Sabotaging the relationship you want
Do you have a pattern of choosing an emotionally unavailable intimate partner – a person exceedingly difficult to get or stay close to, whose heart is very protected, insulated or standoffish – while rejecting the person who is available, heartful, caring, responsive and who is easy to be close to? Do you reject the right person to be emotionally involved with and give everything you have to the wrong person? Do you sabotage the intimate relationship you want? This pattern typically originates in childhood. If love or approval by at least one of your parents was conditioned on you having to earn it, then likely you grew up feeling you don’t deserve approval, affection or love unless you have put forth Herculean effort and have won it. So, as an adult, if I’m given approval, affection and love without having to do anything to win it, very often I won’t value it. I value what I put a lot of effort and labor into. So, typically I chose an intimate partner who isn’t prone to offering it and then I will do just about anything – charm, cajole, buy, threaten, entice, seduce – to win his/her love and approval. If I then enter a relationship with a woman whose heart is easily won over, without me having to prove myself, I won’t trust it. It was too easy – so I figure that something must be wrong with her. In my eyes she’s too needy. Maybe desperate. So I reject her. But here’s the Catch 22 I’ve just put myself in: I desperately want what she’s offering me, but on the other hand I won’t respect her for giving it so freely. Doesn’t she know I haven’t proven myself worthy of it yet? What’s wrong with her? The problem is – and it’s a big problem – that now anyone who actually wants me and offers me her heart, I will reject. Life gives us only so many chances of having a healthy, love relationship, and if I reject a promising partner for reasons that actually could be addressed, resolved or negotiated, what do you suppose my chances will be of ever having the relationship I want. In truth, an intimate partner gives me her heart not because I win it, but because she’s ready, wanting and able to give it. I am sabotaging what I most want. I’m not giving me a fighting chance to have what I most desire and crave. I haven’t dealt with my own issues and fears: I’m afraid of being too close and intimate, too exposed and vulnerable. Of not feeling worthy of love, approval and somebody’s devotion. Also, my self-esteem is low, and as a result, I require of myself that I prove my worth over and over again before I can accept, approve of and love myself. What could I do to change this pattern? I need to heal my lifelong childhood issue of needing to earn love before I can value receiving it – so I can stop charging women a price for my feelings of inadequacy, my need to prove myself – and my fear of not feeling worth of a loving, devoted partner.Neil Rosenthal, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Boulder and Denver, will be co-facilitating a single’s river canoe weekend titled “How People Connect” on July 23-25, and a couple’s river canoe weekend titled “Adding Romance and Spark to Your Relationship” on August 6-8. For more information, call (303) 449-6578.
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