How do you know whether or not a relationship is working? It can be hard to know if something is worth it or not when you’re unsure of yourself. How can you tell if someone else is loving you properly if you aren’t loving yourself. In polyamory you hear a lot about how you are number one. Your first and most important relationship you have is with you. It should be this way with any type of relationship dynamic, whether you’re non-monogamous or monogamous. It shouldn’t matter. If you aren’t in good terms with yourself – aren’t taking care of yourself and loving who you are and aren’t content with your life, as it exists separately from your relationships with your partners – then you can’t possibly have a clear perspective of your romantic partnerships. Co-dependency can be a real bitch. When you feel like you need the love of someone else in order to be whole. But you don’t. You only require the love of one person in order to be happy in life, and that one person is you. So how do you tell if a relationship is working? How do you tell if your romantic prospects are worth it? Well…first you need to get in touch with yourself. Love yourself. Truly. Genuinely. Unconditionally. And then you won’t have to wonder whether others are doing it right, you’ll just know.
I’ve been in a weird flux of romantic relationships lately. For a while I was so uncertain of everything. Should I be doing this? Who do I really want to be in my life? What is it that makes a relationship a good one? Now, there is no denying that not every relationship is the same. And it’s perfectly fine to go about looking for completely different things in your relationships with different people. No two people are the same, and thus no two relationships between people are the same. They don’t need to be. You can love one person for something unique to them, and still love another person for completely different reasons (even if they don’t have that something that the other person you love has). People don’t need to be identical for them to be lovable. That being said – they do need to be lovable, to you. Someone’s ability to be lovable to someone else does not instantly make them lovable to you, though. And that’s okay. You don’t have to love someone that is loved by someone you love. They love you and that other person for different reasons, and in different ways. Accept that love is love, and love is undefinable.
But what does love look like for you? Do you find texting back and forth all day long enjoyable and a sign of affection? Do you find it clingy or annoying? Is stability or spontaneity more important to you? Perhaps you want both in one relationship, perhaps you want one in one relationship and the other in a different relationship, or you’re looking for different aspects of those two qualities, or perhaps you only want one, maybe you want neither, I don’t know – only you know. I’m a big fan of the concept of relationship anarchy. No one should go into a relationship assuming they know what it will entail. No two people are the same, remember? Everyone wants and needs something different. What are you wanting? What are you needing? What is your partner wanting and needing? It’s good to have a discussion at the beginning of every relationship to make sure you’re both on the same page. To make sure neither of you is let down by expectations that the other person never agreed to. And it’s smart to continue that discussion throughout the duration of your relationship, in order to check in with each other along the way and make sure nothing has changed (or figure out a way to shift things if something has changed). Unfortunately, you can’t be very effective in having this discussion if you don’t first take some time with yourself to figure out what it is you really do want and need.
For me, assessing what my top priorities in life were really helped me decide what it was I was looking for from other people. Figuring out how much time and energy I wanted to put into a relationship was vital in helping me reconfigure my old relationships, and allow me to properly configure any new ones. My top priorities are myself, and my kids. Nothing is going to change that. I will do whatever it takes to make sure those 2 things are 100% before putting any effort into romantic relationships – no exceptions. This means that a majority of my time is going towards spending time with my children, or spending time with myself. Obviously this leaves limited time for any romantic prospects. So I could potentially have just one partnership where my partner gets a somewhat decent amount of my time, or multiple partnerships where my partners get smaller amounts of my time. I, personally, prefer the latter. I like having multiple partners. The amount of time I spend with them isn’t very important to me. What matters to me in a relationship is the quality of the time spent with those partners.
Is this a deterrent for some people? Sure. Does that mean some people I fall for won’t be willing to be in a romantic relationship with me? Sure does. But guess what? That’s okay. It isn’t the end of the world. If those people aren’t willing to accept what I’m willing to give in a relationship then the relationship wouldn’t have worked anyway. Most importantly, however, is the fact that I’m content being alone. I am happy within myself. I am not looking towards others to make me happy. This is a vital factor in my ability to let go of relationships that aren’t worth my time and energy. Even if I love someone deeply, I am able to let them go. This is the only way I will ever truly find relationships that genuinely work for me. If I’m too afraid of letting go of what doesn’t work, how can I expect to be open for something that does work? Besides, do you really want to be with someone who doesn’t respect your priorities? Do you really want to be with someone who complains about who you are or how you go about living life? Wouldn’t you rather be with someone who accepts you for just being you, and cares enough about you to make an effort to understand you and your boundaries? What’s the point of a relationship if someone isn’t really in love with YOU?
Recently I went through a semi-breakup. I call it this because I’m not sure it ever really was a concrete relationship. But whatever it could have been was cut off. If you’re wondering, it actually wasn’t cut off by me. However, I stood up for myself and made everything very clear. My partner then took this information and decided to stop speaking to me. Instead of being sad about this, I actually felt appreciation. I was being true to myself when I spoke up. They were being true to themself when they decided they couldn’t handle it. To elaborate, this wasn’t some new relationship with some new person I barely knew. It was a person I’ve known since my teen years. Someone I’ve felt deeply connected to for a very long time. Someone I’ve considered being with for the past 10 years. I care about them a lot. I want them to be happy. But my own happiness is more important to me. I refuse to put the wants and needs of another person above my own. I’ve spent almost my entire life doing just that, and it never really made the other person happy anyway. Worse – it destroyed me, it made me lose my own identity, my own sense of self. It ruined me as a person. It’s taken me a long time to find myself again, to redefine myself, to love myself. I am never going back. Plus, it occurred to me that he didn’t even really know me as I am today. He knew a part of who I was a long time ago. And so I concluded that falling for a memory of who I was isn’t the same as loving who I am. With that thought I was able to let it go.
Being genuine is a top quality I look for in people. Who you are isn’t as important to me as whether or not you’re being who you truly are. I tend to find something great in every person. I’m the type of person who can love just about anyone. There’s always something good in a person. There’s always something unique in a person. There’s always something to love about a person, no matter who that person is. I like to focus on those things opposed to trying to find a person’s flaws, though I do take note of their flaws. Loving a person as a whole person (opposed to loving them as a partial idea of who they are) is the only real way to love a person. I accept people for who they are. I use humility when stepping into situations I am not familiar with. I try my best to understand the reasoning behind people’s thoughts, ideas, passions, motives, mental behaviors, etc. I like to truly comprehend the complexity and beauty of each individual. I also like to appreciate that complexity and beauty, whether I am able to get to a point of understanding or not. And I can’t do that if someone is not being real with me. If someone can’t be their true self. If they can’t be genuine. If they feel the need to pretend, or fake, who they are in order to be loved or to get a certain reaction out of me…then I decide to pay minimal attention to them. Their actions and words lose importance to me – because those actions and words aren’t even really them. The true way to catch my eye is to be 100% yourself, no matter who that makes you.
So, when is a relationship worth it? Whenever it works for you. I don’t who you are. I don’t know what you want. I don’t know what you need. I don’t know what you like or what you dislike. I don’t know your history. I don’t know your future. I don’t know your current situation. I don’t know what your priorities are, or what your boundaries are. I don’t know anything about you, and even if I did it wouldn’t be my place to tell you what can make your relationships work. I don’t know what you think it means when you say it’s worth it. That meaning can be different for everyone. What I DO know, is that if you don’t know these things about yourself…then you’ll never be able to truly answer the question “is this relationship worth it?” My only words of advice are these: get to know yourself, and love who you are.