If you ask people what the most important thing is in a relationship, you’ll get a myriad of answers — big ones being trust, communication, respect, etc. — but all of the answers really tie back to one singular factor. And it’s:
Emotional stability and emotional self-sufficiency.
Without it, there effectively is no relationship.
With it, everything else will naturally follow.
I’ve written about this before — in fact, “emotional stability” is number one on my own list, and one of only three things I absolutely need in a partner. Emotional stability is the sexiest thing you can do.
And I’m not alone in saying this — many people agree on this being the number one most important thing.
Mark Manson calls it “people who manage their insecurities well” or “the ability to see one’s own flaws and be accountable for them.”
Karen Salmansohn called it “good character values” — i.e., “not a psychopath” (and then includes a list of “psychopath” characteristics — thanks, Karen.)
Leo Babauta of Zen Habits uses the term “emotionally self-reliant,” saying,
“We look for happiness from others, but this is an unreliable source of happiness… And here’s the thing: it’s not their job to fill our emotional needs.”
Zaid Dahhaj describes emotional self-sufficiency as “your relationship with yourself,” which is the same thing. He goes on to say,
“If you do not love yourself entirely and actively ensure your own needs are met, you will find it difficult to do the same for others.”
And when we talk about “actively ensuring your own needs are met,” we do not mean “actively asking others to meet them.” We mean “actively working to meet them yourself.”
Healthy relationships do not start from a standpoint of “scarcity,” “shortage,” or “something missing.” Contrary to popular cliches, they are not about finding our “other half,” or someone to “complete” us. Healthy relationships are built only with people who are already complete going in.
And even the other biggies — communication, trust, respect, etc. — will come along afterwards, fluidly and organically, if emotional stability is well-nurtured and in place by each individual (regarding their own, not each others’) going in. You will foster good values — and find partners who mirror them — if you have emotional self-sufficiency, and solid self-respect.
How to build it:
There are many better resources out there than this list. But to give you an idea:
- Sit by yourself. Sit “without a device or distraction, for a few minutes. Look inside. Notice your thoughts as they come up. Get to know your mind.” — Leo Babauta
- Learn to fix your own problems. “If you are bored, fix it. If you are lonely or hurt, comfort yourself. If you are jealous, don’t hope that someone will reassure you … reassure yourself.” — Leo Babauta
- Take responsibility. We only control ourselves — we do not control other people, or the environment. Figure out what falls within your real control (yourself) and focus on that.