Oh, how many times have I heard these words when I asked people what makes a relationship work:
“He needs to be rich because financial stability will save your relationship.”
“Both can’t need each other and have to be independent.”
“Honesty is enough to make a relationship work.”
“Every relationship is bound to fall at some point, even if the couple stays married.”
In all honesty, I’ve noticed that people define relationships based on what they witness around them—whether it’s their parents, siblings, cousins, or friends—and what they experience themselves.
And so, for a long time, I started wondering which advice made sense the most because, back then, I didn’t have anything substantial to base my beliefs on.
Then, the dating began.
He was either from a totally different social status and couldn’t connect with how I was raised (we were raised to work hard toward our goals; nothing came on a silver platter); love was a necessity to him, not something he strived for or wanted; he needed to get over an ex, and I was the best option being the damn empath that I am; or he was so bloody independent that any feeling of “need” on my part made him feel suffocated.
Then, on a wintery night, while I was sitting under the thick covers and watching TV with my parents, the conversation between us led to the golden rule of relationships.
My parents’ relationship has been the most impressive to me so far. They have been married for 38 years (verging on 39 this October). I’m not saying that they never argue or that they don’t have their differences (if those things didn’t exist, then know for sure that the couple is suppressing hidden feelings), but they love each other unconditionally. And after 38 years, they still look at each other as if they’re falling in love all over again.
I’ve seen my mother tear up when my father looks tired as hell after a long day at work. I’ve seen my father upset and dejected when my mother traveled outside of the country for 10 days. I’ve seen them curl up next to each other when life decides to work against them.
And so, I looked deeply into my father’s eyes and asked him, “What do you think makes a relationship truly work?”
He smiled, turned to my mother then to me, and confidently answered, “You both need to let go of the I and start thinking about the we.”
Little did I know back then that I’d be taking this advice word by word and applying it in my long-lasting relationship.
Thankfully, my boyfriend has the same belief.
We both put each other first in everything that might impact our relationship.
This doesn’t mean that we are unhealthily codependent. Not at all. This is interdependence.
Codependency erases your sense of self. The line between yourself and your partner becomes so blurry that you might lose your personality in the process.
On the other hand, according to Jodi Clarke, MA, LPC/MHSP, “Interdependence involves a balance of self and others within the relationship, recognizing that both partners are working to be present and meet each other’s physical and emotional needs in appropriate and meaningful ways.”
This is exactly what my father proceeded to explain after his claim about letting go of the “I.”
He clarified that letting go of the “I” doesn’t mean ignoring your needs, your friends, or your hobbies. It means letting go of your ego.
I’ve seen so many people break up under the pretense that they need to “retain their sense of self,” when in fact, all they do is desperately and endlessly argue over the most trivial affairs just to prove that they are right all the time. They don’t make an effort to understand their partner’s perspective or consider the slightest possibility that they might be acting unfairly.
We are living in an age where we are glorifying the unhealthy love of oneself that could only equate being egoistic, when in truth, we must love ourselves in relation to the universe. We need to relish in our ability to love others and make ourselves comfortable but not at the expense of other people’s happiness. We need to love our readiness to be mindful and understanding instead of being blinded by our own perspective. We need to love ourselves in a beautiful way but not let this love turn into an obsession.
I am not advertising “ignoring our needs” or “erasing ourselves” for the sake of others. However, we need to learn that we are not lone wolves, especially for people who want their relationships to work.
The key word here is “compromise.” And this compromise should happen on both ends, or else “compromise” becomes “sacrifice” that is just bordering on emotional vampirism.
From the first day in our relationship, my boyfriend and I found ways to compromise. Whenever there’s a disagreement, we would assess both our opinions, perspectives, and the repercussions on the relationship.
We would ask ourselves these questions: Is it worth fighting for? What will I gain from it? What’s the outcome if we both agree to disagree? Can we meet halfway?
As such, each argument would last for a maximum of an hour.
After we calmed ourselves down, we would try to reason with each other and reach an agreement that would please us both and leave no room for possible future resentment.
A relationship between partners requires two people. It’s time we meet halfway and stop letting our ego cost us something that is worth fighting for.