When we hear people speak about their romantic partners, they often use words like “twin flame,” “the one,” “soulmate,” or “bae.” (For my non-millennial readers, “bae” is an acronym that stands for before anyone else. Yes, this was news to me too, but hence, I digress.)

Popular music echoes this sentiment. LeAnn Rimes wonders, “How could I live without you?” Mariah Carey states that she’d be unable to: “I can’t live if living is without you.” And Kelly Clarkson is even more blunt: “My life would suck without you.

The message is clear: our romances are the be-all and end-all of all human relationships.

And that’s exactly the problem.

When we do this — when we treat our romantic relationships as the ultimate, the most important, the best ever — we’re putting our relationships on a pedestal above everyone else.

In turn, this naturally leads to competition and one-upmanship. “Is my relationship as good as Mariah Carey’s?” we wonder. “Well, it’s definitely better than Kelly Clarkson’s — that’s for sure.”

This causes separateness rather than togetherness . . . which is the exact opposite of what relationships are supposed to do!

Relationships shouldn’t turn into a game of one-upmanship

“I have the best boyfriend ever!” somebody posts on social media after her boyfriend surprises her with flowers or breakfast in bed or something so wonderful I can’t even imagine it.

The intention behind these posts is often innocent, but it represents a flaw in the way society treats relationships: that some relationships are better than others, and we should all strive to be “the perfect couple.”

But if we’re all trying to be the “best,” suddenly we’re not just in a relationship — we’re in a competition that we didn’t sign up for.

Really, it should be simple. Are you happy? Are you loving? Is your partner happy and loving? If so, then great!

Everyone’s relationships are different, and “perfect couples” can take very different forms. There’s no need to find proof that your relationship is “better” than anyone else’s — or worry that other people’s relationships are better than yours.

We’re all whole individuals on our own

Note to Mariah Carey: if you “can’t live” without your partner, you’re coming at your relationship from a place of fear.

This is bad! Not only are you treating your relationship like a competition with other relationships, but you’re depending on somebody else to make you whole.

If you need somebody else to make you feel special, you’re not genuinely being who you are. Only when we find wholeness within ourselves can we truly be comfortable in our own skin.

We are all whole, complete, valid people on our own, and each one of us is deserving of love and respect.

Learning and growth can happen anywhere, anytime — when you’re with your friends, when you’re talking with your children, when you’re walking in the park alone. It’s not just something that comes from your “twin flame” (or your “bae”).

So, instead of looking for the one-up, be happy with where you are in the moment, be happy with who you’re with in the moment, and learn to just be.

It doesn’t matter what the rest of the world believes, the only thing that matters is what you believe.
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