Seeking Fulfillment from Others

by eric grimstead

Valentine’s Day happened…so how was yours?

I realize it was a tough day for many. Yours truly included…

My hope is that this post can serve as encouragement for some, and a wake up call for others.

You see, I have single friends (and family) who seem to desperately want to find a partner who appreciates their good traits, can see past their flaws & the baggage of the past, and with whom they can share a life with.

Sadly, I have married friends who might echo the exact same sentiments.

Perhaps we have all felt the same twinge at some point in time: a desire for a deep connection, a hope that another person will just get us for who we are and want an intimate relationship with us regardless of our warts and all.

The older I get the more I believe this is a flawed fantasy that is destroying people, and particularly marriages…this idea being that if we could just find this one person and connect with them, THEN we’d be satisfied, happy and blissfully fulfilled.

To be frank, I think that idea is bullshit.

What if instead of seeking fulfillment and gratification from others, we realize and embrace the notion that all we need for happiness, contentment and fulfillment is within us by the grace of the God who created us?

For those of us who are married, what if the idea of finding the ideal romantic partner who is perfect, and who fills our every need, is just a fantasy that is silently killing us and our marriages?

What I’ve noticed is that life, and particularly married life, is not a never-ending honeymoon even for the most ‘perfect’ of couples, and that any long-term relationship contains a fair amount of struggle.

When I find myself going through a tough time, I’m forever thankful that my parents modeled for me what true, unconditional love looks like. Have I always been perfect at showing that type of unconditional love to those around me? No. But my goal is to get better each day.

I am beginning to realize that the fulfillment we get in life ends up (mostly) not coming from the other people, but from ourselves.

What would it be like then if we let go of this fantasy of a fulfilling partner, this fantasy of a better future being found in what seems like greener pastures… and instead focused on finding fulfillment in the here and now, within ourselves and within our current circumstances?

So Where Can We Find Fulfillment

Sadly, the more marriages I see suffer from infidelity and broken trust…the more I’m convinced…another person isn’t going to fulfill us completely — at best, they’ll make us feel better about ourselves and maybe even listen to us.

The listening part can be intoxicating, but we can get that from true friends, or our family…or a therapist for f’s sake.

The feeling better about ourselves and the situation we find ourselves in is a function we can fulfill on our own. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying a lifelong partner is useless, but I am saying that a partner isn’t needed for fulfillment…this is my encouragement for my single friends and family members.

The danger, particularly for married folks, is that it is so easy for someone else, other than your spouse, to step in and appear to meet this need for fulfillment.

And that my friends is a slippery slope that will more often than not end in complete disaster, broken hearts and broken families. My hope with this post is to shake some sense into people that ever find themselves in such a situation and think that they can find fulfillment in someone else.

So how can we fulfill ourselves, by ourselves?

Well, what brings you fulfillment?

In my experience, focusing on what seem to be comfort pleasures like food, entertainment, online distractions like porn or flirting with exes on Facebook, sex, drugs, alcohol and cheap thrills … these only bring temporary pleasure, but in the end you’re left wanting more.

And  as you pursue more…those you destroy from the fallout of the above suffer needlessly.

Now, if you’re a sadist looking to inflict pain on those around you who love you in spite of your flaws but you feel that you’re entitled to do whatever you want without impunity…good luck with that.

But if you want to find the kind of fulfillment that comes from something deeper — like finding meaning in life (or your true calling), finding appreciation for the transient beauty of every little moment, being in service of others, loving those you’re with…I encourage you to look inward, and upward.

Pray. Meditate. Be Still. Smile.

I believe we can find meaning by searching our own souls and observing the world around us while appreciating the beauty of the moment and the brokenness of others.

We can start by appreciating the imperfection in those close to us and at the same time embrace the joyful memory making moments that are around us all the time.

We can be of service to others in our community.

We can love anyone unconditionally, from those already in our lives (even if they are not perfect) to strangers you pass on the street.

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