In a healthy relationship, we are accepted and valued for who we are by someone who is honest enough to see our faults but who focuses mainly on the good in us-on what we’re doing right. But this, too, is a gift we must first give to ourselves. In relationships, like attracts like. If we’re feeling insecure and needy, that’s the type of person we draw into our lives. On the other hand, if we feel nurtured, valued and worthwhile, because we are nurturing and valuing ourselves, then, again, like a magnet, we draw into our lives people who also feel nurtured, valued and secure.

Ultimately, what matters most about other people is not how they feel about you, but how they feel about themselves. If they think well of themselves, they’re going to think well of others, including you. If they treat themselves well, that is how they will also treat others, including you.

The secret of a successful relationship, in other words, is for each partner to take good care of himself or herself instead of expecting to be taken care of by a mate. Thus, it is very important to encourage the important people in your life to nurture themselves, just as you must nurture yourself.

Of course, it is inevitable that, at times, two people’s self-nurturing will conflict. Often, in such cases, the best way to avoid more serious conflict in the future is to honor your own needs at the moment.

Let’s say, for example, that it is a Saturday afternoon and you really want to visit a salon or spa, but your partner wants you to spend time alone with him or her. If you defer to their wishes when you really need this time for yourself, you are going to feel a little tinge of resentment toward them that you may take out on them later. And because you did not have the courage, honesty and clarity to do what is best for you, you will also feel resentment toward yourself.

If, on the other hand, you honor your own needs instead of your partner’s, they may be annoyed at first. But when you return home feeling relaxed and refreshed, they will realize that they, too, benefits from your self-nurturing, because at that point, you’re going to behave much more affectionately towards them.

This is also why it is important to let your partner in your life take care of their needs too...even when those needs conflict with your need for their attention. In situations like this, develop the ability to do the opposite of what your impulses tell you to do. If you want to get.....give. Give them the freedom to do what they want, and give yourself the attention you need.

Reward them with a smile or a hug to show that you really do care about their happiness as well as your own. When you give with a genuine heart, they can only respond in kind by wanting to show you more attention and affection. On the other hand, if you demand their attention, sooner or later they’ll find some way to express the annoyance they feel towards you and towards themselves. It works both ways. Only two people who are able to nurture themselves can possible nurture each other.

We all have fantasies about what it means to be truly loved, and we tend to measure our partner’s performance against these impossible ideals. But reality can never live up to fantasy. And focusing on the need to be truly loved only causes us to feel unloved, because nobody can ever live up to our impossible dreams. If you remember nothing else, then, remember this: Much more important than being loved is being loving. This means loving yourself as well as others. For the most important relationship you will ever have is the one you have right now with yourself.

On commercial airlines, adults who are traveling with children are always instructed that, in the event of an emergency, they are to put on their own oxygen masks first...so they will remain alert and able to help their child.

Too many good, well-intentioned people spend their days always putting the oxygen mask on the other person first.

To lead a balanced, fulfilling life, you must take care of yourself as well, and as often, as you take care of others. Your own health and happiness, and the health and happiness of every other relationship in your life, depends on it.