1. “When you say ‘yes’ to others make sure you are not saying ‘no’ to yourself.” – Paulo Coelho
  2. “You alone are enough, you have nothing to prove to anybody.” – Dr. Maya Angelou
  3. “The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” – Oprah Winfrey

Dana, a beautiful 25-year-old, came to see me. I have known her since her student days, and it is always a delight for me to make time for her. Dana is usually a very bubbly person but on this occasion she seemed heartbroken. It did not take very long for me to discover the cause of her pain and anguish. Her 28-year-old boyfriend of five years was messing up all over town. He was sleeping around indiscriminatingly and disrespecting her every chance he got. Dana had brought in their pastor, and it had changed nothing. She had brought in his parents but again it did not help. And she had brought in her own parents and the boy had simply refused to respond to their invitation to come and see them. From the way things were going it was obvious that the relationship no longer meant anything to him. I knew that Dana had a decision to make but she did not seem willing to make that decision.

I asked her, “Dana, you know what to do, don’t you?”

She said through her tears, “But uncle, I love him.”

I said, “I am sure to do but do you love yourself?”

We all make mistakes in our relationships but one mistake we don’t seem to want to stop making is the one Dana is making. We forget that our first relationship should be with ourselves or there can be no relationship with any other person. If we don’t learn to love ourselves first, it does not matter how much we love our partner, the relationship will go nowhere.

It is unfortunate that most of us neglect our love relationship with ourselves. If we are to love others as we love ourselves then it stands to reason that if we do not love ourselves, we cannot love anyone else. We can only love anyone to the extent that we love ourselves. So, how can we love ourselves and ensure that we build great relationships that are fulfilling? Here is how:

  1. Know that you are complete with or without a relationship. It is a sign that you don’t love yourself if you think you need to be in a relationship to be complete. Saying to someone, “You complete me” may be a great line in a movie but it is sad in real life because it means you do not love yourself. And if it is true that anyone completes you, then it means you are not a whole person. A great love relationship is only possible between two whole people. The formula for great love is not half plus half equal to one but one times one equal to one.
  2. Know your value and appreciate your value and don’t allow anyone to treat you as dirt. And insist on your value being respected. You need to understand that your partner, no matter how wonderful he/she is, did not make you. Understand that your value does not depend on whether you are in a relationship or not. In other words, don’t let the relationship define you. You are more than your relationship. So whether you are in a relationship or not you have value that no one has the right to discount. William Shakespeare said, “Don’t waste your love on somebody, who doesn’t value it.”
  3. Make time for yourself and enjoy your own company. Those who don’t love themselves hate to be alone and always want to be where there is activity. Real living begins when you love yourself to the point that you enjoy your own company so that when you have to spend an evening by yourself, it does not get depressing. The American professor, Gloria Jean Watkins, better known by her pen name, Bell Hooks, said, “Knowing how to be solitary is central to the art of loving. When we can be alone, we can be with others without using them as a means of escape.”
  4. Take good care of yourself. Make the effort to look good. Learn to dress for yourself and not for anyone. Invest in your health and in your mind. Never stop caring for yourself because if you stop, you will come to the point when you are in no shape to give love to anyone.
  5. Stay away from anyone who demeans you or puts you down. This means you cannot stay in a toxic relationship. You must have a principle that is non-negotiable, and the principle is this – anything that does not bring the best in you is not for you. Anything that does not make you feel good about yourself cannot and should not be tolerated by you. Anyone who does not respect you has no business in your life.
  6. Don’t cut yourself off your friends and any support group you may have. It is unfortunate that a lot of girls in particular cut themselves off their friends and their support systems when they get into a relationship. It happens especially when the boy in their lives says he is uncomfortable with those friends. If those friends are not helpful friends and supportive of your best interest, then by all means cut them off. You don’t need your partner to tell you to do that. But if those friends are good friends who have your best interest at heart, then loving yourself means nourishing those relationships without neglecting your partner as well.
  7. Don’t give up on your dreams. It may be necessary to change some timeliness but don’t sacrifice your dreams for your relationship. In the long run it is not worth it.

A lovely young girl I know was studying abroad when her boyfriend told her that he wants to get married within a year and that if she did not come down for them to marry, he would look for someone else to marry. To the great alarm of her parents, this girl quit her studies and returned to Ghana. They got married. Two years later, he was asking her to pack out of the house. He said as far as he was concerned, the marriage was over. She realizes now that it was a big mistake giving up on her dreams and returning to Ghana at the time she did. If it is true love, then both of us have to become our best selves and that means both of us pursuing our dreams but without neglecting our responsibilities to each other in the relationship. But we should give each other the room to grow and expand and that is when it is true love. So, there you have them, seven ways to manifesting loving yourself so you can become a better lover and a better spouse. I hope that you will take advantage of this month of love to strengthen and deepen your relationship.

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