THE BLOG
12/06/2013 11:20 am ET | Updated Feb 05, 2014

The Key to a Successful Relationship: Have One With Yourself First

Many of us have been brought up to believe that life is imperfect unless we get married, have children or at the very least, have a "life partner."

If you are single, you might hear, "Don't worry, you will find someone soon," or "You are so beautiful, why is it that your still single?" Have you ever wanted to retort back, "What makes you think that I am looking?"

Maybe you are in a relationship, and if you are like the majority of couples, your relationship tends to get pretty rocky often. Perhaps you might hear these words, "Why don't you just leave? You'll be better off on your own. There is another one around the corner." Or, "Do what you need to do to make him/her happy. Staying together is what's most important."

Should you stay or should you go? Are you better off alone or in a relationship?

If you are in a relationship, you might find that the desire to please your mate and feel restricted, the desire to please yourself and have freedom, and the fear of being alone are in conflict. If you are on your own, you may be torn between the desire to stay free and do what you like, with the fear of being alone forever and feeling "less than" because you are not part of a couple. Usually couples feel resentful that they are giving something up for the other, caught up in blame that the other person is restricting their happiness in one way or another. On the flip side, many singlets feel or believe that they can only be happy if they have a partner. They get stuck in the blame of themselves for not being enough or the world for not providing the prefect prototype to make they happy.

Does it matter when most people seem to be unhappy regardless of whether they are in are relationship?

You are likely familiar with the current statistic that 50 percent of marriages end in divorce, which might tell us that the majority of couples are not happy, or at least one of the partners is not. Studies show that many second marriages end in divorce, too, suggesting that remarried adults may be more likely than adults in first marriages to take steps toward divorce when experiencing marital distress, possibly reflecting a weaker commitment to marriage.

In other words, the second time around, many couples may be less committed and less likely to work through the stress that will arise in the relationship. Inability to be able to work through stress together has a big influence on the success of any relationship. A recent study showed that when compared to couples who did not divorce, divorcing couples displayed poor communication, abounding negative emotions, and less social support already as newlyweds. Other studies have shown that couples in troubled marriages produce more stress hormones not only during conflict, but throughout the day and night, than those couples who's marriages are not troubled.

What does this mean? It means that if you do not have good coping tools yourself and walk around daily feeling angry or stressed, the chances are that a relationship is not going to help you feel better, and it possibly, may make you feel worse, as relationships come with conflict. It's a given.

So get this. When you take care of your stress and yourself, you and your relationships can be happy and comfortable. Studies show that individuals who do take care of themselves, who show self-interest without selfishness are happier. When you are happier, you are either better at being in a relationship or more attractive to others, who now want to be with you. You notice when your stress levels are up and take care the problem. In other words, you do not wait for someone or something else to make your stress go away. You take care of you. Your stress hormone levels will go down and your love hormones up. When you do, you will achieve emotional and physiological balance and happiness. Then you can stay whole in any relationship, allowing that person to stay whole, too. You are able to communicate, laugh, love and grow together.

You want to have a successful relationship with you, which involves changing the way you look at yourself and your life. Rather than looking outward for people, places or things to complete you, you want to focus on people, places or things that can support you to be at your best. You want to ask yourself, does this fuel me to really feel good about myself and within myself? Ultimately, if you are like most of us, you want to have deep and fulfilling connections with others. This requires that you learn to have a deep connection with yourself, your desires and passions. Here are seven tips:

1. Nourish yourself and eat foods that fuel your mind and body to be healthy and strong. Foods high in fat and sugar may comfort your anxiety initially, but they also cause inflammation, fatigue and more depression or anxiety. Food is neither reward nor punishment. It is fuel. Follow the Mediterranean diet or the Paleolithic diet, and you might find you have more energy than you have ever had in your life.

2. Exercise and stay active, keeping your body fit and strong. Physical activity will also help you raise the happy chemicals in your body like serotonin and lower stress hormones. Find an activity that you enjoy, that makes you feel good so that you are more likely to go back for more.

3. Connect with friends, therapists or healers who can support you to feel good about you. In other words, surround yourself with other individuals who can help you reflect and stick to training, a healthy diet, and maintain positive emotions and outlook.

4. Quiet your mind. The mind is a wonderful tool, but constant negative thinking can get you and your body in trouble as the stress response abounds. You can choose from a variety of meditation practices or take a mindful walk in nature. Focusing on the beauty and wonder around you will take you out of your mind. One simple technique uses the breath. You can imagine that when you exhale, your thoughts dissolve into the sunlight and when you inhale, the sunlight enters your mind. As you continue with this process, the light eventually moves throughout your entire your body, filling you with a sense of peace and joy.

5. Catch your negative emotions before they gain so much momentum that knock you and everyone else over. This means always pay attention to how you feel. If you feel badly, your stress hormones are up, which means you will be more likely to enter conflict and not come out of it well. It also means you feel less whole and you will start seeking someone or something else to make you feel better, leading to poor food, partner or word choices in an argument. If you feel badly, do what you need to do to take care of the bad feeling. Go for a walk in nature, call a friend, meditate, or choose to think about a situation or feeling that does feel good. Doing the above exercise is a good option.

6. Have fun! Wake up in the morning and choose to have a luscious and adventurous day. Find ways to be more playful. Go out with friends, sign up for a dance class even if you have two left feet, so you can laugh at yourself, or watch a funny movie. Discover new ways of being that put a smile on your face and a laugh in your heart.

7. Appreciate what you have and that you are. When you are filled with gratitude, you are more likely to see any situation as an opportunity for growth and meaning, rather than bad or a curse. You are more likely to feel happy. Here is an exercise you might find helpful, especially in those times that you cannot seem to find anything to be grateful for:
Think about the definition of a miracle: a surprising and welcome event that is not explicable by natural or scientific laws and is therefore considered to be the work of a divine agency.

Close your eyes and repeat: "I am a miracle."
Smile.
Say it again.
Smile even wider.
Say it again.
Open your eyes.

In short, you want to get on the path to loving yourself. Believe in your own ability to create, joy, ease, comfort and love. Do what you need to feel alive, vibrant and healthy in the most positive of ways that do not induce negative feelings of any kind (like guilt, shame, anger or remorse). In other words, do things for yourself that feel good. When you feel good, you radiate goodness. Everyone else wants to be around you and you do not lose yourself in relationships.