“The most painful thing is losing yourself in the process of loving someone too much, and forgetting that you are special too.” ~Ernest Hemingway
When I was in my early twenties, I was in a relationship with a man who abused me emotionally and psychologically for many months.
It turned out I was his first serious relationship, and this had often made him feel overwhelmed and insecure. He didn’t feel “good enough” for me or deserving of my love. Ironically, we’d both suffered from low self-esteem but had shown it in completely different ways.
During my time with him, I often felt insecure, stupid, unattractive, and utterly unlovable. That dysfunctional relationship stripped me of much of my self-esteem and damaged my faith in human nature.
But in hindsight, my ex did me a big favor. My experience with him made me, for the first time in my life, give serious thought to what I wanted from a future relationship and partner, as well as how to strengthen my self-esteem and confidence.
I read as many books as I could on self-confidence, self-love, healthy connections, and boundaries (there was no Internet in those days). I learned how to meditate and trust my intuition, and I stopped being a people-pleasing pushover who put everyone else first.
As a result of what I learned, I created the following ten relationship rules for myself, which I believe are essential for strong self-esteem and loving long-term relationships.
1. No relationship can flourish on love alone.
No amount of love for my ex-boyfriend could alter the fact he treated me badly and his behavior toward me was destructive. Love alone was not enough to salvage our relationship.
In order for a relationship to survive and thrive, it needs trust, respect, attention, kindness, patience, empathy, commitment, communication, understanding, mutual liking, loyalty, compromise, and security. And you need a partner who is also willing to work at nurturing the relationship.
All relationships require work and effort; there are no exceptions. Love is an essential part, but it does not conquer all. You can love your partner with all your heart and still end up in a relationship that is damaging and dysfunctional.
Love alone can’t turn a bad relationship into a good relationship, and you can’t change an abusive person into a loving, respectful partner if they don’t want to change.
2. Self-love is never selfish.
Most of us have been conditioned to think self-love is selfish or conceited,…