Monday, February 14, 2011
"S/he Does Not Love Me for Who I Am...but Only for What I Do for him/her..." 5 Relationship Love Myths that Can Break You
Just in time for Valentine's Day! And of course, served up with my usual suggestion that talking helps. It's useful to take a deeper look at why we believe what we do about love and companionship and what it takes to create and enjoy good loving relationships.
Sometimes our beliefs are well grounded and supported by experience. And sometimes, it only seems that way. And they lead to decisions that may not always yield good results. Sometimes, beliefs seem to be supported by facts, but actually, they are myths so embedded in the psyche, that they lead folks down a rocky road. So here are a few of the more common ones....let me know what you think.
Myth #1: S/he does not love me for who I am, but only for what I do for him/her. Okay, I do hear this more from women than from men, but it still derails many a good relationship. The truth is, I think, that we do love our partners both for who they are and for what they do for us. But when we somehow feel used, or unappreciated or are living with unresolved anger or frustration, we feel unloved. And we start to gather evidence for this. And then we decide that it's true. S/he does not love us. Or we decide that our partner is not capable of real love, or that we are not lovable. This myth can be toxic to relationships, and this leads to the next myth (and vice verse):
Myth #2 I do not have to tell my partner with words that I love him/her or show him/her with gestures. They should know. Or they do know. Or s/he is so confident, independent, happy, etc., I really don't have to say or do much. Now, most folks say, when they hear this, "of course, I know I should say it more, or show it more, but its not really that important." The fact is, that most of us need to hear the words and see some evidence on a regular (daily) basis. Bring home his/her favorite dessert. Shovel the sidewalk when she asks. Call often. Order tickets to his favorite sporting event. Buy flowers. Clean up a room. Plan something fun. Whatever s/he says will make him/her feel loved, don't analyze it, just say it and do it. Regularly.
Myth #3 Its fine to tell my partner what is wrong with them and how their family of origin contributed to their personality and character, hang-ups and issues. This does not bother him/her Fact: You may have a lot of insight, and in fact, you may very well be right. And of course, when someone wants to, studying family of origin stuff can really help people to learn more about what has shaped them and if and how they might like to shift things. But telling your spouse what's wrong with him/her and how his/her family caused this is most likely to land wrong and be hurtful. I am definitely a believer in being gently curious about this in therapy, but it often pierces like little bullets when said outside the therapy room. Its one thing to understand your spouse's history, and that may even be helpful to your relationship, but telling him/her what's wrong with their family usually causes a rip, even when they know you are right.
Myth #4 If I have to tell or teach him/her what makes me feel loved, then they don't really love me.
Myth #5 If they don't catch on right away, remember, or if I have to repeat it a lot, then they really don't love me.
I know that if you are in emotional pain, especially from extreme frustration, or have been feeling neglected and disappointed for a long time, its hard to be willing to consider that your beliefs about love may really be myths. Of course, there are times when we don't get what we need and we believe we never will and we decide its time to make a change. But I really encourage taking a look at what keeps you attached to your beliefs. Its often worth considering, even when you think these myths are not operating in your relationship. It's so human to want to make sure we are loved, to feel and believe we are loved. Even in the best of relationships, doubt can nudge at us. Its so worthwhile to take a look at what scares us and what reassures us, and weed out the myths.