In this edition of LIFEadvice Coaches Kim Giles and Nicole Cunningham explain how the pursuit of love can actually be the problem.
My spouse and I are not getting along and we both feel unloved and unappreciated. I honestly feel she doesn't do enough to make me feel that I'm important. She is so busy with other things and I feel that I come last. The funny thing is that she complains I don't support her enough too. What can we do to feel more love in this marriage?
This will sound counterintuitive, but love (meaning, for the purposes of this article, the pursuit of love) is the very thing that might be destroying your relationship. Let us explain how.
Some people desperately search and try to find love, validation, reassurance and approval their entire life. As a small child they might have found joy in doing things just for the sake of doing them. Then, someone praised their efforts, and they suddenly realized approval and praise from others were the prize. From that moment on, they have been looking for love from the people in their life to quiet their fear of not being enough.
When they were a child, the big people around them could have said things like, "Don't be like that! Can't you be more like this!" And they might have started to believe they needed to be better to be enough. On the subconscious level, their focus most of their life has been the pursuit of love or looking for anything to validate their worth and quiet their fear. This might be similar to your experience.
You also started subconsciously looking for the lack of love toward you. You started noticing when friends let you down and didn't provide the right kind of friendship or love, in the way you wanted it. You would get angry and bothered with these people because they weren't doing the job you needed them to do. They weren't keeping your bucket full. This was how the pursuit for love started creating unhappiness, people problems, drama and destruction in your life. You began to believe your happiness and safety came from outside yourself. You started to depend on other people to make you feel good enough and valued.
As you became an adult, you might have fallen for the "Disney delusion" that one true love would end all your suffering. You believed finding "The One" was the ultimate validation that would make the rest of your life feel safe and secure. This special person becomes the center of your universe and your source of love. Because you really cared about and loved this person back, more than anyone else in your life, and you put great effort into making sure they felt love, you also made them responsible for your sense of being loved and valued.
We believe this is where the problems begin because you cannot make someone else responsible for your self-esteem. How you feel about yourself is totally up to you. It's simply not fair to make someone responsible for something totally out of their control. You set them up to fail.
You are the only one with any control over how you think and feel about yourself and your life. In making that special person responsible for your self-worth, you set them up to disappoint you and now you blame them for it.
If you were someone who started out in the relationship with huge self-esteem problems, you probably placed this entire burden on your partner's shoulders and in that move doomed the relationship. Unless you change this story and stop making your partner the source of your love for yourself, you're going to continue to struggle.
We believe this is why working on your own self-esteem is the most important thing you can do if you want a healthy relationship.
Stop and think about the beginning of your relationship. Was there much joy and happiness at that time? Were you walking on clouds and it felt like all your problems were over? If so, this feeling of love tricked you, because you thought it happened because you were being loved by someone else — but we believe it was actually coming from the love you were giving, not what you were getting.
The validation that comes from having another person love you is great, but you cannot hold, save or own that love. The only love you own is the love that's inside you, the love you have to give. The love you experience when you give it to other people is the love that actually brings real joy.
It is the love inside you that is who you are too. It is the essence of your being and identity. You were literally created by a higher power who is love and creates only love. This is why you feel best when you are loving and giving to someone else (a child, a parent, a friend or even a stranger). You are happy, at that moment, because you are being who you really are — LOVE — that is why you feel joy.
We believe the search for love could harm a relationship because the person is focused only on getting something. They believe the other person is the only source of love and joy and also believe they are lacking something because of another person — and this hurts, disappoints and frustrates people. When you think you are lacking love or aren't getting it in the right way, we believe you are choosing to function in a fear state (not a love state) and this can lead to selfish behaviors.
In this lack state, you feel empty, unfulfilled and inadequate. The sad part is, all you have to do to feel better is stop trying to get something you believe you are missing, and remember you already have all the love you need inside of you.
You are good enough right now and you don't need someone else to give this truth to you. You have the same exact intrinsic worth as every other human on the planet and no amount of validation gives you more nor does criticism change it. No one is better, worse, more or less than you. You are always good enough and you are always love.
When you consciously choose this as your truth, your bucket of love and security is full and now you can experience love because you have something to give.
Happy people keep busy every day being loving, grateful and joyful, so they don't have time to worry about what they are lacking. Studies have shown that being grateful actually increases happiness. These happy people don't look for slights or offenses from their partners because they understand slights are just signs that the other person doesn't love themself or is currently in fear about themself. It is not about them.
If you want more love in your relationship, we believe you should stop trying to get love and start focusing on giving it. Try to focus on giving and showing love to everyone you meet today. Choose to be a source of love, miracles and joy in your home. You have all the love you need inside you already.
If you have a partner who is struggling with their self-worth and is not capable of giving much love to you, that doesn't mean you are failing. You should still try to validate and praise them, but it also means this person may need some professional help to work on their fear of failure. They may need your support and encouragement to learn how to feel better about themselves.
This week, stop looking for signs of lack of love in your spouse, stop trying to get more love, and start being your own source of love and joy, knowing you have everything you need inside you. Focus on giving that to everyone as much as you can and miracles will follow.
You can do this.