If you're like most people, you were fed fairy tales during your childhood and romantic comedies as you grew into adulthood.
These romantic comedies followed the same basic premise: There’s a damsel in distress, she’s in distress because some evil, powerful female figure betrayed or neglected her in some way, and the only person who can save her is a prince on a white horse.
Culturally, we are taught that happiness lies outside of us. We will be happy when we lose 10 pounds, find the perfect job, live in a huge house, drive a fast car, and meet the person who's going to "complete" us.
So, how is all that working out for you? For me, I bought into that myth for most of my childhood and well into my young adulthood. I was a little confounded because my dad seemed to need the attention of many damsels, and my mom was not waiting in a tower for someone to save us. Nonetheless, I believed happiness was something I could attain, as if it were a place where I could sink my flag, if only I worked hard enough and made myself worthy enough to get there.
The reality is, true love and true happiness have to be discovered within us before we can find those people and interests around us that enhance and enrich our joy and before we can offer up the best of ourselves to those we love and to the world at large. When we head into relationships of any kind without a clear sense of who we are, what scares us, where we may have healing to do, and what it is we want to offer this world, we are almost sure to encounter disappointment and confusion.
Of course, we don't control timing and circumstance, and you may find you've met someone amazing before you find that amazingness within yourself. But when at all possible, the best way to avoid the most common trap in any romantic relationship is to work on the one you're having with yourself first.