Most of us want loving relationships, but many people are doing the opposite of what they need to do to create loving relationships. Discover what you might be doing that’s ruining your relationships and what else you can do.
Today I want to talk about how you might be ruining your relationships without even realizing it.
The first and most powerful way that you might be ruining your relationships is take no responsibility for your own feelings. Since very few of us had parental or caregiver role models for taking responsibility for our own feelings, we enter relationships believing our partner or friends should take responsibility for making us feel happy, safe and secure. A client of mine recently asked me about a friend of hers who told her that she wasn’t sure she was going to continue to be friends because my client wasn’t making her happy. My client, knowing due to her Inner Bonding practice that it wasn’t her job to make this person happy, was fine letting go of the friendship.
In committed relationships, when you don’t take responsibility for your own inner peace, happiness, self-worth, and your sense of safety and security, you create an empty black hole inside that needs to be filled up by your partners’ love, approval, attention, or by having sex. Ignoring your own feelings and then blaming your partner for your self-abandonment will always create distance in your relationship.
Think of your feelings as your inner child, and now imagine that you are giving your inner child away to your partner to love and value. No matter what your partner does to try to make you happy, nothing will fill the empty hole inside and sense of rejection that comes from abandoning yourself.
The second way of ruining your relationship stems from this self-abandonment. Once you abandon yourself – by judging yourself, ignoring your feelings, numbing your feelings with addictions, or making your partner responsible for your feelings – you then try to control your partner in a number of ways, and these controlling behaviors ruin intimacy and connection.
Do you give yourself up, putting yourself aside and focusing all your attention on the other person’s feelings and needs? Do you hope that if you are wonderful enough and sacrifice yourself enough, the other person will give you the love you are seeking, and that you are not giving to yourself?
This is called caretaking and many people don’t realize that this is a covert form of control. You might think you are being loving in being compliant, but whatever isn’t loving to you isn’t loving to your partner or others. Doing something for them with an agenda isn’t loving, and giving yourself up always has an agenda to get love and approval or avoid disapproval or anger. Doing something to get something back is completely different than doing something from love because it brings you joy to do it. I was a caretaker for many years with everyone in my life, and I thought I was being loving. It was a shock to me to realize that I was abandoning myself and making others responsible for my happiness and sense of worth, and that I was being controlling instead of loving to myself and with others.
A second common form of control – a more overt form, is to make your partner responsible for your feelings with anger, demands, criticism, judgment, blame, threats, belittling, lecturing, debating, and arguing, whenever he or she doesn’t meet your expectation. You do whatever you can to have control over getting the other person to completely give him or herself up and focus only on filling your emptiness and needs with their love, approval, attention, sex, devotion, time, and adoration. You become a taker, trying to make sure to keep your partner feeling guilty and responsible for your feelings of security and self-worth.
Of course, this creates the common taker-caretaker system, with each partner trying to control the other in overt and covert ways. I hope you can see that there is no way for love, connection, and intimacy to thrive in this system. I hope you also realize that it takes both people to create a system, and that when one person learns how to take responsibility for their own happiness and self-worth, the system has to change. It may get better or it may get worse, but it will change. If it gets worse, then the partner who is taking responsibility for themselves might consider leaving, and if leaving isn’t an option, this might stop you from learning how to love yourself.
I’ve previously shared that when I stopped being a caretaker and started to learn to love myself through Inner Bonding, my long marriage got worse and worse. It was scary because I didn’t want to lose my marriage, but I just couldn’t go on losing myself, because it was making me life-threateningly ill. Sometimes, our inner child uses illness to wake us up to learning how to love ourselves.
A third common way that people try to control is withdrawal. The message of withdrawal is, “I’m withholding my love from you until you apologize and stop doing the things you are doing that are unloving to me.” A person who shuts down and withdraws starts to spend less and less time with their partner, spending it alone or with other people, or in front of the TV or at work. They convince themselves that their misery is completely their partner’s fault, and that they are with the wrong person. Of course, when you use withdrawal as a form of control, you are not taking responsibility for your feelings, needs, behavior and choices. You might see yourself as a victim of your partners anger and blame, not realizing that withholding love is also a form of control and of blame.
