“You have to love yourself, before you can love someone else.” — Anonymous
Sage advice on love and life has been handed down from time immemorial. We’ve all heard our parents, friends, coaches and those talking heads on TV who have a book, a program or a dating service to hawk, spout off about the secrets to finding true love and the one person who will satisfy us forever.
As a divorce lawyer I’m pretty sure that a person cannot find permanent satisfaction and happiness based on someone else. Humans are just too complex and capricious to provide the security and permanency of guaranteed happiness based on a relationship to one another.
This weekend I was walking the dog on Montana Avenue and it occurred to me that in a world where there is always a better, younger, richer model of whoever you are to compete with for love and relationships, temporary dissatisfaction with the one you love today, or them with you, seems almost a foregone conclusion.
Which brings me back to my original point, you have to love yourself first because you are the only person you will spend all your life with, and you are the only person who can truly make you happy.
I see the devastating effects of people who are not happy with themselves all the time. Either as petitioners or respondents, it’s what causes most divorces, I believe. People always ask me what is the most common cause of divorce, and then go on to suggest the answer they want to hear. The men say, “she quit wanting sex” and the women say, “he wasn’t the man I thought he was.”
The finger pointing in both statements is what shows the profound problem in looking to another to make us happy. Neither party is saying that they are happy independent of their spouse. And if a person is not happy independently of their spouse, how can they bring anything to the relationship?
If a man is solely bringing money to a relationship, his partner is not going to be happy for long because financial wherewithal provides creature comforts, but not love. I dare say there are more than enough examples in our fair city of celebrities who have more money than they can use in two lifetimes, but who cheat on each other.
If a woman brings only the rush of lust to a relationship and does not continue to engage her partner, it won’t be long before the partner will go shopping for a diversion, and then the end is in sight, no matter how far off it may be.
In my experience these observations apply in both gay and non-gay relationships. All people must be happy with themselves before they can be happy in relation to others.
The question then becomes how does one become happy with one’s self, and how does one find someone else who is happy with themselves?
To become happy in our own skin is not easy. We are a society that fosters images of what is “right” that are unreasonable. From the macho male imagery of certain action movie heroes, to the twiggy sexuality of runway models, we are force fed ideals that are not possible for the majority of us to live up to. We must set aside the images and ideals we are shown and develop our own sense of self.
Loving one’s self is not as easy as it sounds. Take this test: name 10 character traits about yourself that are positive. I’ll give you a short list to get started: charming, funny, loving, attentive, gentle, compassionate. Now go create your own list.
It’s not so easy. That’s because we rarely take the time to examine who we are.
In the movie “Runaway Bride,” with Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, she molds her breakfast preference to the men she’s dating. If he likes scrambled eggs, she likes them. If he likes them over easy, that’s how she’ll order her eggs. Gere’s character at one point tells her how out of touch she is with her own wants and desires, “you don’t even know how you like your eggs in the morning.” As the movie progresses there’s this wonderful view of her at a table with a dozen or more different egg dishes. The next scene is her at the door of Gere’s apartment and as he opens the door to find her she says, “Benedict. I like Eggs Benedict.”
Knowing ourselves is key to finding a relationship with others. We must start with our own likes and dislikes before we can find a compatible mate.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.