Relationships can’t make you happy, fulfilled and satisfied (by themselves)

First we are told stories of fairies and princesses. Some lose glass shoes, some get to sleep for a hundred years, some have to live with seven dwarfs – but they all get their prince and live happily ever after. When we grow up we are fed with modern day fairy tales via Hollywood movies: boy meets girl, they fall in love and their lives are magically transformed. The movie conveniently ends at the point where they start living together, so we never get to see the real challenges their relationship has to endure through real life’s ups and downs.

Even if we don’t believe life can be one big fairy tale – this type of thinking, hoping and expecting the perfect person to take away all our troubles – gets engraved somewhere in the back of our minds. And, ironically, this is where all our misery and false expectations about love and relationships actually begin.

When we think that the right partner can save us from life’s hardships, we put ourselves in a state of waiting for life to happen, not actually living it. We feel we can’t be happy on our own, or with someone we feel is not “the one”. We convince ourselves we can’t be truly satisfied with life when we’re in between relationships, and we see breakups as our biggest failures. We are constantly reminded – by our own thoughts, often perpetuated by people around us, that we are not complete, not “enough” – because we don’t have a partner.

This thinking, not the fact you are single, is what’s destroying your happiness. You are not less of a person if you are single. You are not even less happy than people who have someone. Yes – you miss the connection, the companionship, the sharing of life’s beautiful moments and support in hard times, but guess what: so do many people who are in a couple, if their relationship is not filled with love and respect. And many aren’t – from the exact same reason: people in them expect the other to make all their troubles, fears and shortcomings go away. And nobody can do that for somebody else.

The reality of life is that relationships can’t make you happy, fulfilled and satisfied on their own. They are not designed for that either. They are experiences that help us grow, explore ourselves and challenge us to overcome our fears of closeness, our capability for honesty, change and true human connection. They stretch our boundaries and question our old ways to make room for new and better life practices. They are often great teachers, and yes, they can give us great joy and fulfillment – but only if we have already learned how to give those same things to ourselves first.

And not only that – when you see your life as less valuable during its single periods and yourself as less of a person – you actually block the truly great relationships and great matching partners from entering your life. You come across as needy, clingy and desperate – and the potential partners you meet run away as soon as they sense it. And it doesn’t take them long. Feeling sorry for yourself doesn’t make you a desirable partner, and nobody wants to date people who think they need a relationship to save them from themselves.

If that doesn’t sound logical to you – ask yourself this: would you want to date someone who thinks you are their only chance for happiness? Do you even want to take the responsibility for someone else’s fulfillment? I bet you don’t. So it’s not exactly reasonable to expect others to do the same for you.

Waiting for somebody to give us what we need and want from life takes away another important aspect which is an essential part of feeling good about ourselves: the power and control over our own lives. If we can’t be complete until we share our life with someone, then our happiness depends on factors that are beyond our control – we are at the mercy of chance, luck, God or universe, and all we can do is sit, wait, hope and pray that they will find us worthy of love and connection. And that’s not a great place to be in.

Luckily, we don’t have to live like that. I know this may sound like a cliché, but it’s the truth: life is what you make of it. If you want to continue feeling miserable because you don’t have a partner, so be it. But you’re the one making that choice. And you have the power to choose the opposite: turn your attention to all the ways you can make your life happier and more fulfilled, connect with friends and family on a deeper level, create joyful and fun moments, make your life a celebration of your strengths, gifts and talents, and of your ability to love and be loved.

Love is something we’re all capable of giving and receiving in heaps and bounds, and we don’t need a romantic partner to start doing it right here, right now, with all the people we already have in our lives, starting from your own self. Yes, you can feel loved by the person in the mirror, and that’s not a bad way to start practicing love either: it’s actually the right way. The best way to start walking on the path of love is learning and discovering more ways to truly love and accept yourself yourself. And the more you walk this path, the less pressure you’ll feel to find someone to love you. And – surprisingly so – the more you walk it, the more loving, amazing, caring partners will want to join in and share their lives with you.


Do you feel your life would be better if only you had a partner?
Or maybe the opposite – if you were single again?

Join the conversation below!

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10 Responses

  1. Melita says:

    lajkam 🙂

  2. yolando says:

    Wow, i am quite happy i stumbled upon this. I definitely agree and wished more guys or girls knew about this. Sometimes you find people jumping from relationship to relationship and not really finding out why or what went wrong, only in hopes to fill a void in which they feel can only be filled by another person. But they don’t realize it starts with them and loving themselves first and being happy on their own before committing to another and sharing that happiness or increasing it.

