Why Self Love Is The Key To A Healthy Relationship

by Nicole Gibbs
In anticipation of Z Living's upcoming original show Altar'd, premiering in 2017, where a bride- and groom-to-be take on a 90-day fitness challenge to lose weight before walking down the aisle, we're collecting and telling a series of relationship stories. Follow along and check back often! 

You hear it all the time: “You can’t love someone else until you love yourself first.” But what does that even mean? How do you do it? And why?
Almost two years ago I sat across from my husband in a restaurant booth. I signed the divorce papers and slid them across the table to him. Then I got up and went to the restroom to cry. My second marriage, a relationship I had invested five years of my life into, was officially over. I was sad, and angry. I was also relieved.

I Didn't Want to Get Married. But I Didn't Listen to Myself.

I’d known even before we had said our vows that I didn’t want to get married. But I didn’t listen to myself. I tried to trick myself. People learned to love each other over time, right? There have been so many arranged marriages throughout history, marriages that ended up being wonderful. I could stick it out.
Less than a year after our beautiful wedding, I was completely miserable. My mental health had deteriorated. I’d gained 50 lbs. The career that I had worked so hard for was completely unfulfilling. I was needy and insecure. We argued all the time and I felt like nothing I did was ever good enough. I started to look at why I had married this man in the first place. The answers to that question were uncomfortable.

Also on Z Living: How To Reboot Your Relationship Using Love As Your Guide

I’d Gotten into a Relationship Because I Didn’t Believe in Myself.

I didn’t think I could make it without a man in my life. I didn’t think I was worth anything on my own, that my only value in life was in relation to having a husband.
This wasn’t the first time I had ended up in a long-term relationship that had become this all-consuming thing. I had become so out of touch with myself that I didn’t know who I was without him. After signing those papers, I was determined to do things differently.
I didn’t know at the time, but I was about to embark on a journey that would lead me to the discovery that self-love is my foundation. Without it, I will never be happy in any relationship.

What a Lack of Self-Love Does to a Relationship

Being in a relationship can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences that life has to offer. Having the ability to share your life with another person, someone who truly gets you and who fills you with joy, is a truly beautiful thing.
But the society we live in teaches us that we need a partner in order to be fulfilled. We need things outside of ourselves to make us happy and that causes us to be needy people. Neediness in a relationship is a killer. Neediness puts all the pressure on our partners to make us happy, to make us feel loved and worthy and accepted.

Also on Z Living: 9 Ways Your Love Life Affects Your Health
The reality is that these things come from within. They aren’t things that other people can give us. Yes, people can love us, but only to the extent which we are able to receive love. The more we love ourselves, the higher our capacity for love from others, and the higher our capacity to love others.
Two half-fulfilled people don’t make a whole. It is two completely fulfilled people that can come together and truly bring joy to each other’s lives. Until you love yourself so much that you don’t need someone else in order to feel complete, your relationships will suffer.
Also on Z Living: The First Step to Creating a Life You Love

So What Does Self-Love Look Like?

Self-love looks a lot like the love we want to receive from others. It’s giving ourselves those things that truly nourish us and bring us joy.

Self-love is:
  • Saying no when you want to say no.
  • Saying yes when you want to say yes.
  • Working towards your own goals and achievements.
  • Formulating your own opinions of things and not changing those opinions just to be liked, or accepted by someone else.
  • Believing in yourself and following your dreams, even when they aren’t what others think you should do.
  • Taking care of your body- nourishing yourself with healthy foods, exercising, meditating, maintaining hygiene and treating yourself to things like manicures, spa days, haircuts, or massages.
  • Having the courage to try the things you have always wanted to do.
  • Spending time with yourself- going to the movies, hiking, the beach or even a walk around the neighborhood by yourself.
  • Trusting your intuition.
  • Making yourself a priority.
  • Investing in your future.
  • Setting boundaries with people.
  • Letting go of toxic relationships.
  •  Forgiving and accepting yourself, just as you are.
  •  Being gentle and kind to yourself.

What Self-Love is Not:

While we can look at our list of what self-love looks like and probably get a good understanding of what self-love is not, it is worth looking at what those things actually are.

Self-love is not:
  • Staying in a relationship out of fear, guilt, “for the kids,” or for any reason that is not completely based on love.
  • Staying in a relationship because you feel that the other party is dependent on you or you fear for them if the relationship were to end.
  • Putting your needs last. Yes, there are times when you have to put other people’s needs ahead of your own. However, loving yourself means caring for yourself just as much as, if not more than, you care for the people around you.
  • Putting off your own hopes, dreams, or goals in order to help someone else pursue their own. Again, there might be times where this is necessary. Many times in marriages one person works while the other goes to school and then they switch off. But if you have written off school or a career that you want or a trip to Egypt because your partner doesn’t want those things, then it might be time to take a good look at your relationship.
  • Sacrificing yourself for someone else.
  • Trying to change your physical appearance to make yourself, or someone else, happy. 
  • Spending time with people who make you feel bad about yourself, who put you down, don’t value your ideas or who are constantly negative and critical.
  • Being hard on or harsh with yourself.
  • Ignoring your instincts or not trusting yourself.
  • Spending all of your money on other people while ignoring your own needs (I once went three months in need of new underwear because all of mine had been worn to the point there were holes in them. Meanwhile, I was paying for cable and cell phones for my kids).
  • Being too fearful to try things that you want to try.
  • Needing the approval of the people around you.
  • Needing someone else in order to feel complete, fulfilled, comfortable or adequate.

How Do You Learn to Love Yourself?

Start out slow and easy. Keep a journal and tell yourself positive things every day. Get rid of toxic relationships. People who make you feel anything less than amazing have no place in your life.
Take care of yourself. Start getting out and getting some exercise. Eat foods that make you feel good. There are lots and lots of ways to start loving yourself, but it might take some time. The key is to keep at it. Don’t give up on yourself, no matter how hard it might be sometimes.

Also on Z Living: 9 Habits Of Couples In A Strong Relationship

How Does Self-Love Create a Healthy Relationship?

When you truly love yourself, you begin to live fully with your hearts wide open. You begin to radiate love and happiness and positivity. You attract people the people who love seeing you happy and who want to support you in your pursuits.
When you truly love yourself, you release the need for other people to make you feel complete or whole. You allow them to be their own true selves, instead of having to try to live up to your expectations.
A healthy relationship comes from two healthy people. When you don’t need someone else to validate you, when you are able to give yourself what you need, you are able to experience true, unconditional love.
WATCH on Z Living: Altar'd, where a here a bride- and groom-to-be seperately take on a 90-day fitness challenge to lose weight before their big day -- only to meet up again at the altar. Stay tuned, Altar'd premieres in 2017. 

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