“If you want the whole thing, the gods will give it to you. But you must be ready for it.” ~Joseph Campbell

Harvard’s longest running study proved that the quality of our relationships are the single largest predictors of the quality of our lives. After nineteen years of marriage and relentlessly examining the findings of relationship experts; I can say without hesitation and a huge dose of gusto that the most important relationship of our lives is the one we have with ourselves. Taking the steps to creating the most irresistible version of our self is the portal to being ready for the magical and meaningful love story we desire. 

Nourishing our inner child, being responsible for our happiness and letting go of the sexual patterns that do not serve us, play an essential role in the satisfaction of our romantic relationships. We make more insightful partner choices when we’ve invested in our personal development bank account. Settling for crumbs is no longer an option when we know who we are and feel enthusiastic about the trajectory of our life. 

Instead of wondering what it takes to stop repeating unhealthy relationship cycles put your focus on the three fundamentals for real love right now, and watch what real transformation looks like! 

1. Embrace your inner child’s needs. Often, we dive into relationships wide eyed and bushy-tailed expecting this new romance to be the missing link to the life of our dreams. In the movie Jerry Maguire Tom Cruise’s famous quote “you complete me” was a perfect depiction of how so many of us expect our love interest to transform our lives. This will usually end up looking like a Picasso painting. I know since I’ve shared many not so romantic evenings with spatulas of Ben and Jerry’s cookie dough ice cream before acknowledging that I had to do the uncomfortable inner-work. Prior to feeling emotionally safe in any relationship it was necessary to learn to love myself and meet my needs so I could stop repeating painful love patterns. Maybe your inner child’s greatest fear is losing your freedom so you perpetually sabotage relationships when things get too close. This is a classic. Whatever your pattern, it’s worth paying attention to what situations and emotions trigger (an emotional response that is not equal to the event) you most. These are great indicators of childhood trauma that hasn’t yet been resolved. Awareness, belly-breathing, witnessing your reactions as an observer and listening to the messages of your body are great stepping stones to finally ending unsatisfying relational loops. 

2. Be the sole provider of your happiness. Happy women are irresistible! Women who are intentional about creating a life they feel excited about are radiant and confident. According to Martin Seligman, one of the founding fathers of Positive Psychology, the five building blocks to happiness can be remembered by the acronym, P.E.R.M.A; Positive Emotion, Engagement, Positive Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment. Make a conscious effort to show up from a place of abundance by loving your life prior to meeting your one. Schedule weekly recurring time for activities that evoke positive emotions and get you into flow state (pleasurable experience’s that seem to stop time and shuts down our inner critic). Even one hour a week of in real life time with friends or family has the power to transform your emotional state from black and white to technicolor. Accomplish small goals daily that will move you closer to your long-term dream. Add meaning to your life by being of service to a cause greater than yourself. Performing acts of kindness, volunteering for an organization you feel connected to or creating fun, non-tech rituals with your children can be hugely gratifying. 

3. No sex before commitment. This fundamental is especially for heterosexual women that desire a monogamous long-term relationship with a masculine man. I know, I know, I’m going to get a lot of resistance here. There is a real modern-day treasure in Dr Pat Allen’s old-school teachings on “no free sex.” This encourages women to avoid being sexually intimate with men prior to a commitment. Dr. Pat Allen is a sought-after transactional analyst, relationship expert and author who has made four appearances on the Oprah show, need I say more? On a physiological level, when a woman has even just one sexual encounter with a man, the hormone oxytocin is released which causes her to feel the magic bonding high of falling in love. This will keep her emotionally attached and ruminating about him, sometimes for years despite him having no intention of pursuing anything more than that single evening. Dr. Allen’s definition of commitment is, an agreement that you are both sexually and socially monogamous (it is clear to friends, family and social media that you’re not single) and you have negotiated continuity (how often you’ll see each other and talk that is comfortable for both of you). Sharing our bodies this intimately, too early in a relationship is like offering our most feminine gift to someone that has not proven they are worthy of it yet. This takes our power away and never feels good the following morning. In a world where everything is instant maybe there is something to be said about waiting and really getting to know each other. Maybe old school should be new school.

Irene is the creator of the Happiness Within Reach program which coaches ambitious women to open their hearts to self-love while forming meaningful interpersonal relationships with others. She is an ICF, ACC Certified life and business coach who holds two certifications from the University of Pennsylvania on Positive Psychology and is trained in the Gottman Method for Couples Therapy.