I’m sure you know the expression, You need to love yourself before you can love someone else. To that, I would add, You need to think someone else can love you before you feel loved. This is my ultimate struggle. I grew up with the phrase “You aren’t worth the powder it would take to blast you to hell” being spoken by my father on a consistent basis, engraining into my quickly developing neural pathways that this was the subconscience thought I should have regularly.
But the above pieces of advice offer some wisdom worth thinking more about. They suggest that being in a loving relationship is based on both your relationship with yourself and your ideas of whether someone else can really be there for you.
I have truly struggled with this my entire life. I have sabatoged relationships and in the process of destroying them, looked at myself and thought “Now, that is what you deserve. That is what you are worth.”
I am learning that if you feel that you are a lovable person, then you also feel secure in yourself. You know deep in your heart that you bring something special to relationships and are worthy of being treasured. Unfortunately, if you carry a sense within you that you are somehow essentially flawed and unworthy of love, then you will also struggle with your relationships; especially romantic ones. To at least some degree, you will probably look to your spouse to assure you that you have value. But this can put you in a bind. If he/she expresses love and caring, it won’t feel right because it doesn’t fit with what you think about yourself. (This reminds me of the old Groucho Marx remark: I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.) On the other hand, if they are unsupportive or unavailable in any way, you will probably feel rejected, abandoned, or deeply hurt. So, getting your spouse’s love and acceptance can become a full-time occupation.
When thinking about whether you can depend on your spouse being there for you, you will fall back on your bias of whether you believe that people can be reliably accepting and supportive. If you instinctively trust that your spouse CAN be relied upon, then you are likely to be more open to being close and vulnerable and to depending on them. If your experience has taught you not to trust people with your emotions (that they will not care, won’t get you, or will betray you), then you will likely keep your emotional distance. You will tend to value being independent and self-sufficient. These can be wonderful qualities, but they make it difficult to have close, committed relationships.
There are, of course, many factors that affect marriage, such as physical attraction and how well your interests compliment each other. But these other influences are secondary in determining how well you can connect. The more open you are to loving yourself and to the possibility that someone else can truly love you, the happier you will be with your spouse.
I am discovering the path to learning to love myself. Against everything my brain has been telling me for years, it isn’t about DOING MORE. I don’t have to keep a cleaner house, work more hours, spend more time with the kids, have more sex, do more extracurricular activities in order to be loveable. I don’t have to BE LESS either. I don’t have to be less touchy, less communicative, less clingy, less paranoid/anxious…
What I need to love myself and discover that I can be loved is the knowledge (head and heart) of how much I am already loved. I was loved enough that my God sent his ONLY son to DIE so that he could look at me and have relationship with me (John 3:16 Shannon style). I can’t imagine taking my son, my one out of three children, my precious baby boy, and offering him to someone in order to save someone else’s life or another relationship. Even the thought of giving him away hurts to much to fathom, but my Heavenly Father wanted to hang out with me so badly that he was willing to let his ONLY son DIE for our relationship. The depth of that kind of love is unfathomable to me….
But the more I get to know my Father who IS love, the more I get to know the me that is LOVEABLE. And that is a journey that I am willing to venture on.