08/01/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Romance: Myth or...?

Romance. The ultimate dream, especially if Hollywood has anything to do with it. The best thing that can ever happen to you: finding your dream partner, with whom you may live happily ever after. Happily ever after. Hmm. Anyone actually managed that?

I managed happily ever after for about six weeks, sometimes a little more. Then the judgements would start to kick in. Why doesn't he put the lid on the toothpaste?! If he really loved me, he would pay me more attention. Illusions are soon shattered with the passing of time, because as we look more closely at our partner, we begin to see things we don't like... Or, in other words, we begin to see ourselves.

There lies my question... How can you love another if you do not love yourself? The answer is, you can't, at least not completely. You cannot love someone unconditionally until you love yourself unconditionally, because ultimately, you will judge them the same way you judge yourself. You will not accept the things in them that you do not accept in you. This does not mean that all relationships are in vain, or that we should give up on even trying, but it does mean that we need to pay attention to the most important relationship we have in our lives: our relationship with ourselves.

Our relationship with ourselves tends to be the one we leave for last. We often have our needs on the bottom of the list, after everyone else's. We think that loving ourselves is selfish. Yet until we learn to love ourselves, our relationships will be filled with need and codependency. Need is what leads to attachment. When we feel we need someone -- or something, in order to be happy, we become attached. And with attachment, comes control. We feel we must control our attachments, because our happiness depends on their presence. We must control our partners, make sure they behave in the way that satisfies our need -- our need to feel loved. Control leads to manipulation; all of the little games we learn in order to get the other person to do what we want. But where is the love in all of this? Manipulation and control do not come from love; they come from fear.

The irony is, our partners are doing exactly the same thing. We play these games, modifying ourselves in order to please the other, abandoning what we really feel out of fear of rejection. We all live in limitation and dissatisfaction, thinking that if we allow ourselves to be exactly as we are, we will be rebuked by those we love. But they are doing the same too!

When you love yourself, your relationships become honest and transparent, because you lose the fear of loss. You allow yourself to be real, to show yourself exactly as you are, and in doing so, you give your partner the freedom to do the same. This honesty builds trust, which is the basis of a truly loving relationship. With self love, you lose the fear of rejection and the need to control. All behaviors that create separation and judgement fall away in the light of self love; as we embrace ourselves, we are able to embrace our partners with freedom, holding them in their greatness instead of trying to control and manipulate them. When we feel complete within ourselves, we no longer feel the absence of the other when they are not present, so the need to control them disappears naturally. With this comes great freedom, and the ability to truly enjoy each others presence. We think that when we let go of the attachment we have to our loved ones, we will lose them, but actually quite the opposite is true. When you love without conditions, even if the other is not by your side, you will feel closer to them than ever before. For you will have found them within yourself.

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