By David Joel Miller.
Type into a search engine almost any term about happiness or relationships and you find a whole lot of links to dating sites right at the top. Those dot com places, you know the ones I mean, make it sound like the only relationship that matters is a romantic partner one, and if you don’t have one you are somehow incomplete and unhealthy.
Most of the articles on these sites are about how to attract a partner. How to do the right things say the right things and wear the right things to be desirable. The inference here is that if you just got someone to be your partner you would be happy. If selling sex wasn’t illegal in most places I think they would flat do that also. Some get awfully close to selling relationships. So with so many people hooking up for more or less time, why are so many people so unhappy? Is a romantic partner relationship really the only one that matters?
Why do so many people in unhappy marriages divorce and remarry, only to be unhappy again? Because they never learned that happiness was inside and unhappiness was everywhere. That does not mean that sometimes relationships need to end or that having had one bad relationship you should never try again. It does mean that you need to learn to be healthy and happy or you won’t be able to be in a healthy happy relationship. Two mentally unhealthy people do not make for a healthy relationship.
People with some pretty extreme disabilities can and do have great healthy relationships. Schizophrenics who have a supportive person living with them are about half as likely to end up back in the hospital. Just be sure you are together because you both can contribute to the relationship.
So where do you start to have a great relationship? I suggest first try getting to be your own best friend, which is not an excuse for self-centeredness. I often ask clients if they would want themselves as a friend. Clients with deep depression or lots of anxiety usually say no. In fact, I continue to be surprised by how many people would not want themselves for a best friend.
If you sell someone something you would not buy yourself we think you are a lot dishonest. So how could you possible get someone to be your friend if you wouldn’t want to be a friend to that kind of person? Now please do not give up here and say it is hopeless. Lots of mothers bring in their children and want me to change them. People in unhappy relationships come in and want us to change their partner. How about doing the remodeling program on yourself first?
Can you believe there are people who have been married to not one but two or three alcoholics? After a lot of pain and suffering, they get out of their relationship. They decide to get back out there, they go out for a night on the town with some friends and they meet a new romantic interest. Then what happens? That person, the one they met in the bar, guess what? They turn out to be an alcoholic also.
Women who have been abused and men also, often find they get into a new relationship and that person is abusive. Why?
Because unless we take the time to look at ourselves we keep being attracted to the same dysfunctional types. If you keep hooking up with drug addicts, you either need to change whom you are attracted to or get yourself a drug addict with fifteen or twenty years clean and sober.
Think back to a time in your life you met a new friend. You wanted to know all about them. Didn’t you? Why is it that my clients can tell me all about their significant other and their kids and often their parents but they have no answers to questions about themselves?
Ever heard the saying that beauty is skin deep, but ugly goes all the way to the bone? Despite the fact that what is inside counts, far more than you may think, most people think that the way to be more attractive is to lose weight or change their look. Attractive people go through messy painful divorces also. Most women are surprised to find out that a happy smiling woman is a lot more attractive than an angry hostile one, regardless of their figure and their “look.”
Before I leave this topic, for now, I need to remind you that good relationships include the way in which you relate to your children, your parents, your boss and sometimes even your ex.
The take away from this? Before you are likely to be happy in a romantic relationship you need to learn to be happy with yourself and then learn to be happy in those relationships with family and friends you already have. Only after you have learned to master these challenges are you likely to be successful at having a happy romantic relationship.
For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog, there is also a Facebook authors page, in its infancy, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. Thanks to all who read this blog.
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