Since a young age, I’ve been intrigued by observing patterns in people. In fact, I recall times in elementary school when I would notice patterns in my friends, family members, and even teachers. One of the reasons I looked at people’s patterns during my early years is because my family moved often, which regularly exposed me to many people and required me to quickly understand their personalities. Often, I did not have the time and history in a new school to be part of the “in-crowd” or have relationships that where based on years of shared experiences.
I realized that regardless of where I moved, people had similar patterns and needs. I also developed an understanding of subtle body language and what these gestures revealed about a person’s character, trustworthiness, and intentions—and if they were the type of person that I wanted as a friend. As I went on to study psychology, I recognized that the majority of communication is nonverbal, and I developed a talent of being hyperaware of this nonverbal language. I also confirmed and developed a deeper understanding of what I believe are some of the core key needs that we have as people.
One of these core needs is to love and be loved. While searching to meet this need, many people display common patterns in relationships that seem to repeat. For example, many single people seem to spend a great deal of time looking for, intending, and longing to be in a relationship and to experience that connection with someone. However, at the other end of the spectrum, many people end up in relationships where they are not fulfilled. When they discuss their relationships, it seems that they long to be out of them. They see more bad than good, and they are consumed in the negative, insignificant parts of the relationship instead of remembering why they wanted a partner to begin with.
It is interesting because relationships can give us happiness, passion, and a zest for life that we cannot receive in any other way; it is imprinted in our DNA to want this type of connection. However, the same way that a relationship lets us experience deep emotions of happiness, it can also give us deep feelings of disappointment, sadness, fear, and pain if our “needs” are not met. This can be especially true if we do not take the time to truly understand our patterns in relationships. That’s because, when we don’t understand those patterns, we tend to experience them even more intensely in each new relationship going forward. The experiences become a strong part of our belief system regarding what we think a relationship should be, even if we consciously want something different.
The most transformational part of my life was when I made a conscious decision that I would no longer continue to exhibit the same repeating patterns in my relationships—even though I was in a relationship at the time.
I was not just thinking that I wanted a change, I was drawing a line in the sand that stated my non-negotiables and my true intentions for my life. I wrote it down and even recorded it on my phone so that I could listen to it and remind myself of the patterns and why I wanted to change them. As a result of this process, I ended the relationship that I was in and forever changed my patterns in relationships and in life.
I did not want a relationship based on needs. I wanted a relationship based on love. I wanted to find someone I could call my best friend. I found that person, not just consciously but at a deep subconscious and spiritual level, and that person was myself.
At that point, I did not want another relationship because I did not want to feel like I had to give up this friendship with my new best friend (myself).
Another pattern I have observed is that when people stop looking for a relationship—when they truly become their own best friend and are able to change their patterns and meet their own needs, without feeling that someone else must meet those needs—something magical happens.
When I met my wife, Natalie, we were both in the same place. We were both committed to meeting our own needs and loving ourselves first. In fact, as our relationship developed, we both realized that we each had a non-negotiable list and that we both met the other’s non-negotiable criteria. More importantly, we didn’t push our baggage on each other. Instead, we took the time to work on ourselves. We also accepted each other unconditionally, which freed us from wasting our energy on trying to change each other. Instead, we spent that time loving each other.
Without the need to have someone else meet our needs, we can focus our time on enjoying each other’s presence—because we want to.
We both want to continue to grow, individually and together. We hold each other accountable for continuing to grow and improve as individuals, not from a place of fear but out of respect, trust, appreciation, and admiration for each other.
After five years I can say that the “in love” feeling that one experiences when first meeting someone does not have to dissipate. In fact, it can grow stronger and deeper if the relationship is based on love and want, rather than need. It also depends on whether or not both parties are fully committed to working on their own baggage instead of dumping it on the relationship.
I feel like the luckiest soul in the universe, and I am grateful beyond words to be able to experience life with my best friend (well, both of them—Natalie and myself).
I have come to realize what “soul mate” truly means, and I feel like life has been preparing me to be fully open to true love and the opportunity to express the love that my partner deserves. If I could make one wish, it would be to for everyone to experience the gift of love. I wish you many blessings!
Joeel A Rivera, M.Ed., is a visionary, entrepreneur, and motivational speaker. From an early age, Joeel faced adversity, including immigrating to the United States, failing his freshman year of college, losing his brother, and being in a nearly fatal car accident. These experiences inspired him to return to college, where he earned a Master’s Degree in Counseling and Education and is currently completing his dissertation for his Ph.D. in Psychology, with an emphasis on happiness. Joeel opened a non-profit teen center in honor of his brother and developed curriculums for the Juvenile Justice System. In almost a decade, Joeel has reached over ten thousand people as an educator, entrepreneur, speaker, and consultant. He is author of Enlightened Relationships: Secrets to True Love and Happiness. Visit www.joeelandnatalie.com.