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Jewish Journal

Striving for Wholeness

by Lia Mandelbaum

July 12, 2010 | 1:12 pm

Photo by Laurel Johnson

For the longest time I was searching for the “perfect relationship.”  She would be my soul mate and my better half.  I would finally feel complete.  Seeking out relationships based on these set of ideals, I found myself getting involved in lustful relationships that would eventually leave me feeling empty. I would get over the initial high of the relationship, and would begin to realize that there was not as deep of a connection between myself and the other person as I had thought. In reality, I didn’t even know them as well as I thought I did.  Sometimes the relationship would seem to exist only within my mind and the reality of the situation was different from what I had initially believed. This was a form of insanity for me, and I repeated the same patterns over and over each time expecting the outcome to be different.  Although I may sound as if I believe my story is unique, I know that this sort of romanticizing is quite common.  Between the movies people see, the television we watch, and the books people read, we have been given some pretty unhealthy ideals of what love is.

When I hear someone speak of their partner as their “better half” it does not sound right to me.  A healthy, loving relationship is when two whole individuals come together, not when people are looking for someone else to complete them.  It took me a while to realize this truth.  I had come to a place in my life where I was able to recognize my pattern with unhealthy relationships and see that this was making my life unmanageable.  I decided that I was going take a break from relationships for a while, get healthy, and spend some time working on myself.  I struggled with old behaviors, but managed to push through them.  One of my favorite quotes by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel that has become my mantra is “Self-respect it the fruit of discipline; the sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no oneself.”  I spent the next 11 months getting to know and respect myself.  I was striving to become a dignified woman who no longer yearned for outside distractions to fill the void I felt inside. 

At the end of the eleven months I had begun to transform into a much more stable and self-confident person, and was blessed to find a healthy relationship.  I could not have the relationship that I have today with myself or anyone else, without having gone through the hard work I did to become a healthier woman.  I have learned that love is not a feeling.  It is an action.  My loving actions help support my partner and we encourage each other to continue to strive to be our highest selves, even if that means that we grow apart.  If I treated my love as a feeling, I would stay in the fear of losing her and would eventually find myself acting in the non-dignified ways that had trapped me for so long.  We are all creative, dynamic, ever-expanding souls whose nature is to grow, and we must embrace this.  As a complete person who is no longer looking for someone else to complete me, I have an obligation to act in healthy and loving ways towards others and myself. 

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