(Photo above by Matheus Ferrero / Unsplash)
Love is not two people looking at each other, but looking forward together.
A jolt of electricity travels between you. Life feels like a movie. You’re so proud to be with your partner, honored they want to be with you. You can see your entire future together.
A few months in, low-level anxiety creeps in. Am I good enough to be with this person? You start to cling to them, afraid they’ll soon realize you are beneath them. In the beginning, you felt free, as if anything is possible. Now, you live in a world where just you and the other person exist. Finally, you ask yourself, “Am I in a healthy relationship?”
Though human relationships are complex and varied, mysterious and wondrous—the great, most long-lasting partnerships are where the people involved share at least this one quality: a solid sense of self. Buddhist teacher Daisaku Ikeda shares,
Real love is not two people clinging to each other; it can only be fostered between two strong people secure in their individuality.
Discussions on Youth, p. 57
Respecting ourselves and others is the core of Buddhism. In fact, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is essentially a practice to bring out our true, most dignified self. As we chant and learn from the teachings of Buddhism, we begin to believe in ourselves. This allows us to stop seeking validation from others, particularly the person we are in a relationship with.
If we always need our partner’s approval and go so far as doing harmful things to ourselves to get it, then we are not just in an unhealthy relationship, but a dangerous one. Some other questions we can ask ourselves are: Is this person helping me to work towards my goals? Or is just being with them my goal? Is this relationship causing my friends and family to worry about me? Answering these questions honestly can help us decide: I deserve better, I can do better.
Great relationships enable both people to be vulnerable but not lose themselves in the process.
If clinging to another person to feel valued is unhealthy, what is a “healthy” relationship? Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of The Little Prince, once wrote, “Love is not two people gazing at each other, but two people looking ahead together in the same direction.”
Does the other person inspire you to hustle for your dreams? Do they feel like your partner in taking over the world? Do they inspire you to grow, to kick aside bad habits? Great relationships enable both people to be vulnerable but not lose themselves in the process. This type of relationship is truly a healthy one. Why? Because it reinforces your aim to be a healthy person, always moving forward.
Better yet, even if we are happily alone at the moment, becoming a person who is always growing, who has strong sense of self that no one can shake, will attract the best partner. Promise.
Just think, “No one is more fortunate than the person I choose to be with.”