  3. Insightful. It can be really difficult for me at times not to view being single as a sign of failure in an area of humanity. It’s almost like failing at being human and normal. I put it down to the attachment theory or something similar. At the risk of sounding like I completely missed the point of this article, it can really confuse me when I read a statement on the internet that claims that none of us need another human being to be happy but that isn’t what I can see. It seems to be the total opposite. Surely if each of us could only experience our own company for the remainder of our existence most of us would probably go insane. I asked my mother when I was little why people fall in love and she said it was because people need people. Would life truly be worth living if we could never share it with anyone? Some people actively enjoy a solitary single life; I’ve been semi-solitary and lived on the verge of introversion for a good few years of my short life and there are times when I’m concerned that I’ll become conditioned to it and that I ought to break out and change my way of living. There are moments when I think that it could be too late to make a difference. I sometimes have fears of dying alone in solitude, not just without a romantic companion but without close friends as well. Being alone and rarely/never having someone near to you that you can talk to or be intimate with can be truly, truly terrifying at times. It’s like a bleak, grey terror. Death no longer seems a threat in such a situation. Do people really need people? Some individuals do find the inner strength to live an average or long natural life without friendship, love, sex, children or family even if they hate it. I don’t know how they find the fortitude to do it. I wonder if I’ll ever be that thick-skinned and strong if the situation calls for it.

    • Petra says:

      Hi Scott, you surely do ask a lot of big questions 🙂 I agree – we need people. But, some of us don’t need a romantic partner. They really don’t feel the need. Those people are rare, but they do exist, and there is nothing wrong with them. They simply satisfy their need for companionship in other ways – through friends, family, work, etc. Another thing: if you love yourself enough – you don’t need others to fulfill you, to fill the void and take away the pain of loneliness. You are happy to share our life with someone, but not desperate to have a partner because you feel loved from inside, and you see it’s coming to you from outside yourself from many other sources constantly, not just from a romantic partner. Interestingly, at that point a suitable romantic partner is very easy to find. On the other hand – if you don’t love yourself, no amount of other people will be able to make you happy. What we want from others we have to give ourselves first, that’s the secret of all our troubles with love. The less you need it, the easier it comes (love from others).

  4. I’m comfortable with and accepting of my own personal identity and goals in life. Whether that’s the same as loving myself I don’t know but I do like the person that I am. There are certain personality traits that I would like to change however. The fact is though that I don’t like or enjoy being single. I often wish that it could be otherwise but I don’t have that mindset. It either bothers us or it doesn’t. It’s hard to try to be willingly and cheerfully single in this world and society when you don’t like it’s presence. Perhaps ironically it doesn’t actually bother me if I never get married to anyone or have any children but either of those could happen to me but it won’t get to me if they don’t happen. I’m much more concerned with being in a romantic and sexual relationship with someone even if it’s not permanent. Going through a series of relationships and never settling down or passing on my genes probably wouldn’t affect me negatively as long as I had a circle of close friends and maybe a love life as well. Most people do either get married or have children or both though and it’s probably a minority who don’t and being part of that minority would be fine with me, but I may experience it one day. Who knows?

    • Petra says:

      You will know you love yourself when other people’s opinions about you don’t matter to you – because you are confident you know what’s best for you, even if most people around you don’t agree. We always know better what’s good for us personally than people around us, but insecurity makes us doubt ourselves. So we accept whatever the mainstream culture/society norms are, and that is usually a road to hell, not happiness. I know being single is tough on many of us – but it’s much tougher than it should be because of the constant society pressure to get coupled, and the fact being single is seen as a life failure. And that is simply wrong. Getting stuck in a loveless relationship is much worse for you then being single and fulfilling your need for love and connection in other ways. I know you look at people around you and think – am I crazy, or them? Well, the answer is – majority of people on this planet are living a life they don’t like, are unhappy, and don’t really know how to make themselves happy – so better look for your answers about life elsewhere. Inside is a good place to start, following your heart usually gets you closer to a life you want. You will still make mistakes, but you will learn much faster than by just following the herd. Good luck!

  5. Thank you once again, Petra. With regards to what you said earlier I can be known for asking big questions. I can’t help it sometimes. I would never want to stay in a loveless relationship when I know that I could get out of one.

  6. yoonseohan says:

    Relationship can’t make you satisfied because you want more friends and you want to be popular.

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