“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”

Words penned by the psychologist Carl Jung in a letter to a Fanny Bowditch in 1916, replying to her request for clarification on a relationship. Had it been written this century, I am sure she may well have replied with – Umm, thanks, Yoda, but what the flip does that mean? I just asked you why I can’t seem to keep a relationship for long.*

Philosophic prose aside, his words are profound and worth considering if you and your partner have veered into troubled water because of miscommunication or understanding. Healthy relationships include the four pillars of trust, communication, respect and compromise. Those pillars, however, not only apply to happy coupledom, but also to being a happy self. Unfortunately, I have seen many relationships run aground because one or both partners have entered into the partnership believing that the other “will fix me” or “complete me”. They argue because of “something the other did wrong” and “if they hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t have done this”. If this sounds familiar to you, read on as I discuss why it is imperative to love yourself, know yourself and define your boundaries of acceptance to have a healthy, long term relationship with yourself and another.  

Note that whilst it is preferable to have achieved a state of “awakenment” before you go on your first date, the following remedies can also be applied whilst in a relationship.

Know yourself, heal thyself

You have probably heard this before – the only person who can make you happy is you but did you also know that you can’t make yourself happy unless you know who you are? Through self-observation, we can figure out what brings us joy (preferably without the use of chemical stimulation or a soaring credit card bill), what motivates us and what triggers us to say and do things that are either self-destructive or hurtful to others.

Once you know what makes you tick, you can articulate your needs and wants with your partner, build on what you have in common and find ways to live with those you don’t. If single, look for similar traits in potential partners. Remember, opposites may attract, but they rarely ever connect long-term.

Love yourself, love another

Loving yourself isn’t easy sometimes, especially when your inner voice has been programmed to be critical from an early age or previous relationships have left you heartbroken and believing that you are unworthy of love.  The good news is those negative thoughts can be rewired to become your greatest cheerleader. There are several ways to change your thought patterns, and I can help you identify which one will work with you. If loving yourself seems too hard right now, start with finding something you like about yourself and build the relationship from there, just as you would with a new partner.

Compromise without losing yourself

Relationships do require compromise; everyone has their favourite way of doing things, foods, hygiene standards, etc., that have to be negotiated to live together in harmony. Problems occur, however, if those compromises are detrimental to your self-esteem or inhibit those values you have identified that bring you joy or a core part of your identity. So be sure to check in with each other, how you are feeling and if something in the relationship is making you uncomfortable, don’t ignore it, hoping it will go away as it probably won’t. Instead, it will cast a shadow over your relationship until resolved. 

Be present before reacting

Self-awareness can also help when disagreements occur. An unenlightened person tends to lash out when confronted, immediately blaming the other person for the problem, e.g. you should have told me you didn’t, or how could you not know. Taking a moment to reflect on the part you are playing in the argument can reduce heightened emotions and enable constructive conversation. Because you are aware that you are not perfect, you are more likely to question why your partner did/said what they did instead of criticising and punishing them with an adverse reaction. 

Perfection does not exist

Our brain begins with the most basic of instructions, eat, sleep, acquire knowledge, react. As we grow, it expands, absorbing all of the experiences and nutrients we expose it to, creating a unique personality that is effected by all we see and hear, good and bad. By looking inward, you become aware of the complexity of emotions, experiences, and feelings that makes you who you are.  Such self-awareness leads to the epiphany that everyone else is shaped by their own experience, thoughts, and emotions. Just as you are capable of making mistakes, so are they. Happiness in a relationship comes from knowing that you and your partner are not perfect, and that is okay.  

If you would like to know more about how falling in love with yourself can help in your relationships with others, contact me to make an appointment and let us begin your journey of self-discovery.   

* Don’t quote me that Fanny had written to Carl asking for clarification; I have undertaken creative license as to why he wrote the reply.  It does not detract from his advice that in knowing oneself, one can understand others however.


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Ann Jay

Ann Jay is a Wellington Relationship Counselor who provides marriage counselling, couple's counselling, and relationship coaching for couples and women either in a relationship or single. Her goal is to help people create healthy, loving and fulfilling relationships and experience the love they deserve.