A few months before meeting my husband, I booked a one-way ticket to Nepal.
It wasn’t my first visit, but I needed an escape—mainly from myself.
I spent one month by the lake thinking, and thinking, and thinking. I grew tired from my own destructive behaviors and sought a solution that would break the unhealthy patterns I had lived.
One particular pattern was clear, and I couldn’t avoid it any longer. When single, I’d be independent, wild, fierce, and thoroughly detached. However, when I fell in love, I became needy, clingy, extremely attached, and dependent. I’d turn into someone I didn’t recognize, and all of the sudden become the victim who’s in a toxic relationship.
Since I was 14, this pattern followed me like my shadow. Unfortunately, I never recognized it. I’d jump from one relationship to another, transforming from an independent woman to a dependent one. Maybe I knew deep inside that relationships made me lose my power, but I was too ashamed to admit it.
So I kept hiding behind my “independent and strong” self until meeting someone new who’d eventually reveal my true colors.
I could write a book about how many men had actually told me to love myself, but I never believed them at the time; in fact, I hated them, and their honesty left a bad taste in my mouth.
I was having my third cup of tea when I realized that the man I had met six days earlier just stood me up. Two hours later, he texted me, “Elyane, I need my space, you know? Why don’t you actually do something else?” I almost threw up when I read his message. I was so into him, and reading this amount of honesty was shocking and painful.
He became my worst nightmare, and I resented him so much that I left the entire state I had stayed in for the last two months. Three years later, when I was in Nepal on my self-introspection trip, I remembered that man.
It took me three years to finally understand what he was trying to tell me. For six days (right after we met), I did nothing but wake up, think of him, go down to the café where he worked, spend up to 12 hours with him, go back home, and repeat. And although I was backpacking in India during that time and had many plans other than “him,” I’d relinquished them and made all my trip about him.
I shouldn’t have hated him. (I think his straightforwardness upset me, and it wasn’t something I was used to.) He did want his space, and he deserved it. He was trying to tell me that I needed my space too. He was trying to show me that he liked me for being independent. He was trying to explain to me that I had changed the moment I started to like him.
Ah, it was right there in Nepal where I realized that I had lost myself in all my previous relationships. It wasn’t just him. Whether it was a fling, a sexual buddy, a lover, a long-term boyfriend, or a one-night stand, I instantly compromised my values for the sake of being loved or liked.
After that trip to Nepal, I felt shame for many months. I felt down, disgusted, and unworthy. Shortly, I met the man who’d later become my husband, and I remember the one thing I kept telling myself: Don’t lose yourself this time.
To this day, whenever I catch myself overcompensating, accommodating, or putting everyone’s needs before mine, I stop. I stop because now I know that when I stop focusing on me, I lose myself. Not only do I hurt my husband in the process, I also hurt our relationship.
I’m no longer desperate for love; I’m desperate for self-love.
Surprisingly enough, when we become desperate for self-love, we find the romantic love we have always been seeking.
Never abandon yourself. Learn to express your needs, wants, desires, emotions. Set the right boundaries. Go out. Pursue your dreams and goals. Maintain strong friendships. Find a hobby. Do an activity. Spend time alone. Extend the love you have for your partner to the world—friends, family, strangers, pets, animals, nature.
When you focus on you, your relationship is likely to succeed.
When we make our partner the center of our attention, we might lose them. This isn’t selfish or wrong. Our relationships need to breathe, so we need to find ways to give ourselves the love we need and not expect all of it to come from our partner.
No matter how much your partner loves you, they can’t accommodate all your needs. If they do, they’ll lose themselves in the process.
Just because we are in a relationship, married, or falling for someone, it doesn’t mean we need to give up who we are in order for them to love us back. In fact, they won’t love us for what we do for them; they’ll love us for who we really are.
To know who we are, we need to keep exploring ourselves outside our romantic relationships. Go out for dinner alone and see what you’d order if your partner wasn’t with you. Go for a hike on your own and explore your speediness.
When we stay connected to ourselves, our partner will stay connected to us.