What makes you feel connected with or disconnected from the important people in your life? Do you believe that in a good relationship, it is your partner’s job to make you feel loved and worthy? Do you have the courage to hang in through the hard times and do the learning and healing we all need to do to create a loving relationship?
With Valentine’s Day coming up, it’s a good time to take a look at your relationship with a partner and see if it is working for you in the way you want. If you don’t have a partner, just substitute the word partner with a relationship with a family member or a close friend.
Do you feel emotionally connected with your partner? For a relationship to be loving and fulfilling, we need to feel emotionally connected with each other.
Emotional connection with the people who are important to us is a vital need for everyone. Our brains are hard-wired to share love and connection with others. But each of us experiences love and connection differently, and for a relationship to thrive, we need to understand what love and connection means to each of us.
What feels like love and connection to you? I’m going to offer you a big list of actions for you to think about regarding what makes you feel loved and connected with a partner or other important people in your life.
So, do you feel loved and connected with your partner when he or she:
- Shows you in many ways that he or she cares about your feelings?
- When your partner is open to learning with you when you have conflict?
- When your partner shares his or her thoughts and feelings with you?
- Listens and gives you his or her full attention when you talk?
- Is physically affectionate with you without a sexual expectation?
- Desires to make love with you?
- Initiates sex with you?
- Is responsive to your sexual advances?
- Makes plans for you to have fun together?
- Lets you know that time with you is very important to him or her?
- Is interested in hearing about your day?
- Compliments you?
- Notices when your get your hair cut or get something new?
- Tries to understand what is going on with you when you’re upset, rather than get angry, problem solve, judge you or withdraw?
- Is there for you with kindness and compassion when you’re hurting, even if what you’re hurting about concerns something he or she did?
- Keeps his or her word?
- Never threatens the relationship, even when you are having a hard time with each other?
- Laughs and plays with you?
- Does fun things together with you – dinner, movies, social events, vacations?
- Stands up for you when others are mean to you?
- Supports you when you need support? Has your back?
- Supports you in doing what brings you joy, even if it is not what he or she wants to do?
- Buys you gifts that are meaningful to you.
- Cares about how his or her spending affects you?
- Supports you in doing work you love, even if you don’t make a lot of money?
- Enjoys cuddling with you?
- Lets you know in many ways how much he or she appreciates you?
- Converses with you in two-way conversations, rather than monologues?
- Never deliberately says things that he or she knows are hurtful to you?
- Takes responsibility for his or her feelings, rather than blaming you?
- Takes responsibility for his or her health and wellbeing?
- Is interested in what interests you?
- Enjoys both in-depth meaningful talk and small talk with you?
There might be other things that come to your mind, so think about what is really important to you to feel loved and connected with your partner, and what’s important to your partner to feel loved and connected with you – and how the two of you are doing regarding emotional connection.
It’s also important to know what leads to you feeling unloved and disconnected from your partner. What creates disconnection for you?
- Anger, blame, ridicule, sarcasm, threats – any kind of attack and verbal abuse.
- Withdrawal, resistance, indifference, shutting down, shutting you out.
- Being silent, closed, refusing to talk about the issues between you.
- Physical violence or the threat of physical violence.
- Being a victim, sulking, pulling, poor-me tears.
- Harping, nagging, explaining, defending.
- Being parental, judgmental, critical, having to be right.
- Shutting you out with various addictions – alcohol, drugs, TV, work, computer, cell phone, video games, porn, and so on.
- Spending money when you can’t afford it.
- Being so frugal that you can’t enjoy life.
- Not taking care of himself or herself by eating badly, lack of exercise, being overweight.
- Talking on and on about himself or herself.
- Lack of interest in you, in your interests, in your feelings, in what is important to you.
- Expecting you to give yourself up to him or her.
- Not being concerned with how his or her behavior affects you.
- Giving others a lot of attention but ignoring you.
- Being too busy with work, hobbies, or friends to spend time with you.
You might want to think about what else creates emotional distance and disconnection, which can lead to sexual disconnection with a partner. See if you can be honest with yourself regarding what you do that creates disconnection, and what your partner does.
