Although the number of marriages may be decreasing in the Unites States[i], the hunt for companionship is far from extinct. Regardless of whether it is quantified by the minutes swiping left or right, fifty first dates, or years of long-term relationships, many still spend a large portion of their lives searching for the one. For some this has been instilled by the subtle hints from nightly childhood fairy tales and for others it may be from the not-so-subtle familial, societal, and cultural influences. Moreover, sometimes this force becomes internalized and individuals find themselves perpetuating their own pressure. Before having a clue about who this elusive partner will be, hopes and dreams breed expectations. The one will bring happiness, foster successes, and fill the void as the “other half.” The journey to finding companionship can be an exciting, eventful adventure, nevertheless, trials and tribulations along the way can often bring about stress, anxiety, and depression.”
The fatal flaw occurs when the search for the one usurps the search for oneself.
Failing to invest at least equivalent energy in the search for yourself equates to handing the power of your own fulfillment to the wind. Without this introspection, hand in the chips, as you have given your abilities to grow and seek happiness to chance. There is nothing to be ashamed of when longing for partnership, simply be sure to avoid neglecting yourself in the process. The following tips may help you regain focus on the one who truly matters, you.
“What you seek is seeking you.”-Rumi
After reorienting your search, consider what it is that you seek. Delve beyond vague generalizations and reflect on what qualities, attributes, and values you wish to see in a partner. Flip this list and consider which of these qualities, attributes, and values are part of who you are. It is not to say that a replica of yourself is the best partner, however, it is all too common to neglect a deeper level of reflection when looking for the one. In diving deep into self-reflection you may find and embrace your true self. However, it is possible that this prompt brings about utter confusion. If so, assuage discouragement and take the wheel as you journey towards learning who you truly are.
Fall in love
Lend yourself the love and grace that you may be willing to give to another. The risk of seeming selfish, self-absorbed, or self-serving may cause you to be scared to put energy towards self-love. Unapologetically, choose to give yourself the love that you deserve. Make yourself a priority and embrace your true self. This process is rather subjective and depends on what brings you happiness. If this is difficult, consider what you would want to give a loved one to show appreciation and contemplate how you can present yourself with this personalized present.
The better half phenomenon
The concept of a better half can be an endearing social quip, however, the idea of finding someone to complete you can subconsciously cause you to search for partnership when you are really in need of self-love. Ideally, a companion would complement, rather than complete, who you are. In a partnership, it is natural to admire your loved one for their unique qualities. These assets may even prompt inspiration and encouragement, however, it is important to not abandon your own journey towards growth simply because a partner may hold that characteristic. A positive, well-balanced partner is an excellent influence on critical mental health concerns such as anxiety and depression, however, they cannot be the cure.
Although it is easy to see how our past may influence us, it is not always easy to notice when the past is propelling us. A difficult task that is essential to ponder prior to considering companionship is how lived experiences may be causing us to seek someone to help the healing process. Sure, social support can be a facilitative part of growth, however, only you hold the true power to heal your past pain. It is not a partner’s responsibility to fill a void in your heart, moreover, allowing this to happen could foster poor relationship dynamics such as codependency[ii].
Mind your mind
As gregarious beings, humans are often socialized to seek the one. Practice patience with your mindset. Although you may reflect and believe that you have your own self-work to do before you can embark on a relationship journey, from time to time you may be tempted to seek partnership before finding yourself. This is more than the concept that all good things come to those who wait, instead it is an active practice in which you honor your own readiness to take on the exploration of a new soul and the responsibilities of a relationship.
Growth is a process, not a task.
Our worlds are ever-evolving. Finding yourself is not a checklist task that unlocks the ability to find your true love. Hence, the journey to self-growth is intended to be a continuous one. Neglecting this process, even after partnered, is essentially an act of neglecting yourself. In embracing this journey you may unravel difficult obstacles that you do not need to face alone. A mental health therapist can help you along your path of exploration[iii]. Regardless of whether you choose an independent journey or the aid of a counseling professional, it is critical to begin this reflective journey prior to pursuing partnership, and to continue to travel along this path throughout the course of your companionship and lifetime.
You are capable, powerful, and certainly worthy of love. Throughout this reflective journey you will find the perfect complement exists within yourself, if you are daring enough to look. This doesn’t mean you will relinquish your desire for partnership, however, you will not require someone to complete you. You are fully capable of being a whole, mindful, empowered being. From the search within you will find the one, as you will be the one.
Shainna Ali is a counselor educator and owner of Integrated Counseling Solutions in Central Florida. Dr. Ali is passionate about highlighting the importance of mental health awareness, assessment, and care in living a happy and healthy life. Her areas of focus in research and practice include identity and culture, emotional intelligence, trauma, and creativity in counseling. For more information on Dr. Ali please visit IntegratedCounselingSolutions.com