Do I have to love myself to have a relationship?
You can’t expect someone to love you unless you love yourself first. I hear this statement made many times. But you can't learn to love yourself until you understand yourself first and heal the wounds from your past. If you don't understand yourself and the unhelpful patterns we have adopted, and endlessly repeat.
Because we humans are wired for connection the desire to share our life with someone is normal, and in fact, being in a healthy relationship is good for our health, both emotionally and physical health. Research found that those in a happy marriage live longer than those who aren’t.
It makes sense really, because an unhappy relationship is likely to be stressful, and we know that stress reduces our immune system. Conversely, a healthy relationship boosts our immune system, as it activates endorphins, oxytocin and dopamine. (the Stress-busting hormones).
The biggest stumbling block to finding the right person and that happy relationship lies in past experiences.
It starts with your family and the experiences you had growing up.
Our experiences of relationships are formed by those modelled by others, usually our caregivers. Because that is all we have to go on. Whether it was happy or traumatic, that would have been our norm.
For example, if your mother was controlling (maybe due to unrecognised unhealed wounds in her life) you may have tried to do the right thing so as not to anger her, of provoking discourse, constantly trying to do the right thing to please her. As a result, you are likely to duplicate that behaviour in your life and your romantic relationships.
I use this as an example, as this was my own personal experience.
I felt I was always at fault, and that I was flawed. I always seemed to get things wrong, however hard I tried. But that meant I had to keep on trying to be what I thought she wanted me to be - whatever that was because she wouldn't tell me. That continued in the rest of my life, I felt I needed to be what I thought others wanted me to be, to be accepted.
As a result, I lost my true identity by spending wasted time and energy trying to be what I thought others wanted. I became a people pleaser. At the same time, I was very critical of others too. I wasn't very tolerant.
Effectively, I had taken on my mother’s unhealed wounds.
I had a distorted view of myself and others. I wanted to be loved and accepted, but at the same time, I had adopted my mother's critical, judgmental traits too.
How unhealed wounds affect romantic relationships
You are likely to continue believing that you are unloveable, holding the belief that you pick the bad guys, that all the good guys are taken is so often the pattern that continues, acting out of your awareness, until you start learning about yourself, and how the past patterns have coloured your adult relationships.
The story of one person
One of my beautiful clients came to me, having experienced one disastrous relationship after another. She held the firm belief that she was always drawn to the bad guys, and that was all she deserved.
As a child, her parents divorced, and her father left them all. He used to take her out occasionally but often didn’t turn up. Whereas, he was more reliable with her brother and appeared to have a better relationship with him. Eventually, he stopped taking her out altogether. He remarried and put all his efforts into his new family. This led her to believe that wasn’t acceptable, and that all men behaved in that way to women.
So, she attracted the guys who had no respect for her, and she also played into it, by allowing them to treat her badly. She wanted to be loved so much, she would accept guys on their terms, any terms.
Instead of learning about herself, she launched into one relationship after another. When she found a guy who treated her well, she sabotaged it by ending it, before he did. Because that was what happened - if things were going well, it was too good to be true.
Your past doesn’t have to define your future.
Eventually, she came to me, and together we worked through her past unhealed wounds. Layer upon layer, we gently unpeeled the hurt from her past, and why she kept repeating the same unhealthy patterns. With that understanding, and healing she recognised she didn’t need to continue that same pattern. She realised that she was a truly loveable, worthwhile person, who didn’t have to bend herself out of shape to be loved, as she deserved.
Eventually, she came to me, and together we worked through her past unhealed wounds. Layer upon layer, we gently unpeeled the hurt from her past, and the reasons why she kept repeating the same unhealthy patterns. With that understanding, and taking time to heal herself, she recognised she didn’t need to continue that same pattern. She realised that she was a truly loveable, worthwhile person, who didn’t have to bend herself out of shape to be loved, as she deserved.
As a result, she has been able to let go of those old destructive patterns and is now in a healthy relationship. Of course, they hit bad patches, just as all couples do. But the difference is that they are able to work through them. They are in a healthy relationship, in which they are able, to be honest, and vulnerable. Able to share their fears and work through those difficulties together.
If any of this resounds with you, get in touch - firstname.lastname@example.org