When entering into or maintaining a long time relationship it may be difficult to see whether that person is actually what we want or need in our lives. Here, Ariel Hairston of Tiny Buddha shares her journey to finding someone who is a loving addition to her life, by discovering what she deserves and requires from the person she’s with:

“I now see how owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing that we will ever do.” ~Brené Brown

I recently left a relationship that I was not happy in. Although my ex was definitely an unconditional lover, it painfully bothered me that the man I loved was not taking care of his responsibilities.

Since I’ve entered my twenties, I’ve been looking for more than just a good time; I need a stable partner who will be able to meet our shared expenses and obligations in the future. So, I was faced with the crucial, inevitable decision of calling it quits.

I cried the first few nights, but every night after was a learning experience. I realized that no matter how much he loved me, I needed more from the relationship than he could give.

While I was still in it, he kept telling me that I made the entire relationship about me, saying, “You are only worried about your happiness. What about mine?”

Although he was right about his happiness being important, I realized something: my happiness is just as important, and I cannot—and should not have to—sacrifice mine for his.

Half of a couple can’t be happy while the other half is miserable. If neither is happy, then the relationship is already over.

A few weeks after the big break, I began asking myself what I wanted out of a relationship. Who am I?What do I need?

I wrote down a list of my nice-to-haves and my non-negotiables. This allowed me to see my past relationship for what it was: not what I really wanted. And thus, I experienced little pain and was able to move on gracefully.

Don’t get me wrong, I felt incredibly terrible for breaking his heart. I have always been the one to break things off, but I wasn’t so sure if I ever broke a guy’s heart until the day I broke his.

But I had to learn to forgive myself because I knew the relationship wouldn’t last. And it was better to break his heart now than to stay in it for far too long and inescapably break it later.

He eventually told me I was his only source of happiness, but just as you shouldn’t sacrifice your own happiness, you shouldn’t be responsible for another’s happiness either.

Happiness should come from within. If you have it before you enter the relationship, once ties are severed and the mourning phase is over, you will surely have it again.

The greatest lesson I learned is that you have to know what you want before the relationship starts.

When people say, “I don’t know what I want, but when I see it, I’ll know,” they are usually the ones who stick around in a relationship longer than necessary because they weren’t sure of what they wanted from the beginning. This causes unnecessary trial and error and a lot more pain.

It doesn’t take long to ask yourself what it is you desire and write it down. You may not know for certain right away, but you should at least have a rough idea. Getting to know yourself better can help with this.

Dating can also help refine your list, but making a serious commitment before really understanding your requirements in a relationship can be detrimental.

Typically when we go into a relationship without truly understanding our requirements, we end up trying to change our partner, which never ends well.

A loving relationship is meant to be the reward of knowing what you wanted and receiving it. Getting into a relationship in order to figure out what you want is backwards.

Ask yourself what it is you appreciate in a partner. What will cause you to write off a potential partner (perhaps not having the same goals and dreams)? This is important because if we don’t determine what we will and will not accept, we end up accepting anything.

But even more importantly, don’t forget about yourself. Get to know your own personal likes and dislikes. This is the one time where everything can be about what you want.

When we’re in a relationship, we’re always so busy trying to learn about another person’s wants, needs, goals, and aspirations that we oftentimes forget about our own.

During this time you don’t have to ask anyone for affirmation. All of your decisions are your own. No one can tell you who to be.

And while in a relationship, you still have to remember that you complete yourself. The man or woman you’re with does not define who you are, and you do not need him or her to be complete. Your self-esteem should not begin or end with how that person feels about you.

Be willing to give the person you love the shirt off your back, but your self-worth? Never give them that.

You have to honestly know that you will be happy with or without them. This little piece of knowledge makes it easier for you to leave a relationship that causes you anguish, and find one that better serves you.

That’s not to say that relationships are perfect and no one will ever hurt you; that’s certainly not the case. Every person will come with his or her own flaws, and every relationship will require a little work. You just have to know what you’re willing to work through and what you’re not.

Some words of advice my wise mother once gave me: you are the prize. How big of a prize you’re worth winning is defined by how much you love and respect yourself. You determine how much you are worth. Nobody else.

Sometimes love can turn into a battle that we want to win but can’t. Many relationships aren’t meant to be. That doesn’t make it your fault, and it doesn’t make it the other person’s fault; it just makes it life.

Whatever the case, you should never sacrifice your dignity at the expense of a futile relationship.

As for me, I couldn’t wait for him to be who I needed him to be. And I couldn’t change him either. I had to do what was best for me and for him as well.

If it were meant to be, it would’ve been right from the beginning.

I just have to go out into the world and find someone who better suits me. In the meantime, I am discovering a lot about myself, things I would’ve probably never known otherwise.

You must never get so caught up in your other half’s happiness that you forget about your own, and what matters most to you.

By the time I get into my next relationship, I will have better clarity of what I want and what I need.

But for right now, I am the love of my life. I am hoping that eventually I can share my love and happiness with another being, and he can share his with me.

Romance does not only consist of loving another, but also finding it easy to love oneself in the process. And I have to remind myself to never lose sight of that self-love.

Ariel Hairston is a college student at Valdosta State University in Georgia and aspires to become a professional writer. She enjoys exercise, yoga, and putting smiles on people’s faces. Follow her @uhhangel on twitter and add her on Facebook.

Finding a Good Match: Know What You Want and Need in a Relationship | Tiny Buddha

Psychology studies show that, in the long term, the most important thing in your life is your personal relationships. 10 Steps to Improve Your Personal Relationships

Featured photo credit: AlicePopkorn via photopin cc

Love this article? Share it with your friends on Facebook