Editor’s Note: Strong relationships are at the core of a happy life, but sometimes, dealing with the people in our lives is tricky. That’s why Thrive Global partnered with The Gottman Institute on this advice column, Asking for a Friend. Every week, Gottman’s relationship experts will answer your most pressing questions about navigating relationships — with romantic partners, family members, co-workers, friends, and more. Have a question? Send it to [email protected]!
Q: Do I really have to love myself first to find love? I’ve always been insecure, and I think that comes across in social settings. When I’m meeting people, I shy away from getting into conversations because I question whether I have anything interesting to bring to the table. People say you have to “love yourself first” before you can be in a relationship with someone else, but is that true? Are my self-conscious tendencies holding me back from finding love? And if so, how do I overcome them so I can find a meaningful connection?
A: Goodness! If all of us who were insecure needed to love ourselves first before having a relationship, nobody would be having one.
It was great news for me to hear a couple of decades ago that folks diagnosed as neurotic could have great marriages, too, and did so. Phew! We’re all good.
I think that the myth about having to love yourself first before being able to love someone else has caused a lot of heartache and wasted time. It first showed up in the new age 80s, when many people were working hard on perfecting themselves. (Impossible to do, I might add.)
Thankfully, our research has found that folks far from perfect do just fine in relationships. In fact, I’ve seen in many of my couples that a good, loving relationship can help people to overcome much of their insecurity.
How? In loving partnerships, people every day share lots of fondness and admiration that they feel for each other. Imagine hearing, “You’re so beautiful! I love you more and more, honey.”
And imagine still hearing that when you’re 70 years old. That’s bound to erase some of that insecurity, right?
A big part of a relationship is loving your partner’s humanity. That means coming to know your partner’s fears, flaws, and foibles. The times your partner stumbles, stammers, and blows it. The times your partner defaults to being too cautious or steps too far beyond their comfort zone. We all have times like that. It’s normal. It’s human.
Yet as long as we have the capacity to love, we can love and be loved in return.
So breathe easy. All is well. Insecure or not, you, too, can have a wonderful, loving and fulfilling relationship. And don’t wait! Get out there and enjoy the journey.
More from Asking for a Friend here.