If your partner, family member, or friend is open, this would be a great topic to discuss with each other!
One of the relationship challenges that we all have is learning to not be reactive when the other person is being unloving to us. This means healing the automatic reactions from our wounded self through practicing Inner Bonding and developing our loving adult so that we can respond rather than react.
My client, Lori, said in one of our sessions, “When Eddie blames me, I react so fast, before I have a chance to get my loving adult onboard. I’m explaining and defending before I can even take a breath.” I knew exactly what she was talking about, as I had struggled with this same challenge for years.
Most of us learned early in our lives to react to any kind of rejection, such as blame, anger, withdrawal, judgment, criticism, or being ignored, with some form of reactive behavior. I had learned as a child and adolescent to react to any form of rejection by explaining, defending, crying, blaming back, getting angry, complaining, or giving myself up and caretaking the other person.
Now, after years of Inner Bonding practice, I respond as a loving adult almost all the time, which means that I respond with compassion for the suffering I see the other person is experiencing, or speak my truth and then disengage, or remain quiet and hear them out, or remain quiet and disengage, or open to learning if they are available to learn with me. I accept that I have no control over the other person’s intent to act out of their wounded self, so I focus only on what is loving to me and to them, rather than trying in any way to get them to see things differently or behave differently.
Sometimes, when trauma is triggered, you might feel so scared that you go into the fight, flight, or freeze response. I used to completely freeze in the face of blaming or shaming. I would freeze like a deer in the headlights, because I had no inner loving adult who knew how to take care of me in the face of another’s unloving behavior. I would get triggered way back to feeling my mother’s rage at me as a child, having no idea what to do.
Since practicing Inner Bonding and developing my loving adult, I no longer have this misplaced freeze response, and for this I’m so grateful.
Another thing that has changed for me with developing my loving adult is that I no longer focus on the other person. I no longer try to get them to see wat they are doing so that they will change. I’ve fully accepted that the only person I can change is me and in accepting my helplessness over them, I’ve let go of a false belief I used to have that I shouldn’t let them get away with their unloving behavior.
In my work with my clients I often hear, “It’s not fair. They should not be allowed to get away with this.” When I hear this, I know they are stuck in their wounded self, trying to control something over which they have no control – rather than accept the reality of their helplessness over others and then take loving care of themselves.
My client, Aubrey, married to Sam, gets angry when Sam is in his wounded self – pulling on her, sulking, being selfish, and so on. But the more she gets angry, the more Sam acts out from his wounded self. They are stuck in a dysfunctional relationship system.
“Aubrey, why do you keep getting angry? What not take loving care of yourself when Sam is like that?”
“But then he will think he can get away with acting like a child.”
“So, you think if you punish him, he will change?”
“Is this working? Is he changing?”
“No! He keeps acting like this and it’s making me crazy.”
“What if your anger is actually fueling his sulking and pulling on you? What if he is reacting to you, just like you are reacting to him?”
“Then what should I do?”
“The first thing you need to do is let go of believing that you have to get him to see that he can’t get away with this. The truth is he can get away with it and there is nothing you can do other than leave the marriage, which I know you don’t want to do. What if you fully accepted this?”
“I don’t want to accept it. It’s not right for him to act that way!”
“And it’s right for you to go into your wounded self and dump your anger on him?”
“Oh. I guess that’s not right either.”
“Aubrey, what do you feel inside when he is pulling and sulking?”
“I feel dismayed. Really sad and lonely with him.”
“What if you attended to these feelings with compassion rather than try to punish and control him? How would your inner child feel if you cared deeply about your feelings?”
“I think I would feel much better.”
Much to her surprise, as Aubrey backed off from punishing Sam and trying to get him to see that he was behaving badly, Sam’s behavior gradually shifted toward being more present and caring with Aubrey.
A common issue I work with regarding relationships is an individual making their partner or others they are close to, their higher power.
Jerrod, in his late 30s, consulted with me because he was feeling frantic about his relationship with his girlfriend. He and Leslie had fallen deeply in love just over a year ago, but now the relationship was falling apart.
