Your Most Important Relationship

To be in a fulfilling relationship with the right partner can be the most

rewarding of human experiences. To share intimate moments, to love and be

loved, to enjoy the whole range of emotions with that person is, I suggest,

the fulfillment of human longing.

How is it then, that happy, fulfilling relationships, that survive the test of

time are rare? Indeed, if we take the most recent of marriage statistics, we

see that at least one in three, in most western cultures, do not survive the

first ten years. There are of course many reasons cited for this, ranging from

the political, economic, etc., to the psychological and spiritual. However, the

major premise of this article is that, though some of the above reasons ma

be contributing factors to the breakdown of any relationship, if one does not

have an emotionally, satisfactory relationship with oneself then any

relationship with another is unlikely to be successful in a truly meaningful


So, how do we choose a partner for ourselves that will minimize the chances

of us being unhappy and emotionally unwell? The first and most important

step is to know ourselves and to ask ourselves “what do we really want, what

do we really need and what are the possibilities of achieving this for

ourselves?” It is important when you do this to concentrate on what you

want, not on what you don’t want. Be clear about what is important for you,

then go for it. Remember, you are the most important person for you, and

you deserve the best.

In my experience, both personally and as a psychotherapist, I have found

that people do know what they want, even though it may take a little time to

get to it. One of the major problems is in learning to open your heart and

your very being to other people. Many people actually believe they are either

worthless, unimportant or that they are in some way undeserving of


Certainly, a person’s self esteem is crucial to a successful, meaningful

relationship of any sort. If you do not believe that you are lovable or likable,

what chance are you giving yourself to find someone to disagree with you on

this point, and even if you do, will you allow yourself to lose the argument?

Perhaps what you may do instead is to compromise what you want from a

relationship and put up with what you don’t want, which is, of course, much

better than being totally rejected, isn’t it?! This process is very common.

People may torment themselves with such destructive belief-systems as “I’m

not important,” “I mustn’t be successful,” “I can’t be myself,” Or even just “I

shouldn’t be here.”

Most of these messages will have come from their families or caretaker

figures, and often even if they’re not unconsciously or consciously obeyed,

the person may follow other destructive well-being, such as feeling that they

have to be perfect, please others, or just not be themselves in order to get

some of their needs met.

This process will have been decided early on as a small child and, of

course,’at that time it may well have been an appropriate response.

However, in adulthood and away from their family system, these behaviours

may well now be destructive to their own well being. So, the solution is to

kick out the old behaviour patterns and re-decide now what is important for

you in the present, not the past. This may well be difficult for you, and I’m

not suggesting it is easy. However, it will be well worthwhile and essential in

the search for emotional happiness.

Other ways people stop themselves getting what they want in a relationship,

is to choose the very person who is the least compatible “How come?” I hear

you saying, “Surely I would not be that naive!”. The truth, as

incomprehensible as it may seem, is that we do actually seek out

unhappiness as well as happiness. Indeed, without being aware of it, from

the initial outset of meeting a person that we love, we are often just as much

attracted to their negative as to their positive attributes. You see, each of us

is driven by unconscious compulsions to repeat our family experiences, even

though in some cases we may honestly be trying to do the opposite. At least

it is familiar and therefore secure in some ways.

For example if, when you were a child, you made a fundamental decision that

you were not okay because you felt unloved and unappreciated and you

believed that other people were better than you, you are very likely, as an

adult, to act out your passive and submissive roles within your relationships.

We can see from this example that people may well operate at a

psychological level from positions which are inappropriate for them in their

present situation and which lead them to actually act out the opposite of

what they really want to do, allowing their unconscious selves to triumph

over their conscious selves in seeking happiness with others. This course of

action allows us to maintain our frame of reference and the way in which we

view the world.

In conclusion, the most important relationship you, will ever make is the

relationship with yourself. To be aware .of your patterns, to take the risk to

step outside them, and to be you, will be the most important steps of your

life. There are no ‘shoulds’ or ‘oughts’ about how to be in any relationship,

and to realise that in your life it is you that is all-important, that you are

likeable and lovable, and special to yourself, is the essential truth. Indeed,

once you take this on board and integrate it into yourself, the world will

become your oyster, and you will realize, as will other people, how lucky they

are to have you in their lives.



I use in my work TA, Gestalt and Integrative Psychotherapy. I work with

individuals, couples and groups, whilst also running a comprehensive TA

training programme at the Manchester Institute for Psychotherapy. I believe

that the relationship between client and therapist is all important on the road

to personal change.

For a consultation phone 0161 862 9456

The Manchester Institute for Psychotherapy

454 Barlow Moor Road


Bob Cooke

Bob Cooke

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Bob Cooke is Psychotherapist, Trainer, Consultant and Supervisor with an international reputation.  In 1987 he founded the Manchester Institute for Psychotherapy (to the present day), of which he is the director. He is also responsible for the Institute’s training programme and oversees trainees from first year to full clinical membership of the UKCP.

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