Yesterday we discussed relationship values to offer perspective in what binds a meaningful, intimate relationship. When nurtured, such a relationship can be very fulfilling. It can be a source of strength. But it can turn intoxicating and overwhelm us. This is why it is important to enter a relationship mindfully.

Let’s first examine an important aspect of social relationships. It is important to surround yourself with people who will help you become a better version of yourself. This can include qualities you hope to explore, perhaps intellectually, or athletically, or for camaraderie. It is important to share interests with others to be empowered. Sharing the same values as others will help to check your perspectives when challenged with a view outside your comfort. In these exchanges of shared interests and values, you fulfill yourself, and you seek others to help your personal growth. This philosophy will lead you to become a “complete” person.

Be wary of surrounding yourself with people who “give” you things, such as gifts, money, free meals or “emotional giving.” They offer false validation without mutual respect, putting you at risk of losing your sense of self. This creates codependency…relying on another’s “giving” to enable your fulfillment. Instead of growing because your partner challenges you, you stay stagnant or devolve. People often stay in this type of relationship because they don’t want to be alone. Or because they are using their partner as an emotional life preserver while they wait to find the next one. Or because they reconnected with a past relationship because it was a comfort they knew, which was better than taking a risk on someone new. All of these behaviors enable a person to lose their sense of self because it is “comfortable.”

Staying in a relationship because what our partner “gives” us and not how he or she “nurtures” our values will lead to a toxic relationship. This alters who you are, distorting your behavior to appease your partner, out of fear of how he or she may react. The results are extreme: having unnecessary dramatic fights, withholding something you care about, retaliating by ignoring you, compromising the fidelity of your relationship, or threatening the “ultimatum” of a break up. It varies, but if you change your behavior to manage the reactions of your partner, you should ask if your relationship has turned toxic.

There is a difference between making compromises and altering your behavior. One enhances your mindfulness. The other alters your identity to become something you are not. That is why it is important your identity is driven by values, such as integrity, and not characteristics, such as a talent. A person would be inclined to alter who they are to be with someone if their defining quality is something they can do…such as sing, or cook or be handy. They become a tool to be used instead of a mind making a decision for their empowerment.

We have an epidemic where people fear being vulnerable. Because when we are vulnerable there is the belief we will get hurt. But this is a false belief, because when we are vulnerable, we can get hurt, but it is not a guarantee. Some risks are worth the chance for growth, and if we never take risks, we will never grow. The only way to grow is to break what is comfortable, even if it is a “comfortable” relationship.

It is not about being half of a whole looking for an equal-opposite-other. It is not about finding “completion” by being with a person. What would happen if that person is no longer available? Will you remain incomplete, or desperate to find another other-half? We all should be complete puzzle pieces from the beginning…a complete puzzle piece with a complete picture upon it, with a complete identity that relies on values, and a complete sense of self by pursuing fulfilling things. And the people we let into our lives, just like puzzle pieces, should fit into us and us into them. When there is a match, it only adds to the complete picture we already had. We form a partnership, not a codependency. Our half to the whole now becomes two new wholes, making something completely new…completely.

May we all embrace, be it the search, or appreciation of our puzzle pieces.