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Relationship: Couplemania

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I have been diagnosed with "couplemania."

Yes, the fact that I believe in relationships and have the unmitigated gall to write about how to make them a little better apparently means I am preaching an agenda that, according to one comment on my Psychology Today blog, is ignoring 50 percent of the population: those who are not in relationships.

It seems that everyone must have an ax to grind about something, but, really, being anti-relationship makes little sense. After all, where would you be without your parents' relationship? You wouldn't. No matter how dysfunctional, relationships are responsible for all of us even being here.

Yes, I admit that, personally and professionally, I am pro-relationship. When couples come to me for relationship counseling, I tell them that my fidelity is not to either one of them as individuals, but to their partnership (unless I see abuse).

I suppose there will always be people who are anti-relationship and, with what I've seen over the past couple of decades, I can understand choosing aloneness over pain. I've been there in that place where the idea of being happy with another person seemed an impossibility. But it's not true.

The vast majority of couples I work with make it. In fact, most couples who work at their relationships make it. Problem is, many people don't know how, so they bump along, hurting and getting hurt until the resentments are impossible to let go of, and so they break up. I think there's a better way to go through life.

Most everyone has made the mistake of picking the wrong person. Add to that those of us who have stayed when we should have gone our separate ways years ago, and you have a ton of people who understandably are gun-shy. However, I don't think that giving up on something that makes life tolerable is sensible.

If you've been hurt, you should pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start again. But this time, do it smarter. Don't settle. Ask enough questions. Have your new honey vetted by those you trust. But don't give up, because if you do, you're actually giving up on the idea of loving yourself.

Holding yourself away for a while can be good for the soul. But hardening yourself against the idea of relationships in general will only make your life more difficult. Letting go of whatever emotional baggage you're carrying will enhance your life and allow you to more easily move on.

A good relationship isn't going to change the state of the economy, stop any wars or even give you your health back. It does allow you to share your time on the planet with someone who validates your existence and makes you feel loved.

I don't know about you, but without feeling the love and the happiness that comes with it, I'd be a misanthrope, too.

Barton Goldsmith, a psychotherapist in Westlake Village, Calif., is the author, most recently, of "100 Ways to Boost Your Self-Confidence: Believe in Yourself and Others Will Too." E-mail him at Barton@BartonGoldsmith.com