What Would Happen If You Assumed You Are Loveable?

teddy bear

We all start out being dependent on someone for love, needing to get love to survive.  Then, in the process of growing up, new needs emerge—-the foremost of which is to feel lovable, independent of other people’s judgments.

We feel a need to rediscover our separate self, our likeable, huggable, lovable self.  But how does someone who has only received conditional love begin to feel lovable?  It seems impossible for someone who never got unconditional love to be able to give unconditional love, to one’s self or to others.

From birth, we are all needing love and giving love1.  We are not just empty shells waiting to be filled.  There is love within us from the moment we enter the world.  We do need love from others, but not to fill us.  Rather, we need a special kind of love to uncover the love within that was always there.2

Love Yourself Unconditionally

You can’t fully love another person until you fully love yourself.3 So how do you do this?  You have to stop judging yourself.  And stop seeking other’s approval of you.  Instead of judging parts of yourself as good or bad, you can see yourself as just a unique human with weaknesses and strengths. You are loveable because you are this unique person, this whole and real person.  What is it that you, specifically, don’t accept about yourself?  Try this short assessment by filling in the rest of each sentence.

  • I regret …
  • I failed to…
  • I shouldn’t have…
  • I wish I were….
  • I need….
  • People would say I am….
  • I am…
  • I am proud of…
  • If only….

Do some of your responses indicate you regard yourself as only conditionally acceptable?  Are you starting to realize how harshly you judge yourself and how much you rely on the approval of others?  Can you change your negatively biased self-referencing beliefs to more helpful ones?

For example, can you tell yourself you did the best you could do at the time and forgive your mistakes?  Instead of dwelling on the past, can you pull your mind back into the present? When you let your mind go back into the past you see yourself as you were in the past and discount who you are now, in the present.

Can you accept that you do have some weaknesses but those are what make you a unique person so you don’t have to hide nor become defensive about them?  Each of us is a unique individual, with our own set of strengths and weaknesses.  That does not make us better than nor less than another person—just different—and we are usually loved for that difference.

Can you accept yourself just as you are now, unconditionally, free of any qualifications, and show that vulnerable self to your loved one?  Being vulnerable means willing to be open to yourself and to your partner.  If you look back at your responses to the above questions you might see what you are defending against when you respond to your partner.  You may assume that you should not let your partner see those weaknesses because then you wouldn’t be loved.  Yet, to have a lasting love, you must trust that your partner’s love for you will not be affected negatively when you reveal your vulnerabilities.4 The irony is that, if you tell your partner about your weaknesses directly, you will find that your partner will usually feel much closer to you.

Can you see yourself as having a lot of love inside to give your partner because you no longer judge yourself so harshly?  Then you have developed compassion towards yourself that spills out as compassion towards your partner (and, quite possibility, towards everyone).

See Yourself as Separate from Your Partner

Can you see yourself as separate from your partner with your own strengths and weaknesses?  This view of yourself is crucial because you may not always have your partner to supply what you don’t supply for yourself. So many of us separate or are forcefully separated from our partner before we have had a chance to develop a separate sense of self. Then the struggle is all the harder, but we can still find the love that helps us grow. This love is within ourselves.

When you see yourself as a lovable and loving person separate from your partner, you have the basis for developing a relationship that is no longer based on dependency nor isolated independency. You are more interested in giving love than in getting love.  Each of you give love and receive love but you are not desperately needing to get love from each other. You now have a relationship based on interdependency—two people who see themselves as existing separately and together.

  1. Cozolino, L. (2014). The neuroscience of human relationships: Attachment and the developing social brain (Norton Series on Interpersonal Neurobiology). WW Norton & Company. pp. 97-98.
  2. Rogers, C. R. (1951). Client-Centered therapy. Houghton Mifflin. pp. 137-142.
  3. Fromm, E. (1956. The art of loving. New York, NY: Harper Colophon.
  4. Kernberg, O. F. (1984). Object relations theory and clinical psychoanalysis. New York: Jason Aronson. pp. 185-240.

