Do You Love Yourself?
I am obsessed with self-love and relationship development books and podcasts. Therefore, some of the books I’ve been reading, re-reading, and listening to all summer long (Hold Me Tight, Sexual Wholeness in Marriage, and The Art of Authenticity) have inspired me to turn a new leaf and stop hinging my happiness in my relationships with my husband, family, and friends on the other person, and start focusing on fulfilling myself so I can fulfill others.
I could seriously talk about self-love all day long because there are so many components to it; self-love applies to every kind of relationship and there is always more to learn. But, for the sake keeping it mildly short I’ll be talking about how it applies to romantic relationships and can be your marriage rescue.
Relationships can be strongest and most empowering when two wholes come together. It seems to be common public wisdom that before we can truly love someone we must love and respect ourselves.
Now, Here’s the Problem
When we don’t love and accept ourselves, we spend too much time hoping someone or something will come along and make us feel better. We become accustomed to relying on others instead of putting ourselves in charge of our own happiness.
Some days I am the queen of relying on something else; I feel unsatisfied with myself and unmotivated and I get so stubborn about it. I complain about how I want to feel better all day long, but I don’t do a thing about it. Putting other people or my circumstances in charge of how I feel about myself wastes way too much of my time and hurts way too many people I love.
Honestly, I let my self-esteem take hits from the most minor of inconveniences. Oh, I said something socially awkward on the first day of class? Consider it internalized. “It’s over for me here, I have to drop the class.” Why?! Because I feel like people can’t know I’m not perfect. I mean, they can, in a general sense, but they can’t actually see me in real life making a mistake that’s way too much for me to handle! Right?
Alright back to my main point – self-love in relationships.
How It Affects Your Relationship
In a relationship, self-discontent and self-rejection can manifest in the forms of over-seeking validation and approval, testing your partner (pushing boundaries and limits), defensiveness, self-abandonment for the sake of appeasing your partner, self-deprecation, and self-sabotaging.
Each of these behaviors can strain relationships because they cause unnecessary heartache and put too much pressure on your partner to fill a void in your soul that only you can fill.
When I was researching the behaviors that accompany feelings of self-discontent and self-rejection, I realized that I am so guilty of seeking Sabe’s approval before I even approve of myself and reacting to his concerns by becoming defensive. I have a hard time saying out loud that I don’t fully accept myself but my actions say it all. If I truly understood my value and I wouldn’t desperately seek for approval and feel like my world is shattering when my husband tells me I’ve done something that upsets him.
I don’t know about you, but I struggle to accept the fact that I cannot actually be perfect, and on the occasions when I come to terms with it, I really, really struggle to accept that this means I am still worthy of love and acceptance.
I fight so hard to get good ratings from the world around me, but I don’t stop to think “What if what I am searching for, I can only give to myself?” And that’s just it. Self-love is when you love yourself. How absolutely crazy is it to think “the only way I will ever accept myself is if I accept myself.” No one else can do this for me.
So, now that we know we are the only ones with the right and responsibility of self-love, these are the 4 reasons I have learned about why self-love and self-respect need to be fundamental parts of a healthy relationship, my “relationship advice” if you will:
1- We Can Be Authentic
Chapter 14: The Emotional Dimension: Authenticity and Differentiation in Sexual Wholeness in Marriage, beautifully explains, “We share our true character in relationships, but we cannot share something we don’t appreciate or have not yet acquired.”
We can’t share something that is not there. In order to get in touch with our true, authentic, self and share that with others, we must first understand, love, and respect who that person is. As we do this, we can get closer to living our most authentic lives.
When we love, accept, and respect ourselves, we can confront our feelings of shame and guilt head on. Loving ourselves does not mean we never feel negatively towards ourselves; it means we are able to be honest and aware of these feelings without concluding that these feelings and our weaknesses make us useless, inferior, and unworthy of love. When we can show up and confront these feelings, our whole, authentic selves can emerge through our honesty and self-worth.
Chapter 14 also shares that “The longer you have gone without being authentic, the harder it may be to start; but once started it gets easier, and the higher levels of honesty are like opening a window and letting fresh air into a room that had been filled with stale and suffocating air. ”
This honesty and authenticity can translate in relationships too. I love the way Silvy Khoucasian, M.A. emphasizes in the Art of Authenticity’s podcast episode “Love with Integrity”, how important it is to just “show up” or be there for your partner with authenticity and vulnerability to create greater intimacy and productive communication.
