In an article from Dr. Margaret Paul from The Elephant Journal, there is a very controversial headline:
If Your Relationship Is Failing, Here’s Why.
Despite the “in your face” headline, Dr. Paul’s article contains a tremendous amount of depth into the reasons of why someone might need relationship help. Surprisingly, much of it had to do with self; specifically, the concept of self-abandonment.
When we enter into a relationship, it can be natural to stop doing things for yourself and to focus on the other person. It can be much easier to deal with the amazing new qualities of another brand new person that has feelings for you.
While this feels great, without a strong self-esteem the potentially toxic feelings you have for yourself can remain hidden underneath the “newness” of the relationship. All the insecurities, the negativity, and the pain you might have felt before you paired up with this person are still there. The longer a relationship goes, the higher the likelihood your partner will begin to see these parts of you.
We all have emotional vulnerabilities and hurt to deal with in our lives. It’s unavoidable and hopefully accepted as simply a part of life. However, you are the only person who can effectively deal with your own pain. It’s not a successful strategy to put your pain onto someone else and expect them to fix it.
Yet this is a tendency that some of us have. As Dr. Paul says in her article, if we haven’t been given the proper coping tools for unpleasant thoughts and feelings, we develop coping mechanisms to avoid them. These mechanisms can be as complex as alcoholism or as simple as watching television. No matter what the societal acceptance is, they are still coping mechanisms.
The more that you inundate yourself with these mechanisms of avoidance, the more you abandoned yourself. In time, this self-abandonment can lend itself to resentment, contempt, and destructive patterns in your relationship.
The more comfortable you get with someone, the more you may unknowingly expect someone else to bring happiness to you. After all, another person can bring so much happiness.
They are not responsible for your personal satisfaction, though.
Tend to the Relationship With Yourself First
If you start a relationship with another person, you cannot forget about the relationship you’re already in: the one with yourself. It can be difficult to truly give yourself love, but this is paramount in healthy relationships. In order to get out of a self-abandoning pattern and displacement of your own emotional responsibility on your partner, it’s important to recommit yourself to your relationship with you.
This means taking proper care of yourself. When you begin to take proper care of yourself, you are more satisfied with yourself. The more satisfied you are with yourself, the more emotional responsibility you “own”. Instead of a relationship built on unhealthy dependency patterns you have a better chance of creating a healthy dependency with your partner, one which allows for intimacy to grow and develop.
Dr. Paul presents a checklist of sorts to help you begin to repair any existing damage. To repair your relationships, you must begin to love yourself wholly. This doesn’t mean just exercising right and eating right. This also means humbling yourself, and acknowledging yourself neither all good nor bad, but as a work in progress.
Judging is a frequent coping mechanism that allows us to label ourselves good or bad. While we may moralize the issue, we can often fail our own critical judge. By rendering a judgment of an action as, “bad,” we can get caught up in the fact that we have done something that is less than.
Try suspending judgment instead; work on placing your actions in perspective. Ask yourself if you’re really satisfied with the choice in terms of your goals in life. How do you feel about your actions? Do you feel your action is okay, but your head is against it? Or is your head okay with the action, but your heart is not? Are you listening to your intuition? This emotional work isn’t always easy; however, it is an important step in not abandoning the self.
Your feelings are valid; when you decide to abandon your feelings, you are not trusting in yourself. In order to move through things you want to change, it’s important to accept that you are feeling for a reason. If it’s anger, sadness, or joy, once you acknowledge that those feelings are real without judgment, you can begin to take greater responsibility for yourself and ultimately the relationship too.
Dr. Paul’s article discusses many different ways that we abandon taking care of ourselves, which can include financially, physically, and organizationally. These are all examples of gardens that need to be carefully tended to. These emotional ecosystem can be delicate and, much like a flower, if not properly nurtured, we will wither away.
Take care of your soul and take care of your heart. You are just as important as anyone else. Treat yourself in the way that you would treat others. When you begin to truly love and honor yourself, your relationships will flourish. Not just your romantic relationships, either, but your relationships with friends and family. When you start getting satisfaction with yourself, from yourself instead of only others, you are on the way to becoming a more complete version of you. Whatever you think loving yourself should look like, I challenge you to double it and see what develops.