Which one of these scenarios best describes your experience in relationships?
1. You always find yourself needing to please your partner. Constantly putting their needs ahead of yours, you find that at times you feel resentful wondering when all of your selfless action will be recognized and reciprocated. You wish your partner would be able to anticipate your needs as well as you anticipate theirs. Ultimately, all of this leads to you constantly twisting into a pretzel to receive love.
2. You feel like you’ve been duped in your relationship. You thought you knew who your partner was until you made that deeper commitment and everything changed. Suddenly your partner has different opinions than you and begins to express them. This person is no longer interested in doing the things that you did during your courtship. In fact it may seem like you’ve married or moved in with a completely different person.
3. You are extremely attracted to people who reject you. It seems that the more you are told that you are not right for that person, the more you want to prove them wrong. You may even begin a process of changing who you are in order to become more like what you think that person wants. When you meet someone who is attracted to you and likes you for who you are, you are not interested in that person. You may even feel that person is not worthy of being with you as it would be too easy to start a relationship with them. You prefer a challenge and like the chase, but lose interest when you get the prize.
These may seem like completely different scenarios, but they all point to a common problem – a lack of self-acceptance. In the first scenario the person lacks an ability to see their needs as valuable. When we seek approval outside of ourselves we find ourselves twisting into pretzels. We often think “What shape can I assume that will make me attractive to you?” This is a game of rejecting who we are and hoping that the new shape we assume will be loveable. When what we really need to do is to learn to accept all of our qualities, both good and bad, and by finding that acceptance then we can be authentic in relationship with others.
In the second scenario the partner in the relationship isn’t purposefully deceiving their partner. Instead, this is caused by someone thinking that it is not okay or safe to be themselves until they get that deeper commitment from you. They finally relax and allow their true self to be revealed to you. This is not usually a conscious choice to deceive you. It happens because that person does not believe that you would love them for who they really are. That person lacks a sense of self-acceptance.
In the last scenario the problem lies with a sense of worthiness and an inability to receive. This person seeks that rejection because that is what they feel inside. Often times when they are in relationship with the person who does love them for who they are, they will sabotage the relationship to prove that they were not worthy of receiving love and acceptance. The desire to prove themselves worthy to the person who rejects them is really a desire to prove to themselves that they are worthy.
Why is self-acceptance so important in your relationships? Because how you see yourself, how you feel about yourself - self-judgment, self-criticism, etc - effects your ability to be authentic in relationship. The belief is that if you show your true self you will not be loved. The problem is if you don’t ever show your true self, then you can never be loved for who you really are.
Another problem that arises in relationship that comes from a lack of self-acceptance is that we begin to judge our partner’s behavior and become critical of them. If it is true that all judgment is self-judgment, then when we are so annoyed by our partner’s behavior we can ask ourselves “Is this a reflection of a fault within my character?”
Only by knowing what we truly need to be happy, what we truly need in order to nurture ourselves, can we feel comfortable asking our partners to love us in the way we truly can receive love. It is in the search for self-acceptance, that all parts of us are worthy of being loved, that we begin to learn to love ourselves. When we love ourselves it becomes easy to ask for what we want, it becomes easy to enforce our boundaries, and it becomes easy to receive the love we most desire. That love is what “true love” is all about.