Why Self-Love is the Key to Happy Relationships

Many of us have experienced searching for love in the wrong places: seeking external love, acceptance, and approval instead of self-love and self-acceptance.

Why does it have to take heartbreak for some of us to learn that lack of self-love can lead to toxic relationships?

The truth is if you’re seeking growth and companionship with your partner, or in any other type of relationship, then self-love must be actualized before you can truly love someone else.

That said, for many, loving yourself is actually hard to do.

Self-Love in Medieval Arthurian romance

This premise is nothing new and dates as far back as medieval Arthurian romance tales, such as Chretien de Troyes’ Erec and Enide.

In applying the theories of Thomas Aquinas and Julia Kristeva to the tale, the lovers are plagued by self-depredation, self-deprivation, and narcissism before actualizing self-love, resulting in the maturation of their union.

Only then do the lovers embody what is known as “jouissance” — a French term defined as physical or intellectual pleasure, delight, or ecstasy.

If an individual lacks self-love, they likely lack self-forgiveness and empathy. Because if you’re overly critical of yourself, there’s a good chance you’re like this with others too.

Alternatively, you may manage to support and believe in others while holding on to self-doubt. But how happy can you be if you lack self-fulfillment and purpose?

Projection of self-hatred on others

This reminds me of a quote I recently came across that resonated with me: “Don’t worry if people don’t like you. Most people are struggling to like themselves.”

In fact, it’s highly unlikely that one can reach deep levels of intimacy, trust, and understanding with a partner if they’re starved of self-love.

“Don’t worry if people don’t like you. Most people are struggling to like themselves.”

— Anonymous

This concept is best known as projecting or mirroring and stems from the psychologist Carl Jung. The basic idea is that you hate in others what you hate in yourself.

How can someone who hates himself really love others? How do you support someone else and celebrate their success if you don’t even like yourself?

Conversely, if one practices self-love and self-care, he or she is more likely to be well-rested, self-fulfilled, and emotionally available to love unconditionally.

If, however, you find that you’re repeatedly disappointed by how others love you, perhaps practicing self-love can create a new narrative.

Practicing self-love can create a new narrative.

Love yourself harder to love others better

This doesn’t only ring true for the love of a partner, does it?

It applies to any relationship. If someone is unhappy, then how can they be happy for others?

Actually, the reason some people end up with the wrong partner is they fail to put themselves first, to begin with.

Imagine the place of honesty we could allow ourselves to love from if we accepted the broken parts of us — if we accepted our insecurities and imperfections and loved ourselves despite them, if we loved the scars, bruises, and the pieces that we haphazardly glued together.

And if we loved those pieces harder, maybe we could love others better.

Imagine the place of honesty we could allow ourselves to love from if we accepted the broken parts of us.

What if we afforded ourselves the things we afford others so graciously?

According to psychologist Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, if our basic needs aren’t met then the higher levels of self-fulfillment like self-actualization cannot be achieved.

One must be able to meet their own basic needs before beginning to truly meet someone else’s needs.

We must feed ourselves the way we nurture others. Only then can we heal ourselves, others, and the world.

This concept stems from the Jewish Kabbalistic theory of Tikkun Olam: a belief that through social justice, the world and thus the self, can be healed like shards of broken glass remerging.

Even if you weren’t afforded such unconditional love as a child, you can heal the inner child to love parts that only a mother can love. The same way in which you willingly afford your love to a partner, a friend, or a child.

Otherwise, we waste our time hiding from parts of ourselves that we don’t like and fighting it out with others.

Instead, try sitting with your feelings and spending time with yourself.

So you can be better at spending that precious time with the ones you love in the present moment.

Kristeva, Julia. Tales of Love. Trans. Leon S. Roudiez. New York: Columbia, UP, 1987.

Lindsay Soberano-Wilson

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