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I’m not a relationship expert (in fact I never write about relationships).
I recently asked our readers, What is the best relationship advice you have ever been given? The responses were solid. Some were funny. Some were straight up, like be kind and pick your battles.
My favourite piece of relationship advice from readers was the importance of friendship with ourselves. And I have to agree. It’s the one I have worked on for a while, and I’m kinda getting the hang of it.
When it comes to people I love and want to build connection with, the best thing I have learned is to cherish the friendship you have with yourself, first and foremost—forever.
This is coming from someone who used to look to others to “complete me.” I depended on people for my happiness and sense of worth well into my 20’s. It was exhausting. I walked through life wanting to be accepted, seen, and heard. It was evident by the way I dressed, conducted myself, and relentlessly worked toward my goals. When I was alone, I would drown out the anxiety with phone calls, messages, and busyness.
I needed people to feel good about me. But I always felt let down, unloved, and unworthy.
I would often look at things from another person’s point of view rather than be myself—just to be accepted.
Being afraid to be alone, we may find ourselves forfeiting our boundaries to make others happy.
As a church kid, I was taught to turn the other cheek—always. This created a lack of self respect, and in my relationships and friendships I found myself being taken for granted. When I learned about assertiveness and the importance of speaking up and remaining true to myself, my world changed.
I realised that I can be myself and connect with others without losing my grounding or peace of mind. And I can pursue my life without having to justify the steps I take.
This was a hard lesson for me to comprehend and tackle. I often felt guilty for choosing my well-being and path in life, and saying no to others’ demands of me.
It took a leap into the unknown and a trip across Australia to realise that the person I need to seek, love, and focus on primarily is myself.
People are an added bonus to our life.
When we look to others first, rather than building a healthy relationship within ourselves, we may place immense pressure on people to validate us or fill a void within.
Everyone is on their own unique journey. Expectations can lead to disappointment when we demand fulfilment through them. In a sense, we dismiss other peoples unique walk—or they dismiss ours.
With differences we may be required to look beyond our view of the world and endeavour to see things from theirs if we want to connect and build fruitful, loving relationships. For some of us this may come easy, for others it may not (and that’s okay).
It’s a balancing act.
People are not on this Earth to complete us. We are not here to complete one another.
Movies and society may have us thinking that the ultimate goal in life is to find “the one”and live happily ever after. And that unless we find that “special someone,” life is amiss.
There is a small piece of truth to this. We do need to find “the one.”
But not in someone else.
On my venture to the other side of Australia, alone, no friends, no family—I found that someone.
And I kinda liked her.
I wondered why I had denied her voice, time alone with her, listening to her needs for so long. Perhaps, I was afraid of what I might hear. There were moments when the pain of my past arose—I wasn’t distracted by anything or anyone. I couldn’t avoid the silence—it was all around me.
It seemed easier to find love and fulfilment in others—but it was merely a distraction from the love I needed to give myself.
Fast forward eight years, I have invested in the friendship within, learning to honour my needs. When I think I’ve got it down pat, I don’t. But I’m eager to keep figuring it out and the progress is evident.
Making friends with ourselves helps us to be better companions to others. At least, that’s what I see and feel. It also empowers us because we are not at the mercy of other people fulfilling us. We also don’t place that burden on people—we let them be.
We continuously learn to have grace with ourselves and recognise our own short comings. In turn it makes it easier to accept and embrace others too—and not take things too personally.
Expectations are pushed aside, and instead of demanding respect and love we ask, what can I offer without forfeiting who I am?
Instead of seeing relationships as an emotional bank that fills us up, we fill ourselves up, and choose what and who we give too. We have that right.
Through all of this, I’m discovering that it’s not easy to remain myself and stay grounded while also cultivating relationships with others. With some people, we get each other and we honour one another’s differences—it’s easy. With others, it’s challenging and the waters are a continuous storm. Then there are those who we love endlessly and yet, find ourselves clanging and making a mess.
My non-expert relationship advice would be simply this: the relationship with yourself is just as important as the one you are building with others.
Make time for you, just as do for them. Be kind to yourself, forgive yourself, and love yourself—just as you do for them.
When I read the responses from Ele-readers below, I loved the mix of answers—some said, “stay single” or “get a dog” (I couldn’t agree more—my fur child is everything). Some said, “don’t go to bed angry”—personally, I love this one because it means we cannot take each day for granted.
Then there are those who have found or are finding the balance—by remaining an individual and at the same time, building lasting relationships.
And that’s the guidance and advice I adhere and aspire to live by: to be wholesomely myself, while embracing and building with others.
Here are a few more responses to the question: What is the best relationship advice you have ever been given?
