Have you ever felt confused about whether your feelings in a relationship were coming from a healthy place or from a wounded place? This is Mari's concern:
"How would you describe the difference between obsession/addiction and devotion? When you are deeply in love and moved to be emotionally and physically intimate with someone, how can you tell the difference?"
We can 'fall in love' from two different places:
- When we reject and abandon ourselves with our self-judgments, staying focused in our head rather than our heart, and turn to addictions, including the addiction of making someone else responsible for our self-worth, we 'fall in love' from our ego wounded self.
This means that our intent of being in the relationship is to get love rather than to share love.
Unless we love ourselves and fill ourselves with love, we cannot share love with another. When we abandon ourselves, we create an empty hole inside that looks for a relationship in order to get filled externally.
This is obsession/addiction.
- When we love and connect with someone as a loving adult with an intent to love ourselves and share our love with our partner, this is healthy devotion. We want to be emotionally and physically intimate with our beloved as a way to express our love rather than trying to get love.
We can be devoted to loving another when we are taking responsibility for our own feelings — not when we expect or need another to make us feel safe, worthy and lovable.
How do you tell the difference? By how you feel. If you feel like you can't live without the other person, then you are making that person responsible for you and are operating out of a love addiction. If you are happy by yourself and happy with your partner, then you are taking loving care of yourself and your love for your partner is coming from your fullness and your open heart, not from your emptiness and neediness.
It is sometimes hard to tell the difference at the beginning of a relationship, when the intensity of the "can't live-without-them, never-felt-this-way-before, no one-has-ever-known-this-kind-of-love" feelings of early "in-love-ness," prevail. Enjoy this, but see it for what it is, not allowing yourself to expect it to last forever at this level. You need time to see what your new love does in conflict and whether or not he or she is open to learning.
In order to tell the difference, you need to be honest with yourself. It's wonderful to want to be emotionally and sexually intimate with a partner, but if you obsess about it, are anxious about it or get depressed if your partner isn't around, then it is addictive. You are in your ego-wounded self, hoping your partner will give to you what you are not giving to yourself.
If you greatly look forward to emotionally and physically connected time with your partner, and you can also make yourself happy if plans change, then you are coming from your healthy connected loving adult self.
True devotion is a beautiful thing, and it is the result of first being devoted to loving yourself. This is the challenge.
Relationships seem to fall into place once we are loving ourselves, which means that we we are taking responsibility for our feelings. It's when we avoid responsibility for our feelings — both the wounded feelings that we cause (anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, anger, emptiness, aloneness and so on) and the core painful feelings of life (loneliness, heartbreak, grief, helplessness over others, and so on), that relationships get into trouble.
As soon as we avoid responsibility for our own feelings with our self-rejecting behaviors, we then become needy of the other person to give us the love we are not giving to ourselves. We then pull on the other person to take responsibility for our feelings, which he or she cannot do. This is the main cause of relationship failure.
If a loving relationship is what you want, then first create a loving relationship with yourself. The Inner Bonding process is a powerful way of learning how to learn to love yourself.
Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her new 30-Day at-home Course: "Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships." Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Relationships Course: "Loving Relationships: A 30-Day at-Home Experience with Dr. Margaret Paul — For people who are partnered and people who want to be partnered."
To begin learning how to love and connect with yourself so that you can connect with your partner and others, take advantage of our free Inner Bonding eCourse, receive Free Help, and take our 12-Week home study eCourse, "The Intimate Relationship Toolbox" – the first two weeks are free! ! Discover SelfQuest®, a transformational self-healing/conflict resolution computer program. Phone or Skype sessions with Dr. Margaret Paul.
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