Advice

The 7 Steps to Letting Inner Happiness Guide Your Relationships

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I’ve finally developed clarity about dating and relationships in my mid-60s, after 23 years with my husband, a divorce 16 years ago, and a long string of relationships since. Over the years, I’ve built an honest and intimate relationship with myself that enables me to answer many of the relationship questions I used to agonize over. Most importantly, I always know that no matter what happens with a man, no matter what the circumstances, I will be just fine.

Here’s the trick: regardless of your age, if you’re willing to really get to know yourself, you can develop the same ability. But it takes effort, care, and mindfulness. Here are the 7 steps to getting there.

1. Spend real time—in silence
In nature, whatever works for you—quietly learning to listen to yourself. Detach from any distractions, especially technology.

2. Listen to what you honestly do and don’t want in a relationship
What makes you happy and what doesn’t. You can know this—you can feel it.

3. Be mindful
In social situations, of what you have learned and continue to learn when you are alone. You’ll know when one choice feels better or worse than another, if only by a bit.

4. Pay attention
To the answers you already know but doubt, or don’t want to accept because you wish something else were true. And act upon what you know to be true.

5. Decide whether you want to change or accept
The uglier things you learn about yourself (and don’t be ashamed of any of it — we all have our ugliness) during this process. And act upon your decision.

6. Be yourself.
You really do know that no one is worth giving yourself up for. And if you haven’t got yourself, you have nothing to give anyone else.

7. Keep practicing.
You will get stronger and clearer each time you live what you know.

Nothing is more empowering and powerful than knowing who you are and being true to yourself. When relationships no longer carry the power to define you, they can’t devastate you. So what is there to be afraid of?

Sure, I’m still disappointed when a relationship doesn’t work out, but it no longer diminishes or wrecks me the way it did in the past. It just wasn’t the right relationship.

The years I’ve lived and the experiences I’ve had have taught me that life is far less painful when you face, listen, and make peace with yourself than it is when you don’t. This peace is what makes it possible to develop a truly intimate and satisfying relationship with someone else.

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