- “Remember to marry yourself self first!” ~ Catherine
- “It came from my mother. Observe and understand your partner’s ways of expressing/showing his love for you and respond in ways that he understands your love for him. Applies to other relationships too.” ~ Rumna
- “It’s your life journey, when you feel comfortable and peaceful with yourself the real person will be able to enjoy with you.” ~ Marina
- “Love is the beginning of being comfortable with your own and your partner’s imperfections! Therefore, a relationship is a journey of discovering imperfections and enjoying them on the way, not a milestone defined by a perfect couple status!” ~ Asif
- “This wise old man once told me that, “Pimpin ain’t easy.” That was deep and effected my life in a positive way…?” ~ Jake
- “There is no such thing as happily ever after. Life is a roller coaster of good and bad, how you deal with the ride determines your happiness.” ~ Julia
- “The most important relationship you’ll ever have is the one you have with yourself.” ~ Lindsey
- “Marry the guy who makes you laugh. Possibly the best advice my mom ever gave me!” ~ Megan
- “Make your relationship with yourself primary, and never abandon yourself in relationships with others.” ~ Jennifer
- “Know your worth, set boundaries and stick to them, never ignore red flags, learn someone else’s love language, have difficult conversations early.” ~ Stefanie
- “Only speak well of each other to others.” ~ Jacqueline
- “Sauté onions and garlic before your love arrives home (even if you switch and make pancakes for dinner) it makes coming home so enjoyable.” ~ Rama
- “My grandmother told me when I was about 10yrs old, ‘If you want to live a truly happy life, get a house and a dog and forget about marriage. It’s nothing but stress and a total waste of time” Best Advice ever. I’m 36 no kids no stress Got a house and 4 dogs. Big happy!” ~ Alex Zander
- ” The grass is greener where you water it.” ~ Kevin Gibson
- “Disappointment and anger directed at your partner is usually the result of your own expectations. When you find yourself getting annoyed, check yourself first and adjust your expectations.” ~ Amber
- “Don’t hit below the belt if you have a disagreement. Somethings can never be taken back.” ~ Cindy
- “Correcting someone is never important. Save your energy and an argument. If they are abusive, then correct your life by leaving. Correction or the ‘right’ way is our own issue. It stems from judgement of another precious being. Those words fall hard on a partner.” ~ Tracy
- “Sometimes you have bad years. Sometimes you have good years. Stick it out…it’s worth it.” ~Amanda
- “When I was teaching my first wife to shoot a gun my dad advised me not to teach her how to hit a moving target! You know in case I had time to start running! Sound advice.” ~ Jules
- “It’s never 50/50. It’s always 100 percent that you have to put in and some days you won’t have that 100 percent, you’ll only have 80 percent which means your partner might have to put 120 percent and vice versa.” ~ Angie Noia
- “The relationship you have with yourself determines the quality of relationships you have with others.” ~ Isa
- “It’s more important to be nice than to be right.” ~ Justin
- “Tell the truth. It’s that simple. Oh! And you don’t, own each other. Now that’s it. -My Father.” ~ Dan
- “Communicate. No matter if it’s a friendship or an intimate relationship, always verbally communicate because silence can create a misunderstanding.” ~ Dorcas
- “Other people’s feelings are theirs, not yours. Recognizing and even responding does not need to mean taking those feelings on.” ~ Caryn
- “Honestly, never go to bed furious with your spouse.” ~ Meggie
- “Only one person can be crazy at a time.” ~ Andre
- “Never chase anybody. They either want to be with you or they don’t.” ~ Jill
- “It’s okay to break up.” ~ Lilian
- “Do you want to be right, or happy?” ~ Deanna
- “Don’t get your relationship advice from Facebook.” ~ Allison
- “You don’t quit when things get hard.” ~ Erin
- “Allow yourself to be loved. Still working on it.” ~ Jessica
- “Create healthy boundaries for yourself, and stick to them.” ~ Carrie
- “That person who’s frustrating you is just looking for happiness that they may never find.” ~ Sarah
- “It can take a lifetime to build a relationship, but it can take a matter of seconds to destroy it.” ~ Nichole
- “It’s okay to let go of someone you love.” ~ Kaitlyn
- “Discuss and set goals. Otherwise, how can you determine if you are on the same page, or if you are working toward things together.” ~ Jessica
- “Don’t lie to your partner no matter how hard it gets.” ~ Niketan
- “If you don’t have trust, you have nothing.” ~ Denise
- “Don’t keep score!” ~ Rain Hampton
- “Be current. Attack the problem not the person.” ~ Solomon
- “The most important relationship is the one you have with yourself.” ~ Kirsty
- “Be kind to one another.” ~ Sharon
- “Take time to pray together!” ~ Kimberly
- “Get a dog.” ~ Tiffiny
- “Either accept a person for who and what they are, or don’t. Do not play games in the end you will both be losers. Some relationships happen this way. Step 1. I love you. You are perfect. Step 2. Now change. Step 3. You’re not the person you were when I met you. Step 4. You’re boring. Step 5. Good bye.” ~Dustin
- “We don’t come to earth to love a perfect person. But learn to love an imperfect person perfectly.” ~ Roxy