As I came back from holiday a couple of weeks ago, the usual vacation blues hit me very hard! It is always harder in winter, as you come back from the sunny beach to a cold reality of winter in London… Feeling slightly depressed as I felt, I thought – well, everyone can be happy in all-inclusive hotel. But no matter how long or perfect the holiday is, it inevitable ends. But the ability to stay happy outside of perfect conditions is the result of long-term practice and self-discipline, which, I thought, we don’t do enough of in today’s western world.
What is happiness for you? Perhaps, success, money, fame, or maybe falling in love. There is no one size suits all scenario in here. Especially when talking about happiness in intimate relationships. As our world develops, in science and technology, so do our relationships with other people. Previously we needed the other person (and even the whole community) to fulfil our basic needs. We worked on the land, produced our own food, and needed to stay together to survive. We used to choose our partners based on the amount of their possessions and social status. Even my grandma was keeping some bed linen for me when I was young, so I would not go into marriage empty-handed. These days most our needs can be fulfilled by one click of a computer mouse. So, to choose a life partner these days, we need to be creative. We need to really work hard to impress someone (because they aren’t interested in our collection of bed linen anymore!).
So, let’s explore our options in modern relationships. We can be single and willing to stay single, we can be dating (one person or a few people at the time, why not), we can be in a committed relationship (here we can choose to be monogamous or polygamous), or willing to marry, and have kids, or being married with no kids etc. The list is almost endless. But with all these options, if we still feel unhappy, it means we have limited this variety for us, almost trying to put ourselves in the box of one option only. And because we are not quite there yet, it makes us frustrated and disappointed with life. Most of the time it happens due to society norms and the beliefs we obtained during our lifetime. I believe, now is a good time to question them and find out what option suits you best.
This is where self-development and self-discipline come into place. Most people believe that the outer world is responsible for their unhappiness. But the good news is that it is not! In fact, it is completely the opposite. You are in charge of everything happening to you (as scary as it might sound), and the only way you can change the experience you are having in life, is by changing yourself. And here are a few ideas to start with:
1. Free yourself from stereotypes. If you are single woman and believe you have no future unless you find a man, that might be not helpful. Where did you learn that? When my mom and dad got divorced, I remember my grandma told my mom: “well, your chances of any social life are slim now, no one would invite you to their house, as no woman wants another single woman around her man. It was more than 20 years ago, of course our society has moved on since, but we still have a long way to go. Notice if you judge others in a certain way, be it single people or married, men or women. If you had a different attitude to certain things, how would your life change?
2. Learn to understand what you want and more importantly what you need. Do you want the other person to make you feel important? Do you want them to take care of you in a certain way? The secret to knowing is exploring and trying different options. Then it will be easier to figure out what makes you feel good and what suits you most. If you are single, think about what you enjoy in your life-style right now, instead of focusing on negative sides of it. A lot of women are too worried about being single, so they would go from relationship to relationship out of fear of being alone. In addition to knowing your needs, you should learn to articulate them. You can practice on your boss first and maybe get yourself a pay rise! 😊
If you are in a relationship and your needs are not being met, have the courage to walk away if your partner is not prepared to work with you on meeting each other’s needs.
3. Understand your emotional world, your moods, feelings, and reactions on different situations. It is equally important for men and women. We would express different emotions in different situations, a man might become angry in reaction to something, woman might become upset in the same situation. Understanding and learning to deal with our default reactions brings us to the next level of self-control and self-discipline. We can take responsibility for our emotions and behaviours, and as the result – change them as and when we need.
4. Practice self-discipline by doing. Don’t get stuck in learning the theory, be it about relationship, sport, diet, business or anything else. Most people don’t start anything because they are thinking of a too big picture. If you want to start dating, don’t think about having to go on 7 dates a week. Start from registering on a dating website, or going to singles event, or a meetup group. Do one step at the time and you’ll grow into your bigger picture vision. The secret is “now is the time to start”.
5. As I mentioned in the beginning – being happy is the result of long-term practice. So, practice being happy. There is a saying that happiness is not a destination, but a journey. We can be happy every day, if we chose to! Yes, life would throw us off balance every so often, but it is our job to restore the balance and keep going. It might be your favourite music, or walk in the park, or yoga session, something that brings you joy. Make sure you do it often enough, then you can easily change your state and come back to a happier inner place.
It doesn’t matter which option of intimate relationship (or lack of thereof) you chose, remember it is your choice and it must suit you, and nobody else. If you are not happy with it tomorrow, it is never too late to change your mind.