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Love me to love you

“Your relationship with yourself sets the tone for every other relationship you have.” – Robert Holden

 

You’re not smart enough to attract someone like that, not pretty enough to get the guy or gal, not funny enough to keep them interested. Truthfully speaking, have you ever told yourself these things when looking for a romantic partner? Where did these thoughts come from? The simple answer is: everywhere. The kind of environment you were raised in, the people you were surrounded by, the messages that you were exposed to on tv or media, you’ve heard these voices inside so often from a young age that they simply became “truths” that you came to believe in. Unfortunately, they’ve now manifested into adulthood and seeped into all areas of your life.


Now here’s a question. What happens if we carry all these unaddressed beliefs from childhood into our relationships? How many of us have ever had a relationship where you knew you were settling for less, found yourself constantly giving and not getting enough back, seeking external validation from your partner, working yourself tirelessly to make the relationship work only to find that you no longer recognized who you’ve become? I know I have and this isn’t something unique at all.


We all desire a happy and healthy relationship with our partner yet only a few manage to obtain it. Many, who remain unaware of the role their self perception plays, often feel unfulfilled in their relationship, struggle with trust issues, become codependent on their partners, and set unattainable relationship expectations.


First of all, the inability to trust is a surefire relationship killer. In my personal case, my cautious habits, fueled by my suspicion of anything that looked amiss, led to many failed relationships. At the beginning of my current relationship, I was hypersensitive to misinformation and constantly accused my partner of lying. It shouldn't come as a surprise then that my relationship was quite erratic and tense, to say the least.


It wasn’t until I became aware of the fact that I had illogically assumed that all people were going to betray my trust based mainly on my experience of my father’s suicide and the efforts my mother took to keep the truth of his death from me. By revisiting this belief in adulthood, I came to understand, forgive, and accept my mother and father for what they did. It made me realize how limiting it was to believe that all people were out to get me. So slowly but surely, I began to release myself from the chains of distrust and find the courage to voice my insecurities to my partner whenever I became anxious.


Another relationship killer is an unhealthy codependency. Like many in the LGBTQ+ community, I grew up with a lot of shame and self-hate toward who I was. Once I escaped to Japan, I spent most of my time searching for someone who could accept and love me for who I was. This is when the alarm should be going off in one’s head. Unfortunately, I couldn’t hear them over the salivating hunger for love that ran through my veins. I grabbed onto the first person who showed interest in me and like a starving animal, craved for their undivided attention and care. Obviously, the relationship went down the drain really quick. When I became aware of my need for love, I realized that no one would or could ever give me what it is that I wanted. It had to start from within.


Therein, bringing me to a final example. Relationship expectations. I was driven by the idea that relationships simply happened. Media does a great job implanting stories of happily-ever-afters and smooth-sailing, rainbows and butterfly stories of love. In hindsight, I’m very grateful that my current relationship was a contradiction of all that. We were not two perfect puzzle pieces that fit together from the start. If anything, we were more like raging alpha hippos fighting for territory. I had no idea why we were clashing so much nor did I know what would fix it. I just knew that everything she did was “wrong”. How unfair was I? I couldn’t communicate what it was that I wanted, but why couldn’t she just read my mind and uncover my deepest desires? When I stopped and realized about how absurd that was, I came to realize my role in the relationship’s decline. And it's always a team effort.


The relationship that we have with our romantic partner is but a mirror of the relationship we have with ourselves.


When you become aware, accepting and self-loving, you relinquish the dependence you have on your partner to provide you with unconditional love and acceptance. You become aware of your needs and therefore, are able to address them yourself or, if you choose, to communicate them to your partner. Finally, by being more self-loving and less self-sacrificing, you’ll learn what you can and cannot tolerate in your relationship, thereby creating the relationship that you are most comfortable with.


So, if you’re dissatisfied in your relationship now, do not fret. The good news is that you can always choose to create a happier and healthier relationship, by starting with yourself.



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