It’s a common belief that there’s someone out there just for you, and when you find him or her, you’ll find the person that makes you whole.

I held that belief my entire life, and I searched fruitlessly and desperately for years for someone who loved me as much as I loved them, who would fill that empty spot I felt so keenly in my gut that surely must need to be filled by my “soulmate.” And almost a decade ago, I thought I had found that person—my search was finally over and I could relax and enjoy the feeling of the emptiness being filled. I got married and we were happy, for a while. But as with so many relationships that we intend to last forever, it didn’t, and I was left to pick up the pieces and seriously re-evaluate my outlook on love and life. The mistake I had made was thinking that I needed someone else to “complete” me, when I really needed to be complete all on my own. I realized that if I was going to have a healthy relationship, I had to be comfortable with myself alone first.

So I spent a year relearning myself, becoming acquainted with me minus my plus one. I wanted to understand what made me tick, what I actually loved and not what I allowed myself to love to meet someone else’s expectations. I started doing things I hadn’t done since the early years of my marriage, not because I had ever wanted to stop, but because I didn’t feel like it was necessary for me to have my own interests when they weren’t the interests of my partner. I’m not saying that my marriage was healthy. In fact, I had married at 20 before I had ever experienced life on my own without the constant search for fulfillment through someone else occupying my mind; and I’m sure that can only have had a negative effect on my marriage. Yet this is a common mistake that so many people—often women in particular—make at every age, and they don’t understand why their relationship goes sour and they’re left alone, again.

Trust me, if you’re not confident with yourself solo, you won’t be comfortable with yourself in a relationship. You’ll constantly be worried that you’ll lose your better half, and then where will you be? Half a person, disillusioned and unsure what to do next. Do you decide that the person you just broke up with wasn’t actually your soulmate and continue the tireless search, or wake up and realize that you are your better half (and your worse half, of course) and get to know yourself as you are?

If you feel like you’ve lost yourself in your current relationship, take some time to think about the person you were before you partnered up. Did you have a certain style you changed because your mate didn’t approve? Did you give up doing things you loved to do because your husband/wife/significant other wasn’t encouraging or interested? When you’re completely alone, what do you like to do? What kind of person do you want to be? Make sure you’re being your best self, true to your ideals. Spend more time alone with your thoughts and really analyze the state of your relationship. Don’t stay in one because you’re afraid to be alone. Being alone can really be the most liberating thing you’ve experienced, especially if you’ve spent your life jumping from long-term relationship to long-term relationship.

If you’ve just ended a relationship, or if you’re on the hunt for a new one, you need to be “self-actualized.” You need to know yourself, and well. Don’t give up interests because your partner or potential partner may not approve or be supportive. Don’t allow yourself to not live up to your full potential because you’re wrapped up in trying to make a square peg relationship fit into a round hole. Think carefully before you jump into another relationship after you’ve just ended one. You don’t want to repeat the same mistakes you made in your last unsuccessful one. There is such a thing as a “rebound” relationship, but if you’ve worked on your own issues and recognized what caused your breakup, you can successfully avoid the rebound effect. Be honest with your next partner, talk about what your expectations are for this new relationship and really make sure you’re not just entering a bad rerun of every other one you failed to make last.

It took a lot of dealing with the pain of lost love head on and spending time truly rediscovering myself for me to get to the point where I was comfortable entering another serious relationship. I talked with my current boyfriend about why my marriage ended and how I really wanted to make this relationship healthy. We worked out parameters and boundaries, and agreed that we should always be honest with each other if we’re going to be successful in this partnering. I’m still working on my own issues, making sure I’m not letting myself ignore my own personal growth by immersing myself completely in another person.

The most important relationship you will ever have in your life is your relationship with yourself. Because in the end, you’re really the only one who can make you complete.

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  • Elley

    Thank you so much for this article, Tasha. It is very important for us as women to know and love ourselves in order to have healthy relationships. The message in the article is very timely to what I’m currently experiencing. I appreciate your insight.

  • Newnew

    This is something I plan to be working on for the New Year :)
    You know screw that, I might as well start NOW lol . INSIGHTFUL ARTICLE AND BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN.

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  • Kim

    Tasha,
    God bless you for sharing so much of yourself and your past with us. I am divorced as well (I married at 23) and I know how hard it can be to share with ppl your own part in why your marriage did not last. Thank you again girlie ;-)

  • JM

    So… I’ve been in two relationships like that, in which I lost myself completely. I just ended the last one. I am now finding myself in a depression more intense than what I’ve ever felt before. I don’t know who I am anymore, I am trying hard to remember who I was before meeting that person. I felt like he was my soulmate, my media naranja.
    This fairy tale story is something that we are taught in love songs, romantic comedies, advertisement etc. It works really well, because we live in a cruel world and we want to believe in it, we want to believe that we’ll find a special someone who will complete us.
    I never knew how to be complete on my own.
    I know all of these things, that the article says, on a conscious, intellectual level. But nonetheless I buy into this myth, because it’s comforting. My question is: once I know it’s not good for me, how do I accept it? How do I let go of this fairy tale fantasy? It’s not like I didn’t know. When I got into that relationship I knew, that it was dangerous, that I was entering it with a lot of baggage, not enough self-esteem, and a self-destructive impulse to lose myself in it. However aware I was of all of that, I did it anyway. No article on no blog would have helped me, or would help me not do that same mistake again, because at a very deep level this fantasy of being completed by someone else feeds something in me. It feeds a need that I’m not managing to fulfill by myself, through personal achievements and development. How does one do that? How does one deconstruct this idea that we need a lifepartner to complete us, not just intellectually but deeply, emotionally, subconsciously?