Monica Parikh is a dating coach and the founder of School of Love NYC, a site intended to help people find happy, healthy relationships. Her personal path has been filled with failure (a traumatic divorce) and unusual anecdote (dating 67 of NYC’s most eligible bachelors).
In this series, The Love Trials, Monica pairs her personal insights with positive psychology and spirituality: The series is a collaboration with Aimee Hartstein, an LCSW with 20 years of experience.
Leo Tolstoy once said, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Similarly, happy relationships share a common formula. When each partner works diligently toward their own betterment, the joy in the relationship is doubled. I study happy people and their relationships fervently. Want an inspiring love life? I urge you to consider some of these unconventional choices:
1. Find something you love to do.
Play full out. Life is too short to go to a crappy job. Follow your passion. Practice, practice, practice until you’ve honed your craft. Fulfill your calling in service of others, and you’ll always be in demand. Most importantly, you’ll return home at the end of the day satisfied and happy, which is a great gift to give to the people you love.
The world is endlessly fascinating. The more you explore and talk to people who are “different” from you, the more you realize we’re really the same. We all yearn for love. And grieve its loss. Curiosity, respect, and kindness will draw people to you—and exponentially increase your chances for finding love and a happy relationship.
3. Become financially literate.
If the rent is due and you don’t have money to pay it, you’re going to fight with your beloved. Money woes are the biggest reason people divorce. Work hard and learn to live below your means. Don’t make corporations rich by buying stuff you don’t need. Invest in invaluable experiences (that create lifelong memories) instead.
4. Get a library card.
You are a reflection of the books you read and the media you consume. The public library brings a lifetime’s worth of learning to your home…and doesn’t cost one red cent. Read prolifically. Learn about everything that inspires you. “Renaissance people” (who converse easily on a variety of topics) are endlessly attractive…and tragically in short supply.
5. Learn to cook.
There is real pleasure and art in preparing a home-cooked meal from scratch. Processed food from boxes and cans can never inspire like a summer peach or homemade Moroccan tagine. Retrain your palette. Save money. Trim your waistline. Food is one of life’s greatest aphrodisiacs—the path to nearly everyone’s heart is through their stomach.
6. Make (a few) good friends.
Be choosy about the company you keep. Good friends celebrate your success. They may also save your marriage by giving you needed moral support and perspective when the road gets rocky. Plus, when we fill our emotional needs from a variety of people, we put fewer demands on our partner. Quality people aren’t a dime a dozen. Tend to these relationships diligently and pay back the generosity you’ve received.
7. Get emotionally healthy.
Emotional and mental health require diligent attention. It’s invaluable to learn how to cry, set boundaries, and communicate difficult feelings (without punching below the belt). Emotional health demands that you carry forward the healthy traits you learned from your family while leaving dysfunction behind. As you get healthier, the circle around you will, too. Self-esteem will be the foundation on which you build relationships, making long-term happiness much more likely.
8. Get physically healthy.
Exercise every single day. You will build physical and mental stamina and exorcise the demons of stress and anxiety. Better sex, longer romantic strolls, and energetic sprints with your children await. If you love your family, the best thing you can do is be around for them a long time.
9. Learn to swim upstream.
Successful people use their own intuition—not society’s expectations—as the compass that guides their life. Marriage and children aren’t for everyone. Be true to your own vision, regardless of what others may expect of you.
10. Fall gracefully. Get up courageously.
Life can be tragic. Your biggest heartbreaks may be unexpected and leave you gasping for air. Every tragedy presents a lesson and an opportunity. Train yourself to be optimistic. Find the ways you can grower smarter and stronger. Sit with discomfort and have faith that tomorrow will be easier. Once you learn to surf on the waves of life, you’ll be less likely to throw in the towel when a relationship becomes challenging. And you’ll be more likely to get up and try again when failure seems insurmountable. Your character will be proven in the hardest times, so will yourself toward fortitude even if no one is watching.