Do You Even Love You?: The Prerequisites to a Successful Relationship

Photo by  Rachel Pfuetzner  on  Unsplash

A couple of weeks ago, I asked a question on the AnnodRight IG account and on my personal facebook page. The response was overwhelming in one direction. The question was: Is self-love a prerequisite for a good/successful relationship? The question is pretty self explanatory, but what I am asking is, can you have a successful relationship if you don’t love yourself? Can you be in a SUCCESSFUL relationship with someone else? Now, I have to throw the emphasis on 'successful,' because if we really wanted to, I am sure we could all find ourselves in any relationship. But just because you “got somebody” doesn’t mean they are the person for you, nor does it make the relationship good or successful.

Now, how we define success within the context of a relationship will vary. For me, your resident, well, Washington D.C. Metro area Sex and Relationship Therapist, a successful relationship is one where you have parameters of expectations that are being met, where you can have an argument or disagreement that doesn’t lead to physical violence or other abusive sanctions, where there is an agreement on the goal of the relationship and steady progress toward that goal at a pace that is satisfactory to all parties involved. A successful relationship does not necessarily need love, but love can be a factor. A successful relationship does not necessarily need sex but, both parties should ultimately be satisfied with the sex life they have OR have a plan to move toward their desired #sexgoals. Basically, that is to say there should be successful communication, respect for self and partner(s), and safety to be you/be vulnerable to have your needs met.

In theory it sounds really simple to have a successful relationship, in practice it's a little more tricky. Someone’s needs may not be getting met, you might get to a space where you are faking your relationship enjoyment (for the gram), the communication might be truly dead, or you may often be wondering if this is even the right relationship for you. I get it. I see it in the therapy room with couples and individuals. People are wondering if they are in the right relationship, if they will ever be in a relationship, or why their relationship dissolved the way it did.  But through many of those questions, clients I have met with, people I have talked to, folks who have slid into my DMs or cornered me to speak more at length when they found out I am a sex and relationship therapist, one thing almost always remains constant: if you don’t love you, your relationship isn’t likely to be successful.

Yep, I said it. The answer to the question I asked was overwhelmingly that you gotta love you FIRST, before anyone else can love you successfully. I know it’s not an answer that some folk want to hear.  What we want to hear is that it is possible to love someone past the pain. Or that someone can love us enough for the both of us. Or that the love this person gives us will make us whole. But look at those seemingly sweet adages again. We are literally looking for a love that will drain someone else as they pour into us what we don’t have for ourselves. You are asking for someone to do for you what you don’t have the capacity to do for yourself, and ultimately, that you don’t have the capacity to do for them. It will always be a lopsided situation. You can only love other to the capacity of which you are able. Think of it this way: If love is a 100% notion that you give and receive, but your capacity for self love is at 50%, then you can only love at 50%. Where the hell would you be getting the other 50% to give to someone else? AND on top of you only being able to give what you have, you will only be able to accept their love at the level of your own understanding. Meaning that they can love you at 100% all they want, but you will only be able to accept it at your current capacity, 50%.* But there are other things to consider when it comes to why self love IS a prerequisite for a good and successful relationship.

*Please note that you can be in a loving relationship with lopsided capacities, but you need to be clear on that, communicate about it, and have a plan to grow individually and together.

Here are 7 main answers that came up from my query:

  1. If you do not love yourself, you will accept less than you deserve.

  2. You are more likely to accept an abusive relationship in the name of that love

  3. When you don’t love yourself, you are more likely to look for others who you feel have what you lack, to fill the void

  4. You're more likely to run yourself into the ground from not taking care of you because you are more focused on how you can take care of others...sound familiar Superwoman?

  5. Lack of self knowledge and self love can lead to the acceptance of toxic relationships or less that you want or deserve...additionally, how can you know what you want without loving and knowing you first?

  6. You cannot teach someone how to love you if you do not love yourself first

  7. When you don’t love yourself, any relationship looks good because it will validate that you are worthy of love from someone

So now you know. You have a mix of my answers and the answers of others. It might not be easy to see or hear or do, but I want you to consider the relationship you’re in. Not just the one with a significant other, but also the one you are in with yourself, your friends, and your family. Does it feel good for you to be in that relationship? Is it fulfilling and affirming? Because I want you to consider that what we have already said about romantic relationships, holds true for other relationships. If your friends and family do not like or love themselves, they are damn sure not going to encourage you to like or love yourself. They don’t have the capacity for it. They won’t know how to support it in a non-hurtful, life affirming, damn-you-are-wonderful way. They could teach you how to get accolades, and earn various achievements, etc. to show others your worth through the pursuit of money or jobs or awards, but your worth is not in STUFF. It is inherently in YOU. There is more than enough of it. It will always make you capital G GREAT!

How can you start loving on yourself?

  1. Appreciate and give gratitude daily for the things you like or even love about yourself. I am definitely a supporter of the gratitude jar.

  2. Learn more about you-- the good, the bad, the ugly--and how to accept all the pieces of who you are. There is a pretty good book to get you started, it’s called All About Me, you can find it in the Self-Help section.

  3. Affirm yourself! I know it sounds cheesy, but affirmations actually do help. How? Because you are actually saying aloud something that can help to change your inner narrative about yourself. If you really check, I bet you are pretty mean or harsh on yourself. I am even more willing to bet that you wouldn’t talk to others in the same way you berate yourself. Affirmations can help with even that! And yes, there is a book or two on the AnnodRight Amazon page to get you started.

  4. Therapy. I know you didn’t really wanna hear it, but you and I both know that I was not about to let this one go. Have a therapist that you see can help with the underlying issues which can help with affirming, appreciating, and loving on you. They can can help! I promise. If you want to see about my schedule, if you want to see who else is out there that can affirm you, there is a whole website of Black therapists on Therapy for Black Girls.

Let’s start this journey. Radical self-love is truly in direct opposition of what some will ever want for you. Because with that self-love, comes your power, and your ability to truly LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE! w/ your chosen partner(s).

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