Often, a person who withdraw believes that it’s just the angry person who is hurting them, not understanding that the withdrawal of love is just as painful to their partner as their partner’s anger is to them. Because anger is more overt, it’s easy to blame the angry person. Partners in this system often say things like, “I wouldn’t withdraw if my partner wasn’t so often angry,” or I wouldn’t get angry if my partner didn’t withdraw.” Neither of these is true. While it’s true that the other person may trigger your anger or withdrawal, they don’t cause it. It’s likely that you learned your form of control as a child and brought it into the relationship as part of your wounded self’s way of trying to feel safe and have control over getting what you want.
Another common form of control is to resist being controlled. Often, the partner who is more overtly controlling, also hates to be controlled, and will resist any requests from the caretaking partner. Or the caretaking partner who is giving themselves up, might find forms of resistance to not completely lose themselves. Resistance creates much frustration in the relationship and generally leads to much distance.
Often, if one partner then wants to get professional help for the relationship, the other partner will go into resistance and refuse the help, saying that he or she isn’t the problem – that you are the problem. When this is the case, it’s often helpful for the partner who is available for help to enter counseling or facilitation for themselves. Again, the best way of changing the dysfunctional system is to change your end of the system – learning to love yourself and take responsibility for your feelings, rather than continue to abandon yourself and then attempt to control through compliance, resistance, withdrawal, anger and blaming.
As your relationship starts to decline, each person might move more and more into thinking and behaving as a victim of the other person’s choices. This will lead to more fights or to distance, and to a lack of passion, a lack of fun, and a complete inability to communicate about anything, even minor situations. In any discussions, each of you might try to be right, win your point, and make your partner wrong. You might see this as a competition for who is the good one and the right one, and who is the bad one and the wrong one in the relationship. Or, one of you might collapse into the blaming tears of a victim.
One of the major challenges in healing these unhealthy systems is to become aware of your own controlling behavior. Most people are very aware of their partner’s or others’ controlling behavior, but are generally very unaware of the fact that they, too, are abandoning themselves and trying to control others. When I work with couples, which I’ve done for the past 53 years, invariably, when I’m working with one partner, they tell me all the things their partner is doing that is ruining their relationship, and nothing about what they are doing. And when I work with couples, each person is quite clear on what the other person is doing and either completely unaware of what each of them is doing or is blaming their partner for their controlling behavior.
If you leave the relationship without healing your self-abandonment and resulting controlling behavior, you will take all this wounded baggage with you into another relationship and likely end up with the same result. Second and third marriage have an even higher divorce rate than first marriages. So, unless there is physical or emotional abuse, it’s a waste of time to leave until doing your own inner work to learn to love yourself and take responsibility for your feelings, so that you stop blaming someone else for your misery and trying to control them into giving you what you need to learn to give yourself.
As I’ve often said, the sharing of love is one of the greatest joys in life, and there is no way to share love while you are abandoning yourself and trying to control your partner.
So the first thing that needs to happen is to start to be aware of your self-abandonment and resulting controlling behavior.
One of our greatest challenges is to become aware of our intent in the moment. While having only two intents to choose from – to learn about love or to control, avoid, and protect against pain – may seem to simplify this awareness, this is not necessarily true. Our automatic, unconscious intent when we are faced with anxiety and fear, is to control. We choose the intent to learn about loving ourselves and others, in the face of fear, only when we are able to remain conscious enough to choose it.
The healing journey is one of becoming aware of and letting go of our many, many levels of control. It’s a layered experience because just as we learn to stop controlling in one area, another challenge comes to the fore.
The healing journey is a conscious journey of discovering our various wounded selves – the parts of us that want to be in control.
In order to discover these parts, we need to be curious rather than judgmental about our various ways of controlling. If we judge ourselves for controlling, then we are trying to control a controlling part of ourselves, and we get stuck in our ego wounded self. It is only when we move into a compassionate intent to learn about our wounded, controlling behavior that we can progress on the healing journey.
In life, each of us is presented with the very challenges we need to face in order to heal our controlling wounded self. We will get our control buttons pushed in different situations so that we can embrace and explore a particular controlling part of ourselves. Of course, our deepest control issues come up in relationships because this is where our deepest fears of rejection and engulfment – fear of loss of other and loss of self – are activated.
