Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today


Craving Love? Improve Your Relationship With Yourself First

Valentine's day tip: 5 essential traits for healthy intimacy.

Key points

  • Seeking romance as a cure for unhappiness leads to cycling through the same relationship patterns with different people.
  • It’s virtually impossible to sustain a romantic relationship with an emotionally immature person.
  • The five essential traits of healthy intimacy include strong communication skills and the ability to refrain from destructive behavior.
Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash
Source: Photo by Omid Armin on Unsplash

One bogus misconception about love—promoted by society, the media, literature, and social media—is that love will solve all your problems. Meet the right person—and poof! You’ll find happiness.

Such an idealized view of love as salvation has probably led to more broken hearts than any other.

Love and Relationship Patterns

If you’re unhappy in life and expecting romance to save you, chances are:

  1. You’re expecting your partners to meet all your needs.
  2. You’re burdening your partners with unrealistic expectations.
  3. You feel dissatisfied and frequently frustrated by your partner’s behavior.
  4. Your partners feel that they can never please you and you’re trying to change them. (See "Do You Have a Controlling Personality?")
  5. You feel disillusioned and fantasize that a new partner will satisfy you better.

Seeking romance to cure unhappiness frequently leads to cycling through the same relationship problems with different people. You change partners, but the outcome is the same: You end up alone and disappointed.

The Challenge of Love and Intimacy

Being emotionally intimate with another human being is one of the most challenging tasks in the world. (If you don’t believe me, check the divorce rates.) What makes intimacy so tricky? Romance is more likely to thrive when each partner demonstrates five essential traits for healthy intimacy:

  1. Emotional maturity.
  2. Strong communication skills.
  3. The capacity to process uncomfortable feelings.
  4. The ability to tolerate frustration without resorting to destructive behavior.
  5. A strong sense of self.

What do all these qualities have in common? You bring them to a relationship. That means working on yourself and cultivating these traits is one of the best ways to prepare for a healthy and sustainable relationship.

Starting With Self-Love

It’s a long-held belief by psychotherapists that your relationships are reflections of your inner life. For example, if you have low self-esteem, your relationships are likely to reflect that. You may avoid conflicts in your relationship and accommodate or neglect your needs.

Why are the five traits for healthy intimacy so crucial? It's because sustaining a relationship with an emotionally immature person is extraordinarily stressful.

Working on yourself—closing the gaps in your maturity, polishing your communication skills, and strengthening your sense of self—is the expressway to improving your relationships.

Developing Strong Relationship Skills

Group therapy is a workout gym for intimacy and closeness. People come to group therapy to learn how to have more satisfying relationships. In group therapy, you learn the language of intimacy, how to express frustration in healthy ways, and how to be more assertive with your wants and needs while maintaining healthy boundaries. As you develop better communication skills and become more emotionally attuned, your relationships in the world also start to improve.

If you are dissatisfied with your life, instead of swiping left or right, invest in yourself—an investment that always pays off.

More from Sean Grover L.C.S.W.
More from Psychology Today