2- We Can Set Boundaries
If we don’t accept ourselves, we put unrealistic expectations on our partners to fill an empty part of our souls that only we can fill. If we don’t love ourselves, the amount of love and validation our partner gives us will never be enough.
These kinds of expectations break both our own and our partners’ boundaries because those unrealistic expectations send the message that we expect them to give us something they are incapable of giving and can make them feel overwhelmed, unwanted, or unappreciated.
Loving and respecting ourselves does not mean that we won’t have needs in our relationship, because we absolutely do. In Dr. Sue Johnson’s book Hold Me Tight, she explains that it is wrong to assume that as adults we should be entirely self-sufficient.
She’s right guys. We all need to feel loved and connection with our partner. Even the healthiest, most self-accepting person still will depend on their partner to meet certain needs, and will feel pain, anxiety, and shame when their partner neglects or dismisses those needs.
I need to respect and love myself first. This way, I can understand my own boundaries and have the courage to express them, and I can understand how important my husband’s boundaries are to him. If both Sabe and I do this, we can communicate our boundaries, set them place, and honor them.
3- We Can Be Empathetic and Responsive
But being truly authentic and having boundaries does not mean that we should never make sacrifices or bend our ways. If we don’t do this, it will be harder to truly connect with our partners. If we understand the freedom and wholeness we feel when we are authentic and honor our boundaries, we can understand just how important it is for our partner to feel the same way. Sometimes we have to compromise but that doesn’t mean we are abandoning ourselves, not if we do it with self-love.
An important characteristic of a healthy relationship is when both partners needs are considered and met. When I’m not focused on gaining approval and acceptance from Sabe, I find that I become more aware of when he is in need and use that time to focus on him instead of monopolizing it by victimizing myself or becoming defensive. When he tells me that I have done something to hurt him, instead of abandoning my beliefs to dissolve the conflict because I feel uncomfortable, I can be empathetic and focus on addressing his needs and easing his discomfort.
When we can accept that we are an imperfect person who is still worthy of love, it helps us to recognize that our partner is also imperfect yet still valuable and worthy of love. Rather than feeling threatened and becoming defensive when our partners express their needs or concerns, we will be able to feel greater empathy and take a partner-focused approach to our responses.
Instead of making excuses and invalidating our partners’ experience because we feel insecure, we can accept it, appreciate their vulnerability, and express that we care and desire to meet their needs. This amazing piece of advice I learned straight from Silvy Khoucasian, whose discussions about boundaries on her Instagram page have been blowing my mind lately!
4- We Can Deepen Our Connection
When both people in a relationship decide to love, respect, and accept themselves, they don’t have to worry about spending time trying to convince one another that they are worthy of love. When self-love and self-respect are established, partners can focus on deepening their connection and intimacy.
A relationship containing authenticity and respect is a relationship with boundaries. A relationship with boundaries is a relationship with empathy and responsiveness. A relationship with empathy and responsiveness is a relationship that will continue to deepen their connection and intimacy.
In Hold Me Tight, Dr. Johnson makes it clear that it is not immature to rely on others. It is healthy and natural to have the need to connect and feel emotionally safe and secure in those connections.
Self-love does not mean we shouldn’t need anyone but ourselves to be happy, it means that we respect and value ourselves enough to create and maintain healthy relationships where both partners feel emotionally secure.
The fact of the matter is that everyone does, has, and will experience feelings of self-rejection and self-discontent, but our interpretations of those feelings and stories behind them are so complex and unique to us that only we can be the ones to take what we have learned and navigate through it to a place of self-love and self-worth. So, love yourself! And learn what those two words mean and look like to you.
Still have unanswered questions? Good. Me too!
This concept runs so much deeper than psychology has been able to uncover but I think that’s what I love about it and why I can’t stop thinking or writing about it. There is so much more for us to learn and find out how it is meaningful to us.
There are so many amazing resources out there that have helped me better understand the importance of self-love and self-respect in a relationship and I linked a couple throughout the post. I hope you are having a great time following along and learning as we collectively continue to discover the science and art of self-love in healthy relationships!
Sources and Recommendations-
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