“You should work on yourself before you get into a relationship.”

"Copland's 'Appalachian Spring'" by Mimi Suart ©
Live the Life you Desire

Is it better to be alone or in a relationship? Should people work on themselves while by themselves or while in a relationship?

The answer differs from person to person, and changes depending on individual circumstances and within different stages of life. There are many ways to live one’s life.

For many people, the best way to develop relationship skills and learn more about themselves is within the context of a relationship — as long as it is not oppressive or abusive. When they are in the world alone, everything may seem to run smoothly without complication. But they may not be challenged. Moreover, they miss out on the many rewards of relationship.

Relationships can enrich life tremendously despite their complications and difficulties. Moreover, it is while involved in a relationship that people get triggered and thus learn to view themselves through the eyes of others. How else would you discover that you are inconsiderate, overly serious, or play the victim without someone close to you pointing it out.

Relationships thus challenge us to view ourselves from someone else’s point of view. This can drive us to improve how we move in the world and relate to others.

However, for some people — particularly for those who are too easily influenced by others or anxious to please others — being alone can be a valuable growing experience. Solitude and the freedom that comes with it allow them to find out who they are rather than merely what other people want.

For instance, someone who has been brought up in the shadow of a powerful or controlling person may have learned to become so tuned into the desires and expectations of others for the sake of survival that they actually have not considered what they themselves want in life. In such cases, it’s often helpful to enjoy solitude and avoid having someone else’s opinions and demands intrude upon their quietly developing sense of self.

Ideally we learn to consider others while maintaining a sense of ourselves. Whether we are in a relationship or not, learning to have a multi-faceted perspective helps us to balance our own desires with those of others.

In a great orchestral suite, the distinct movements are arranged to create a whole, which is greater than any individual movement. At times we hear the individual instruments or sections while at times we hear how they blend together to create unique and awe-inspiring music.

by Alison Poulsen, PhD

Read ‘Loneliness: ‘I’m all alone.’”

Read “If ONLY I found the right man to love, then I would be happy.”

Read “Inner Struggle: ‘I’m tired of giving in.’”

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2 thoughts on ““You should work on yourself before you get into a relationship.”

  1. Bre

    I was anxious to please and easily influenced in my relationship. I had my own ideas about how I wanted my relationship with my boyfriend to go but I lost sight of them by feeling the need to please him because I felt he was doing so much for me. I gave in to things I would not have otherwise and I felt ashamed, degraded and manipulated. I need to gain my sense of self and I feel like I have to work on that outside of my relationship. He depends on me emtionally and it creates this kind of relationship where I feel I have to be there for him when I really want to make use of my time doing stuff I enjoy. Both this and your article on inner strength seems to support my idea that I need to end this relationship, i just don’t what makes this decison so difficult to follow through.

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