There is no greater joy than when you truly connect with a romantic partner – when your souls seem to touch. By contrast, when you are hurt by someone you took the chance to lay yourself bare with (emotionally and physically), the pain runs deep. If you repeatedly revisit this kind of pain by making the same mistakes, you are no doubt desperate for a way out of that pattern. In an effort to provide guidance for these situations, I have written the book, Insecure in Love, which is due out in June (less than a couple a weeks from now). Though it offers many insights about nurturing healthy, intimate relationships, an extremely important one that it explains in detail is that people connect with others based on both a model of self and a model of others.
Their model of self ranges from feeling like a “good” person who is worthy of love to a flawed person who is unworthy of love. Those who feel worthy tend to also feel secure and accepting of themselves. Those who feel inadequate in some fundamental way tend to feel anxious and sense that they need to earn love. They often experience themselves as needy, as well as grasping for the attention, caring, and approval of others.
Think about it: What’s your model of self? Do you feel inherently worthy of love? Or, do you think that you need to perform in order for others to value you? Do you sense that you require the sympathy or pity of others in order for them to care?
The model of others that people carry within them ranges from feeling that others are emotionally available to feeling that others cannot be relied upon for support. Those who trust in the emotional availability of others find it natural to reach out for help, comfort, and encouragement. However, those who think they can only rely on themselves tend to be very self-sufficient and are uncomfortable with emotional intimacy. They have no intention of making themselves vulnerable to others – an action they expect would leave them feeling disappointed, hurt, and alone.
Consider how this applies to you: What’s your model of others? Do you share openly with significant others in your life? Do you turn to them for comfort or encouragement when you are struggling or facing new challenges? Or, are you uncomfortable laying your needs and vulnerabilities out for others to see – leading you to rely solely on your own strength?
These questions are often not easy to answer. And your responses will probably vary depending upon circumstances and particular relationships. Still you might note a theme in your struggles. After you identify patterns, continue to pay attention to how you play them out. As you do so, the patterns will become clearer.
With this increasing self-awareness comes a better understanding of how your perceptions and actions add to the troubles in your relationships. You can even begin to see alternative, healthier ways of thinking and reacting. Hopefully, these insights will be accompanied by a number “aha” moments, each one settling into your psyche, opening it more frequently to moments of connection in loving relationships. And, with time, you can even develop the capacity to consistently nurture a happy, healthy relationship – one in which you can appreciate the uplifting joy of two souls touching.
Leslie Becker-Phelps, Ph.D. is a clinical psychologist in private practice and is on the medical staff at Somerset Medical Center in Somerville, NJ. She also writes a blog for WebMD (The Art of Relationships) and is the relationship expert on WebMD’s Relationships and Coping Community.
Dr. Becker-Phelps is also the author of Insecure in Love.
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Making Change blog posts are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for professional assistance.
Personal change through compassionate self-awareness