I’m happiest when I’m able to lift someone else up. To make them feel happy. Better about themselves. More hopeful.
This is true in general but especially so when it comes to those who are closest to me. When it comes to my romantic relationships.
I frankly can’t imagine getting into an intimate relationship and not having that be one of my major goals: To make that other person’s life better through my involvement in it.
What that looks like can vary dramatically depending on who that other person is. But one thing’s for sure: I want to be a positive presence.
And that’s why I have a hard time understanding people who make it a point to say things like this: “It’s not your partner’s job to make you feel good. That’s your job.”
Or “you shouldn’t be looking to a relationship to make you happy.”
Because, frankly, if you can set aside the incessant culture worship of rugged individualism and a misguided self-esteem movement (especially in the United States, where I live), the reasoning begins to fall apart. Human beings are social animals. We long to be together. And research has consistently shown that a sense of belonging is crucial to a sense of overall wellbeing.
Some people are able to get that via their nuclear families. But what family you’re born into is a factor of chance, and not every family of origin is warm, welcoming, or accepting. Some parents are cruel and tyrannical. Siblings can be divided via rivalry or parents who pit them against one another.
And there are a million ways that something in between can form: A family that isn’t truly dysfunctional but isn’t spectacularly welcoming either.
And for some of us, the most meaningful way we find that sense of belonging is by building our own family. While this can happen via a network of friends who consider themselves “chosen family,” another common way is through romantic partnership. In this model, you find a person you love and you start a new family with them. One in which you belong.
Relationships Can Be Work, But They’re Not Supposed to Make You Feel Worthless
The truth is that the fairy tale depictions of adult relationships do lie. Relationships can be work, in the sense that they often require you to work on yourself.
But they’re never supposed to make you feel worthless.
They’re not about worthlessness. In fact, a good relationship should help you feel worthwhile.
So it’s crucial if you’re in a romantic relationship that you’re both taking great pains to help the other person feel worthwhile. To remind them that they belong.
Otherwise, what the heck are you even doing?