That empty feeling in a relationship is often caused by unresolved wounds from the past and cannot be filled by a romantic partner.
When people expect a relationship to meet all their emotional needs, they make three common mistakes: confusing relationship problems with self issues, having unrealistic expectations, and needing constant validation.
Watching out for these common issues can help people cultivate healthier relationships.
The secret to happy romantic relationships is straightforward: Start by being happy alone.
You may view this as an oversimplification, but I’ve spent over 25 years as a group psychotherapist, studying how people manage their feelings in relationships and exploring communication styles. I can assure you of this: Nothing predicts the demise of a relationship faster than solely depending on your partner to fill the sense of emptiness you feel inside. (See "Are You Self-Awakened?")
What causes a feeling of emptiness in romantic relationships?
“Emptiness” is often a symptom of unresolved pain. For example, somewhere in your past relationships, an emotional wound was left unhealed. Such wounds are most often caused by someone intimately close, such as a parent, a sibling, a friend, or a lover.
The delicate process of understanding the source of such pain is challenging. Many people deny it and seek “solutionships,” i.e., a partner who will make it go away. The expectation that a romantic partner will fill the emptiness that you feel may provide for an exciting honeymoon period, but the relationship won’t endure in the long term.
Unpacking that feeling of emptiness begins with exploring the unresolved pain, investigating what part of your history needs deeper levels of understanding, and working to heal yourself. Ultimately, this is the ideal preparation for any healthy romantic relationship.
Common Mistakes of “Solutionships”
Here are common misfires that many folks make when they expect a romantic relationship to meet all their needs:
1. Confusing “relationship issues” with “self-issues.”
If you suffer from anxiety or depression, a new romantic relationship may drive those symptoms into dormancy, but those feelings will eventually resurface. Like a house built on a faulty foundation, when one person in a relationship ignores their emotional issues, the relationship will be unstable. Perhaps one of the most common mistakes people make in romantic relationships is blaming their partner for self-issues, i.e., issues that existed before the romantic relationship began.
For example, many people remain in unhealthy relationships because they can’t tolerate being alone. To them, loneliness is evidence that they are unloveable. But rather than spend time understanding how to be a better company to themselves, they seek comfort from others and cling to them for relief. This explains why many people may stay in unhealthy relationships (even when knowing that they deserve better).
2. Weighing down your partner with excessive expectations.
We bring our unmet childhood needs into our romantic relationships. Frequently, we hope that a new partner will fill those needs. Like a small child crying for attention and love, we may demand our partner give us all the attention and love that our parents failed to provide. This puts an excessive burden on a romantic partner. With such high expectations, your partner will begin to feel burdened and weighed down by your neediness. They soon feel that they can never satisfy you, no matter how hard they try. (See "Do You Have A Controlling Personality?")
3. A chronic need for validation fosters unhealthy dependency.
It’s natural for people in romantic relationships to seek validation from each other. We all want to feel understood by those close to us. However, a chronic need for validation is symptomatic of placing too much of your self-worth on a relationship. As Buddhist peace advocate Daisaku Ikeda writes, “Nobody defines your self-worth but you.”
An endless need for validation will eventually weigh down your partner and drain the joy out of any romantic relationship. If you really want to be blessed with a healthy romantic relationship, start by blessing yourself.
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