Fears of rejection and engulfment are activated in all important relationships – with our partner, friends, co-workers, children, parents, as well as professionals such as therapists and doctors.
Each time we feel fear, anxiety, hurt, anger, guilt, shame, or other wounded feelings, we have an opportunity to explore what we are trying to control regarding ourselves, others or the outcome of things.
Let’s take the example of Joanne. Joanne had previously been married for 12 years to a needy and angry man. Her husband didn’t value Joanne and believed that women weren’t as smart and capable as men, even though Joanne is a successful writer. He expected her to pick up after him both regarding his clothes that he would just drop on the floor, and the dishes he used and left dirty. Joanne complied for years in the hopes that her husband would eventually care about her, but things only got worse. She ended up feeling used and abused, and after he refused to join her in therapy, she left the marriage.
Now Joanne is in a new relationship with Mark, and she finds herself in a very similar situation. Mark treats Joanne like she is less than him rather than the highly successful writer that she is. When Joanne started Inner Bonding work with me, she was ready to leave this relationship.
I encouraged Joanne to accept the challenge of learning from her relationship with Mark rather than leaving again. While it was obvious to Joanne how Mark was trying to control her, it was not obvious to her how she was trying to control him. Over a period of exploration, Joanne discovered that she often tried to control through her disapproving looks, her sarcasm, her intelligence, her logic, her compliance, her withdrawal, her resistance, her judgment and her anger. She was pretty much astounded to discover all these ways of controlling and was able to see that this had also been her part in the relationship problems with her husband.
While she was not able to change Mark, their relationship did gradually improve for the better as Joanne changed her intent from controlling him to loving herself. She worked hard on being aware of her controlling behavior without judging herself for it. She started to speak her truth to Mark, without judgment or sarcasm. As his respect for her grew due to her respecting herself by taking loving care of herself – instead of trying to control him – his behavior toward her became for more loving and respectful.
Joanne was able to shift the relationship with Mark because of her willingness to learn, with curiosity and compassion, about her own controlling behavior, her own wounded self.
Every relationship offers us an opportunity to learn when we are open to learning.
Even if you are not in a committed relationship, you can start to learn about your own controlling behavior from all your relationships – your relationships with friends, family, and co-workers. Start with noticing your feelings, and noticing that whenever you feel anxious around someone, or you feel anything less than peace inside, it’s because you are abandoning yourself. Then notice how you treat yourself and others once you have abandoned yourself by judging yourself and making the other person responsible for your feelings. Notice the various ways you then act out from your wounded self to try to get love and approval from the other person, or to avoid their anger, judgment, withdrawal, or resistance.
It’s by noticing your feelings and noticing your ways of abandoning yourself around others that are causing your painful feelings, and then noticing the various ways of trying to control them that you will gain the awareness you need to shift your intent from controlling, avoiding, and protecting against pain, to learning to love yourself. Shifting your intent will then open you to doing Inner Bonding and learning with your higher guidance how love yourself rather than continue to abandon yourself.
You will find as you heal your wounded self that all your relationships will change. Some will fall away because they were based on both of you being in your wounded self. Some will get better as others find they can more deeply connect with you. And you will find new emotionally connected relationships with people who are also taking responsibility for their feelings.
You might need to be willing to go through a period of loneliness as old friends drop away because they are takers and want you to caretake them. and you are no longer willing to be used by them in this way. Or they want to spend their time with you complaining about a partner, friends, or family, and are not available for authentic connection. You might find yourself bored with previous friends and family when they continue to operate from their wounded selves. I assure you that as you continue to learn to love yourself, either some of your relationships with the current people in your life will get better, or new people with whom you can more deeply connect will come into your life.
As I’ve often said, we attract at our common frequency, which means we attract at our common level of self-abandonment, which creates a low frequency, or our common level of self-love, which creates a high frequency. Like frequency attracts like frequency, so have the faith that as you learn to love yourself, you will attract people into your life with whom you can share learning, fun, growth, and love.
I hope you take advantage of all the free and paid resources we have for you at https://www.innerbonding.com.
I hope you also take my 30-Day at-home Course to learn to love yourself. “Love Yourself: An Inner Bonding Experience to Heal Anxiety, Depression, Shame, Addictions and Relationships.”
You Heal your relationship with my 30-Day online relationship course: Wildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love.