 

What Makes Love Last?

Bev and Dick 2017 (3)

As my husband and I are celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary I started to wonder what has caused not just our relationship but our love to last.

 The number one ingredient has been acceptance, which comes from not criticizing each other and valuing each other’s uniqueness. 

The second ingredient is being able to empathize and telling each other that we do understand the other’s perspective.

The third ingredient is letting each other know, every day in many different ways, how much we appreciate each other.

Of course, it probably helped that we also have some qualities in common, a curious intellect and an adventurous spirit.  And we learned the importance of acceptance, empathy, and appreciation early in our relationship.

“Well”, you may ask, “are those ingredients unique to my relationship or is there some scientific evidence that supports their importance in any loving relationship?”  The first two ingredients were demonstrated in the research of Carl Rogers.1   Appreciation, or gratitude, also has been shown to help love last.2

 

  1. Rogers, C. R. (1961). On becoming a person Boston. MA: Houghton Mifflin, pp. 342-344.
  2. Algoe, S. B., Haidt, J., & Gable, S. L. (2008). Beyond reciprocity: Gratitude and relationships in everyday life. Emotion, 8, 425–429.

What the World Needs Now

world and heart

Love is what the world needs now.  But can we love someone who thinks differently, acts differently, and looks different?  There is a way to do this and it is called “empathy”. 

To have empathy for another person means setting aside our evaluations of that person.  Then we actively listen to the other person’s thoughts and feelings and acknowledge we heard them.1  That doesn’t mean we agree with the other person, just that we understand where that person is coming from and tell that person that we do.

When we are viewing another person with empathy, we have momentarily let go of our defenses.  And when we acknowledge the other person’s thoughts and feelings it disarms him/her.  Defenses are not needed by either party, so better communication and cooperation can emerge.

A loving empathy has been used even to defuse conflict between groups of people.2 The surprising fact is that both parties do not have to show empathy initially.  It only takes one person or group to start the process of empathic communication.  And then empathy begets empathy.3

Through empathy, then, we have the power to connect with others at a level that is deeper than attitudes.  We connect through acknowledging our common human needs and fears. 

The empathic approach to relationships is backed by evidence that it works—it works to neutralize power differences and tensions.4 Empathy is a viable alternative to our present way of seizing and using power.  It is a quiet revolution.5

References

  1. Rogers, C. (1957). The necessary and sufficient conditions of therapeutic personality change. Journal of Consulting Psychology 21, 95-103.
  2. Rogers, C., and Sanford, R. (1987). Reflections on our South African experience. Counseling and Values (Special issue on Carl Rogers and the person-centered approach to peace) 32, 17-20.
  3. Feshbach, N.D. & Feshbach, S. (1982). Empathy training and the regulation of aggression: Potentialities and limitations. Academic Psychology Bulletin, 4, 399-413.
  1. Rogers, C. R., and Sanford, R. (1987). Inside the world of the Soviet professional. Journal of Humanistic Psychology 27, 277-304.
  2. Rogers, C. (1977). On personal power: Inner strength and its revolutionary impact. New York: Delacorte Press.

Listen to Your Heart

plush-toy-listen-to-my-heart

Valentine’s Day reminds us of hearts but when was the last time you listened to your heart? Is your heart racing?  It could be because you are in the presence of a new loved one.  The adrenaline hormone and the neurotransmitter, norepinephrine, increase when two people fall in love, causing their hearts to race for just a moment. 1

Losing a loved one through death or divorce also takes its toll on the heart. This stressful event can cause a temporary weakening of the heart muscle, especially in older adults.  The chest pain that is felt is referred to as “broken heart” syndrome.  Ironically, even a stressful happy event, such as a wedding or the birth of a grandchild can cause “broken heart” syndrome.

If you want to be happy and have good health, it might be more important to make your partner happy than trying to make yourself happy.3   Giving love from the heart in terms of social support makes your partner happy, which can help you have better health.

