While many of your difficulties in love are not really your fault (poor role models, dysfunctional patterns in your family growing up, etc.), it is your responsibility to move beyond them. The good news is that you can absolutely get past those old patterns in love and attract someone who will meet you on even ground and become the romantic partner you’ve always dreamed of having. The only hard part is that no one else is coming to make this situation better for you, and it is up to you to invest in doing the necessary work.
Why some people find love and others don’t has nothing to do with fate or worthiness but whether one has identified and cultivated the capacities that support happy, healthy, real love to flourish and thrive. The best place to begin creating a very different kind of relationship than any you’ve had in your past, is in your own relationship with yourself.
Any relationship you’ll ever have is only going to be as good as the relationship you have with yourself. And those places where you have problems relating to yourself will also be troublesome in creating a relationship with someone else. For instance, if you’re constantly making yourself wrong, you’ll find that eventually others will be more than happy for you to take the blame for everything going wrong between you. If you chronically berate yourself and speak in disrespectful ways to yourself and about yourself, you will exert an almost magnetic pull on even the most loving people around you to begin doing the same.
Some of these patterns might not show up immediately, but eventually they will. And when they do, you’ll be startled. You’ll wonder, how did I create another relationship with my critical father? How did I get into bed yet again with someone who is always making me wrong just like my mom? Yet, it’s not really your mother or your father. They may have treated you that way 20, 30, even 40 years ago, but actually it’s you who has been treating yourself the same way ever since.
Inside of not evolving that dynamic in your own relationship with yourself (which we will often not do when stuck in blaming our parents to the point where we are not taking responsibility for the choices we are making to perpetuate the same dynamic with ourselves), you will have a tendency to duplicate your old painful patterns in love again and again and again.
The way you can begin to make great progress in your relationship with yourself is to make a deep commitment to recognize and stand for your own value and worthiness to love and be loved.
Make a promise to yourself to do whatever it takes…to go the extra mile in your efforts to become the man or woman you’d need to be in order to prepare yourself to have authentic love in your life.
Your commitment to yourself needs to then begin showing up in your actions…
Are they reflective of your commitment to have a great love in your life?
Are you living in integrity with that vision?
Are you taking the risk to show up in ways that are generative of the life you’re committed to creating?
To support you in your budding commitment towards self-love, let me explain where most people tend to get stuck: It’s often in learning how to connect with and honor our own feelings and needs. Most of us were not taught how to check in with ourselves so we could learn to be aware and respectful of our own needs and desires. Some of us were even trained out of having our feelings and asserting our needs in ways that would have created healthy dynamics of mutuality, depth, understanding and authentic care. Yet these skills of self-awareness and self-care are foundational to being able to set clear, healthy boundaries that allow a relationship to flourish.
I’m not talking about walls here. Walls don’t let anybody else in. Boundaries, however, are fluid and allow us to be clear with others about what we can do, and what we can’t do, what we want and what we don’t want. They allow us to say no when something doesn’t feel aligned with our own well-being or integrity, and to say yes to those things that do. And, contrary to our fear that if we don’t give someone else everything they want from us, they might leave, boundaries actually serve to make our container of love stronger.
For good boundaries, the ability to recognize yourself as a separate autonomous individual who is holding ultimate responsibility for your own happiness in life, is necessary in order to create a healthy, happy relationship with another human being.
A wonderful way to begin practicing honoring your own feelings and needs and setting good, healthy boundaries is to ask yourself in any given moment, “Where is my attention?” Most of us have our first attention on others and are more aware of the feelings and needs of others than we are of our own feelings and needs. This is the core of co-dependence and will create toxicity in relationships over time. For example, have you ever felt yourself merge so much with another that you became unable to differentiate their emotions and needs from your own? Have you ever believed that things would get better and that the relationship would succeed if you could just give more and step so fully into the other person’s shoes that you could entirely understand them? Have you ever found yourself disappearing your own feelings and needs in order to care for the feelings and needs of someone else? Many of us have. And it’s a misunderstanding of what mature love really is.
And so, in taking a stand to create happy, healthy love, you want to identify the growth and development you must begin to engage now in preparation for having this love. This particular practice is learning how to keep your first attention on yourself while also being sensitive and available to care for the feelings and needs of others.
For many of us, this is a real evolutionary edge, for we have only before known either self-abandonment or self-absorption! But true love will require more of us. And our task in making a commitment to call in great love is to become a great lover. A lover of maturity and depth who has cultivated the capacity to show up as a grown-up in order to co-create a grown-up love. Commit to your own evolution in love…and your beloved cannot help but follow.
Katherine Woodward Thomas, MA, MFT is the national bestselling author of Calling in “The One.” She is a licensed psychotherapist and creator of the Calling in “The One” 7-week Interactive Online Course, which has supported many thousands of people around the globe in finding their soulmate. She is a creative and inspired transformative educator with over 20 years experience designing and facilitating leading-edge seminars that support the emergence of life-altering shifts in consciousness both in individuals and in groups.