I have heard too many people—mostly cisgender men—say that their partners make them better. That’s a lot of pressure and unnecessary responsibility on the person “making” someone else an enhanced version of their baseline. Finding someone to make us better or who holds us accountable shouldn’t be the goal. We don’t need others to complete us either. We should be decent people on our own without someone handholding our way through etiquette lessons.
And if The Missing Piece taught us anything, it’s that we need to find a way to be whole on our own before we can truly benefit from a partnership. I am not saying we don’t need other people, romantically or otherwise, because we do; companionship, love, and support from others are essential in life. Those relationships make living and our experiences better. However, don’t look for a partner who makes you better; that work has to come from within. Instead, look for a partner who will boost your confidence.
Because of past trauma, when I walk into a room, I scan it for threats and exits. My intuition is working hard to tell me if I am emotionally and physically safe in my surroundings. My anxiety often tells me I am not. My gut isn’t quite sure. I remind myself that feeling uncomfortable is not the same as being unsafe. People tell me I am one of the strongest and most courageous humans they know, and my partner agrees. I’m not so sure.
But I turn on the charm, flash a smile, and find connections with people in the rooms I occupy. My interactions are not insincere, but I struggle with the belief that I am likeable, smart, and desirable to be around. I may carry a bit of swag, but imposter syndrome and body dysphoria eat away at my poise. It’s exhausting to jump through mental hoops to convince myself I am worth taking up space, but it is absolutely depleting to do this when I don’t fit society’s gender expectations. Being nonbinary means I am never sure when I will be misgendered, but I know it will happen. That knowledge makes me feel guilty at times for being “different” or “too much.” My bravery goes out of the window.
I don’t need to be better or have a partner who finds ways to fix me; I need better scaffolding. I found a person who keeps me upright and shows me my own courage when all I can do on some days is show up. She holds out her hands as if they contain a pool of liquid that reflects her vision of me so that when I look at myself I can see it too.
Find someone who is sure of your value when you aren’t sure about yourself, because even the best of us need support when it comes to being daring and confident. If my partner is with me, her presence gives me a boost. I know she will correct people when they get my pronouns wrong. She always laughs at my jokes. And if a server or stranger refers to both of us as “ladies” she quickly turns to me and tells me I don’t look anything like a lady. Unfortunately, we are not together enough because we are navigating a long distance relationship that has 1,400 miles between us. I still benefit from her injections of confidence though. Multiple video chats a day and endless words through text keep us connected, and nothing is left unsaid.
She can see doubt in my face even when I don’t want to admit that it’s there, running cycles around my mind and causing hesitation. My partner doesn’t offer false or hollow compliments, nor do I want them. But she does affirm me.
My partner also gives me the sense I can do anything, even when uncertainty and dysphoria get in the way of my general sense of confidence. She spares the bullshit and is able to talk me through moments of being overwhelmed while helping me make a plan to meet my goals. She acknowledges my fears and reminds me of ways I have overcome them in the past. Even if it takes rehashing past experiences or creating vision boards to get to a new reality, my partner will bullet point our way through possible scenarios.
Find a partner who will actually listen to and hear you. Find someone who will help you sit with an idea or moment of being uncomfortable. It doesn’t do me or anyone else any good to simply brush off someone’s feelings or insecurities just because we know their brain is being a dick. All feelings are valid, even the douchey ones, but having a partner who can help throw truth at them instead of throwing them in a box means the negativity floats away instead of turning into shame.
It’s not that my partner convinces me that I won’t fail or that I am always right. We both know these are impossibilities, and to believe them would be a form of self-harm and internal gaslighting. The beauty of finding a partner who gives you confidence is that they do so by trusting you in a way that lets you know they will support you through success or failure. A partner who gives you confidence allows you to dream big too. No spark of creativity or pie-in-the-sky dream is too crazy. Find a partner who encourages you to prove everyone wrong because the two of you already know the truth.
When I am not sure about myself, my partner is always sure of my worth, and that is the stuff we need in a relationship.