Building A Base for Sustainable Happiness

By Blaize Stewart

November 13, 2021



Photo credit: Pexels/Kevin Malik

As I near the end of my twenties and look back at the last decade of my life, I can’t help but smile at the multitude of experiences that have made up the highs and lows of these formative years. To say that my life has not gone according to the plans of my twenty-year-old self would be putting it mildly, but I cannot say I am unhappy to have been led astray from that rigid, ill-fitting outline of expectations and goals.

It’s not to say I have aimlessly floundered about without an idea of how to move forward during this third of my life; I've just learned that plans, while comforting at the moment, rarely come to fruition without some — or significant — alterations. With that understanding came a new approach to life: in order to endure the tumultuous, ceaselessly cresting waves of reality, I needed to develop a safe, self-sustaining harbor of security and contentment within myself.

A multi ethnic man wearing a polo shirt hugs himself while smiling and eyes closed.

While I have applied this philosophy to many aspects of my life, it has been most impactful in an area many seem to consider to be of the utmost importance for a successful existence: romantic relationships. As a bi man from a small, rural Midwestern town, I honestly wasn’t sure what kind of relationship I would have as I looked to the future. I assumed I would eventually follow the same trajectory of many peers from home and marry someone of the opposite sex, buy a home, and start a family, all before hitting the big 3-0. Any later than that, and I would likely be labeled a lamentable bachelor, past my prime and unlikely to find an optimal partner to build a proper life with.

However, as I grew into my own as a man, learning about not just my sexual orientation but also uncovering unrealized dreams and priorities, I decided to concentrate on a different kind of relationship: the one with myself. The siren’s call that drew so many of my friends into partnerships early in life did not hold sway with me; in fact, it made me realize I still had much more to learn about myself before I could ever commit to sharing a life with another.

As a nearly thirty-year-old man without a serious relationship under my belt — I’ve never even uttered the phrase “I love you” in a romantic context — some might consider this to be a failed approach. During some of my lonelier periods, I’ll admit I have been tempted to believe them, especially while seeing so many peers falling into and sustaining loving relationships. But the older I get, the more resolute I am that this was and remains the right approach for me, and probably many others out there who have felt pressured to pursue partnerships before they are ready simply for the sake of alleviating societal pressures. I do not believe romance and companionship will be lacking in my future simply because they have not been a significant part of my past, but I do believe taking the time to build a strong foundation within myself will allow me to find enduring happiness, regardless of whether I remain independent or find a long-term partner.

An attractive man and a woman share an intimate moment in public. Both laugh while she gives him a bite of a snack.
Bigstock/Gustavo Frazao

I do not want or need someone to be my everything; I want and need someone who helps me grow into a better person while complimenting and enhancing my life, just as I do the same for theirs. Should the entirety of someone’s happiness fall solely on my shoulders, I do not think they could bear the weight, regardless of my best efforts, nor would I want to put that pressure on someone who I care greatly about. However, being and/or finding a person who is secure in themselves, can find happiness from within, and has the capacity to spread it to others selflessly sounds like a much more sustainable and enticing approach to life than committing to an all-or-nothing relationship style where happiness, to me, seems like more of a commodity.

The hardest, and to many, most off-putting, part of this philosophy is that I’ve had to let good opportunities pass me by as I prioritized myself over romantic partnerships. While not ideal, I knew I could not do the relationship-building work required for two when the development within myself was still so incomplete. Some choose to and succeed in growing together, but for me, that simply wasn’t an option.

I’m not saying I will ever be done growing and learning new things about myself, but by taking the time to build a solid foundation within, I now have the strength to either support and sustain a long-term relationship or happily live out my days as a single man. No one can predict where love will take you, but now that I feel secure and grounded from within, I can finally allow myself to be fearlessly swept away by love, should the opportunity present itself, in a way that I have never been before.

An asian man with long hair smiles as he holds his cards in front of him.
Pexels/Kevin Malik


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