And, yes, go ahead and share that dark chocolate candy and a glass of red wine with your loved one this Valentine’s Day.  Dark chocolate has been shown to be associated with lower blood pressure, lower blood sugar levels and improvement in the way your blood vessels dilate and relax.4   Flavonoids are present in red wine, and one glass a day is associated with lower rates of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks.

Remember, though, you should always check out heart symptoms with a physician and do not engage in chocolate or wine immoderately.

  1. Loyola University Health System. (2014, February 6). What falling in love does to your heart and brain.  6 February 2014. Retrieved January 23, 2017 from, www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140206155244.htm.
  1. Ghadr, J. R., et al. (2016). Happy heart syndrome: Role of positive emotional stress in takotsubo syndrome. European Heart Journal, 37 (37): 2823-2829. DOI: 10.1093/eurheartj/ehv757

Don’t Just Say “I Love You”. Show It.

don-t-listen-to-them-you-re-not-fat-you-re-fluffy

You may think saying “I love you” is all that is needed in your relationship(s).  But, if you live each day as if it could be your last with the person(s) you love, you will find many ways to show your love rather than just announcing your love.

Here are some proven ways to show your love.

Give Reassurance and Emotional Support

               Both men and women feel loved when their partner gave assurances that he/she would always be there and supportive.1   Give your partner security by saying you are there for them when they most need it.  Show emotional support by being attentive though making eye contact and actively listening by repeating back a bit of what you heard.

Touch

Don’t let a day go by without touching your partner.  Maybe it is a hug or a kiss, or a shoulder rub.  Touch does not have to always signal, “I want sex”—it can signal, “I care about you.” 2   In fact, contrary to stereotypes, men in long-term relationships who get lots of kisses and cuddles report being more sexually satisfied.3

Be Positive

               When you are cheerful and optimistic, your replies are comforting for your partner.  This positivity also includes being patient and forgiving, showing a cooperative attitude during disagreements, and avoiding criticizing your partner.  Researchers have found that both men and women can show this equally in relationships and it is much appreciated by both genders.4

Do Things Together

               Sharing household tasks, working together on a mutual (fun) goal, walking and talking (but not about problems), and having a night out all communicate that you love to be with your partner.  Although one study found no difference in the men and women using this way of showing love, one other study did find that men tend to using this strategy more than women.5, 6

Show Appreciation

               When your partner does something you like, make sure you say so. And, often, just out of the blue, compliment your partner by saying what, specifically, you love about him/her. 

Do Things for Your Partner (Especially Surprises)

               Have a plant or flowers sent to your partner at work.  Wrap a warm blanket around your partner when he/she needs comforting.  Pack a suitcase for each of you and take your partner on a surprise weekend trip.  A lot of what love is all about is the attraction, caring, and intimacy you are showing through these actions.7

  1. Dainton, M., Stafford, L., & Canary, D.J. (1994). Maintenance strategies and physical affection as predictors of love, liking, and satisfaction in marriage. Communication Reports, 7, 2, 88-98.
  2. Marston, P.J., Hecht, M.L. & Robers, T. (1987). True love ways: The subjective experience and communication of romantic love. Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, 4, 387-407.
  3. Heiman, J.R., et. al. (2011). Sexual satisfaction and relationship happiness in midlife and older couples in five countries. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 40, 4, 741-753.
  4. Dainton, M., Stafford, L., & Canary, D.J. (1994). Maintenance strategies and physical affection as predictors of love, liking, and satisfaction in marriage. Communication Reports, 7, 2, 88-98.
  5. Dainton, M., Stafford, L., & Canary, D.J. (1994). Maintenance strategies and physical affection as predictors of love, liking, and satisfaction in marriage. Communication Reports, 7, 2, 88-98.
  6. Schoenfeld, E.A., Bredow, C.A., & Huston, T.L. (2012). Do men and women show love differently in marriage? Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 11, 1396-1409.
  7. Rubin, Z. (1973). Liking and loving.Y.: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston.