If You Want a Healthy Relationship, Get a Life!

Click here to read an original op-ed from the TED speaker who inspired this post and watch the TEDTalk below.

At the beginning of my relationship with Tom, I had a very empowering moment. He called and sounded nervous as he told me a friend had asked him to go to a ballgame on Friday night and he wanted to go. Normally he came over on then. I could almost hear him holding his breath, waiting for my response, and I think he let it out in a gasp when I said, "Oh goody! I have some friends I'd like to get together with, so I'll take advantage of having a free night."

In the past, I'd have gotten upset and said what many women ask: "But what will I do?" In my needy days my life revolved around any guy I was dating. So my response to Tom reminded me of how far I'd come from the whiny girl who didn't know how to enjoy life without a guy. As I waited for him to say something, I cheered inside. He cleared his throat and said he was relieved. Past girlfriends would have given him hell for wanting to go out on his own.

Slowly I went to a movie or show, took long power walks around the city, went hiking, and out to eat by myself. -- Daylle Deanna Schwartz

I understood, since so many women I knew were still like that. Some forgot their friends completely when they had a guy. I had a friend who I saw every week until she met one she liked. Then she stopped making plans because she wanted to keep her time free in case he wanted to see her. She was puzzled when he eventually dumped her, saying she was too much of a burden. Revolving your life around someone is a turn off to many people. It took her several more painful breakups for her to get a life, which led to getting into a good relationship.

In my book All Men Are Jerks until Proven Otherwise, I consider the most significant chapter, "If You Want a Man Get a Life!" This applies to men too. Getting a life means pursuing passions that aren't dependent on having a partner and nurturing your own circle of friends who aren't part of your couple activities. Most important in my view is getting comfortable spending time with yourself. I accomplished this by building strong self-love, one small loving act at a time. It helped me to appreciate myself and still motivates taking loving care of me. Slowly I went to a movie or show, took long power walks around the city, went hiking, and out to eat by myself. I enjoyed the freedom of doing things my way and not having to worry about convincing someone to go with me.

When you have a life, you control your happiness and are more content. Being happy in your own skin builds confidence and an energy that makes you more attractive to people. In general when you have a life, you're in a win/win situation: You enjoy your time being with your partner/you enjoy your time on your own. Plus it prevents feeling pressure to keep your relationship together to avoid being alone since you have a life outside of the relationship if it ends. You can relax and enjoy and let things flow, knowing you and your partner are together because you want to be, not need to be.

Think of yourself as an adult on your own and check out all opportunities available that can lead to more fulfillment. Get involved in organizations that relate to something you do professionally, or that focus on a hobby or interest that appeals to you and get to know more people. Do volunteer work that makes you feel good. Having your own life gives you autonomy in a relationship and is appealing to both sexes. You'll have more to share with your partner when you're together. And time apart fuels desire for each other. Independence within the interdependence of a relationship stokes passion for each other. So if you want a healthy relationship, get a life that's your own!

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