Deep down, we all want to be loved for who we are, completely and unconditionally. So why do our relationships become fraught with bitter transactions and childish competitiveness? Somehow, a partnership that we hoped would see us into old age and beyond disintegrates into a “what’s in it for me?” kind of attitude.
Here, we’ll explore what it feels like in the insecure attraction stage, how hard it is to maintain this over time, why this might be happening in so many of our relationships and, of course, what can be done to ensure we feel loved in all circumstances.
My own personal experience..
I have a long history of being partially loved. I was loved for what I had to offer that aligned with what those people wanted. It was different things for different people but the pattern was that I met their needs.
Where I went wrong
I can now see that I presented an attractive shopfront. The best bits were highlighted and the door was always open, encouraging others to wander in and check out the shelves.
But I was always left with remaining stock that I couldn’t give away, so I shoved it into storage.
Trying to keep up
The cost of doing this began to mount. I ran out of places to stuff the things nobody desired. I became angry about them too, believing they were junk items or rotten and repulsive. If only I could just stock the right things, I’d be fully wanted.
In business, that’s the name of the game.
In relationships, not so much.
You know this and I know this. It sounds obvious when I describe it in this way, but it’s so very invisible at the time, isn’t it? We’re too busy trying to make a sale on our leading items that we don’t pause and see that we’re being used.
Why does this happen?
It happens because we know no different. For many sensitive children, life starts out that way and we automatically fit into the expectations of those who we hope will love and care for us. We quickly pick up on signals from others that teach us how to make them happy so we can feel safe.
You can’t explain to a 3-year-old that love ought to be unconditional and they shouldn’t have to try so hard. Mostly the opposite is happening at that age: strict toddler training… and so many opportunities to reject parts of themselves and bask in the approval of what remains.
I’ve seen it over and over again as a therapist to these adult children, and as the client in the chair myself through the years. The wilful blindness to the whole. The colluding with others to make our fragmentation a workable reality.
How we can begin to heal
The truth is, you are not a shop but a *home*. You are your own sanctuary first, and you may invite people in whom you believe you can trust. For everyone else, there’s door security.
Inside your home is everything that’s you. It’s there to be appreciated or people can leave. If they stay, they take care of it with you. But it’s still yours. They might suggest some fresh arrangements where you’ve been tripping over things consistently, or help you remove items that have become out of date and no longer useful to you. But they respect it all and love being there with you.
My journey back to myself
I understand all this now because I’m no longer only partially loved. I am loved for all that I am. Nothing is kept locked away in shame. I took it all out, bit by bit, and learned about its purpose and function. Its value and necessity. I began to love myself fully.
I have been so wealthy all along. I didn’t even need a shop business. Nobody does. We don’t need to buy parts of others and sell parts of ourselves. We need only to appreciate all that we already have and are.
I make it sound easy, but it isn’t. I had to sacrifice so many relationships. Complete rejection by my in-laws (marital and then sibling) – people who’d been my family when I had none of my own for years. My husband and partner of 18 years, father of my children. Also my best friend of 16 years who betrayed my trust at a critical time.
The only way through all of this was to sit with what is mine. Especially the parts they all wished I’d put back into storage.
But once you know and love all these qualities, you don’t reject them again for anyone. That would be the immature thing to do, and genuine growth doesn’t allow for that.
I no longer attract those who are partial to a bit of this but not so much that. That was never love. It was a contract. And I can’t be all in with people who are locked away in shame. I want to love the home in them too.
Offering just a shopfront is manipulative, although it’s understandable when you see that people have no evidence of any other way.
Ironically, the part of me that was most undesired by those who left… was the part that offered to see and love what they were hiding. But to them, that stuff is too scary!
And that’s okay. It’s better to step away than dice yourself up into small pieces for them to handle. One day, you may meet someone healthy who is keen to love the whole package of you, and in the meantime, you’re already fully loved and supported by you. (Hint: The one who is always there with you anyway).
What can you do now?
Begin by journalling compassionately on the aspects of yourself that you’ve hidden behind closed doors or pushed into the shadows*.
Get curious about why you deemed these qualities unacceptable, and whether that may no longer be true, or was someone else’s judgement that’s no longer relevant.
Ask those shadow aspects what they would like to see happen if they could have a place in your life again?
How might that feel? Are you willing to try?
Commit to regular times when you’ll “meet” with the shadow and tap into her wisdom, and encourage her to be part of your daily life again.
* If you need professional guidance with this, do reach out for a free connection call, and we’ll see if I’m a good fit for your needs.
If you’d like to make room in your life for regular quiet reflection time, sign up for my Sunday morning Life Lessons email. Each week, I share a mini story plucked from my own life and the powerful lesson(s) it taught me. Included are relevant reflection questions for you to journal or quietly consider as you go about your day.