Unconditional Love

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Self-Loathers, Appreciation, and Taking Love for Granted

Are self-loathers less likely to take their partners for granted?

As many of us are all too aware, people in relationships—even those who had been alone for a while or unhappily partnered in the past—may start to grow accustomed to their partners and what they get out of the relationship. They may adopt an attitude not unlike entitlement, where they start to believe they deserve the unconditional love of their partners. At the same time, they begin to notice each others' faults more frequently, especially very minor things that gnaw at them and lead to petty complaining and argument (not the positive kind of disagreement that ideally leads to better understanding and reconciliation).

As I've often written about here, relationships with self-loathers are different in a number of ways, and this includes how partners take each other for granted over time. On the surface, one advantage of being with self-loathers is that they may be less likely to engage in either of these behaviors. Since they have such strong feelings of inadequacy, self-loathers often do not feel they deserve love in general, much less that they are entitled to it from their current partners. Self-loathers live in fear that their relationships lie on the precipice, just one mistake away from failure. While this results in a great deal of anxiety for self-loathers, it also generates a level of humility about the relationship that prevents them from taking their partners for granted. Furthermore, self-loathers are also hesitant to complain about faults or shortcomings of their partners—assuming they even notice or recognize them at all. All of these can combine to make the partner of the self-loathing feel incredibly loved and appreciated.

Not being taken for granted sounds good, of course, but there are downsides for the partners of self-loathers (alongside others I've written about before). If self-loathers demonstrate their appreciation too strongly or frequently (while failing to acknowledge their partners' mistakes), they can easily come off as excessively needy. It's not surprising that the person who feels inadequate would be needy, of course, but this is often tempered by their strong resistance to acting on it (because they don't believe anyone else is obligated to fulfill their needs). Self-loathers may be repulsed at finding out they seem needy, and this could serve to reinforce their feelings of shame, clearly affecting them and their partners.

In the worse case, self-loathers may go too far in their doubts about being worthy of love and fail altogether to appreciate love when they receive it. This would obviously have the opposite effect, leaving their partners feeling unappreciated and making them unlikely to remain in the relationship for long. Furthermore, when the love is lost, self-loathers may interpret this as not having been loved at all, a product of the negative thinking they share with depressives, and make them less likely to seek out and enter in relationships in the future.

In the end, it all comes back to this: self-loathers have to trust the feelings of those who love them (or could potentially do so). The self-loathing crave love, affection, and appreciation as much as anybody, but do not feel they deserve these things, and as a result are skeptical when they receive them. If they can bring themselves to acknowledge the love of others, they will often reciprocate strongly and demonstrably, which can be enormously gratifying—but can also be fleeting, especially if the self-loather takes it too far.

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For a select list of my previous Psychology Today posts on self-loathing, relationships, and other topics, see here.

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Unconditional Love