
1. They help you work on being selfless.
Left to my own devices, I’ll be a selfish, self-absorbed asshole. I’ll begin every sentence with “I.” I’ll forget to ask you how you’re doing or show up for you when you’re hurting. I need other people to remind me how to love, how to be overcome my own selfishness.
Friends can do this, yes, but few are in your life in a day-to-day way the way a romantic partner is. When my spouse gets ill, I send him to bed and take care of the rest. I sit down and look him in the eyes and ask him how he’s doing.
Most days, it’s easy for me to be selfless in this relationship because I know he’s selfless with me too.
2. They help you achieve your goals and dreams.
A couple of years ago, an article I’d pitched to the Huffington Post got to the very last round before they decided to pass. It was a blow, and I was so disappointed.
I was ready to drown my sorrows and never write again when my boyfriend (now husband) said, “Why don’t you send that article to another publication? Just because they didn’t want it doesn’t mean someone else might not.”
I did, and guess what? It got accepted elsewhere, and that was just the start of the writing career I have today.
3. They force you to be self-aware.
Want to know when you’re being selfish, cranky, pissy, unkind, or just a downright asshole?
Spend some time with your romantic partner.
Want to know how well you communicate, resolve conflicts, or forgive? Spend some time with your romantic partner.
Engaging with someone that intimately means that they get to see you at your best and your worst, and if you want to stay partnered, it means you’ll need to work on your half of that equation.
4. They reduce your stress level.
My husband and I have four children, and I don’t have to take care of them alone. I do the dishes. He tackles the laundry. He takes out the trash. I handle the bills. We have a partnership, and I don’t have to do it all by myself.
We hug each other when the other has had a rough day.
I’ve been a single parent and been okay, but he makes my life so much easier because it’s not solely on my shoulders.
5. They provide you with a sounding board.
“Do you think I should register my business now?”
“Later. You’re just starting out. Don’t worry. It’ll come with time. You’re just trying to put the cart before the horse.”
“I want to ask for a raise. Do you think _____ sounds okay?”
“That sounds great!”
My partner knows me best, and I chose him to be in my life because he’s awesome. He knows a bunch of stuff about a bunch of stuff. I live with someone who has a brain I would want to pick even if we weren’t married.
A gift of being in a relationship with anyone is that you automatically have someone you get to work on outside issues with. Trouble with a friend? Your job? Your dogwalker? There’s your teammate who can help you.
When we’ve had our hearts flattened, we often ask ourselves, “are relationships worth it?” We’re fearful. We’re hurting. I get it.
My mildly unhelpful answer is no…until it’s yes.
I have needed to be alone for a while and discover some things before I was ready for any kind of relationship. Relationships outside of the one I had with myself were a no. I needed to like me first.
But when I was ready and I met the right person, it was a yes. The right relationships are worth it, but it took me a lot of work to get there, and it takes a lot of work to stay there too.