Marie fell in love with Steve the first night they met. June was right, he was perfect for her-handsome, a good listener and in a similar line of work. Soon she was madly in love to the point of going over the top in every way to enjoy their love affair. Sleep didn't matter. Food didn't matter. Her job didn't matter. Only Steve mattered. The love making was unbelievable, and so was the connection. The magic would go on forever....
Except that three months later they had broken up. The magic had disappeared and a temper in Steve that Marie wasn't about to put up with, had appeared. And worse than even the break-up, Marie now had to deal with a chronic sinus infections from neglecting herself and a warning at work for coming in late once too often. Her life was a mess. It was time to start a loving relationship with herself!
Lots of women think that a loving relationship starts by falling in love with someone. Yes, for sure that is the road to sexual arousal, a high even better than climbing Mount Everest, and if you are lucky, a permanent relationship. But it is not the road to the safest and most permanent way to make sure you will always have loving relationships.
That road, often unpaved and unmarked and at times filled with stones to easily trip on, is the road to self-love. I don't mean narcissistic love that involves a constant focus on yourself. I mean something else, a recognition that you are your own best friend. When no one else in the world may understand your feelings or thoughts, you at least understand how they came about. Maybe you can't solve a dilemma that you are in, but for sure, you may be your strongest advocate to find a solution.
I have heard more personal stories than most people, as a therapist, and one thing I have heard over and over again is how the husband or child, or boss, or teacher, or mother who was 'there' for the woman telling me her story to me, had not been there for her at a crucial moment, maybe had even hurt her unintentionally or on purpose, when she most needed support.
I often talk about the client who told me how for 20 years, until she finally left him, her husband would greet any good idea or plan that she brought to his attention, with: "That and 5 cents will get you a cup of coffee". Killing our mental spirit and energy can be as cruel as any form of abuse!
So the bottom line is finding the ways to develop a loving relationship with ourselves. Here is what I suggest:
Never let your personal gas tank go down to empty. Let's meet a couple of women who now have loving relationships with themselves.
Julia was a wonderful mom, daughter, wife, friend and employee. In fact, she was so caring for others that she stopped recognizing the signals from her mind and body that should have told her she was near empty.
She ignored the weight gain that crept up each year since the birth of her second baby. She ignored the headaches that she often had. She ignored her fatigue, pushing through it with another cup of coffee or a cupcake, or both so she could say 'yes' to her kids, her mom, her husband, her boss, and of course her friends. In fact, it wasn't until her doctor informed her that she now had Type 2 Diabetes that any bells or whistles went off.
Fortunately, Julia no longer has an empty gas tank. She takes Yoga twice a week, she tests her blood sugar twice a day and regulates her diet and she has learned to say NO on occasion. She listens to her mind and body and has become her own best friend.
Donna, a good job secured and finally ready to be independent, was determined to get somewhere in life. The thought of moving back home with her mom was totally unacceptable. She grabbed the first apartment that came along, never really checking out her roommates. As she began to realize that not only didn't she like them, but they were messy and loud, rather than figuring out how to handle the situation, she took to her room and began to isolate after work. Instead of either finding a way to live elsewhere (maybe even back home if that was the best possible solution for the moment) or finding ways to busy herself after work so that she only slept in the apartment, she hid from herself and from life. She became more and more withdrawn.
Luckily, a good friend, Claire, spoke up and confronted Donna that she never heard from her and what was going on? Donna crying shared what was going on with Claire, Claire suggested Donna see the social worker that Claire had seen for a problem. Donna agreed.
Short-term counseling worked for Donna. She learned cognitive skills that allowed her to solve her living problem and practiced new social skills that began to replace a tendency to withdraw, which can often led to depression in women.
She too, no longer has an empty gas tank inside of her. She is energized in her new apartment with one roommate she really likes and she is also going out at night. Tango classes, a cooking course, learning Spanish, and a choir in her church fill her week.
So, whatever decisions you make about love, make sure the top priority is a love affair with yourself!