“Leslie and I are very attracted to each other and really enjoy each other’s company,” he told me. “But something happens after we’ve been together over a weekend. We have a great time and then during the week I’m miserable for a few days. After a few days, I feel okay again, and then we get together, and it starts all over. I don’t want our relationship to end, but I can’t stand what happens after we are together. Maybe we are not supposed to be together.”
As we explored what happened when he and Leslie were together, it became apparent to me that Jarrod completely abandoned his inner child to Leslie and made her his higher power. Once he was alone again, he was miserable because of his self-abandonment—until he was able to reconnect with himself.
The problem was that Jerrod wanted to get the love he received from Leslie more than he wanted to be loving to himself and to her. Then, if she didn’t come through with the love he expected, he blamed her.
Like me, Leslie had learned as a child to be caretaker, but since she had started to practice Inner Bonding, she was no longer willing to take responsibility for Jerrod’s feelings, so that’s why their relationship was in turmoil.
My client, Renee, consulted with me because her marriage of 28 years was on the brink of divorce. Like Jerrod, Renee did not want responsibility for her own feelings, so she had always made her husband, Jackson, her higher power. He was supposed to be her source and make her feel that she was okay.
Jackson had also learned to be a caretaker, but after getting ill with prostate cancer, he started to do his inner work and was no longer willing to serve as Renee’s higher power. Renee was furious at what she considered to be abandonment, and it was not easy for her to see that what she was calling abandonment was actually self-abandonment.
Greg is another client who consistently made his partners his higher power and one relationship after another ended. Other than sometimes feeling lonely, Greg did fine when he was on his own. His problems started as soon as he was in a relationship. The moment he really liked a man, he would abandon his little boy and make his lover his higher power. Since people get together at their common level of woundedness, Greg’s partners were always just as co-dependent as Greg. They would care-take Greg at the beginning and then pull back in resentment, since they were also making Greg their higher power.
In my work with each of these people, they all said the same thing: “I don’t know how to love myself.”
“Of course you don’t,” I always say. “You had no role-modeling for loving yourself and for taking responsibility for your own feelings. The good news is that you don’t have to know how. What you do need to do is open to learning about loving yourself with your true higher power—your personal spiritual guidance. Until you are willing to open to learning with your spiritual source of love, rather than make a person your source of love, you will continue to have relationship problems.”
“But,” they generally say, “in a good relationship, isn’t the other person supposed to make you feel loved?”
“No!” I say, “In a good relationship, each person makes themselves feel lovable and worthy so that they can share their love with each other. A good relationship is not about getting love, but about sharing love. And you will feel far more love when you are able to share love, than for the moments when you are able to get love.”
Are you making another person your higher power? Is this causing problems in your relationship?
One of the wonderful things we can give to each other in a committed relationship is to deeply see who we each are in our beautiful soul essence. It is gratifying for all of us to feel deeply known by both ourselves and by our partner.
Many of us grew up with parents or other caregivers who could not see our incredible soul essence, which is who we really are, because they had lost touch with their own soul essence, their beautiful inner child. In a committed relationship, we have a chance to learn to deeply know and cherish each other’s soul essence – which is the part of each other we fell in love with and connect with. Of course, we need to learn to see beyond the wounded self in order to reflect to each other our true selves.
However, if someone operates mostly from their wounded self, taking the actions that create disconnection, it can be hard to see their true self. As you take this time to look at your relationship, you might want to be honest with yourself about how often you operate from your wounded self and how often your partner does, and to accept that no one likes anyone’s wounded self. The wounded self isn’t the lovable part of us, and the actions of the wounded self are what create disconnection. If you want a loving relationship, then each of you need to practice Inner Bonding to heal the false beliefs and controlling behavior of your wounded selves.
We feel loved and connected when we see our own and each other’s magnificent essence. It’s not always easy to see our own essence and we give each other a great gift when we see and reflect each other’s true self.
Where do you believe your best and worst feelings come from regarding love and relationships? Most people have some major misconceptions about this.
The wounded self often believes that your worth and safety and happiness come from getting love or approval, or from having sex, and that your painful feelings come from not getting love, approval, or sex. The wounded self also often believes that your fear of abandonment comes from others disapproving of you or leaving you.
In other words, the wounded self believes that our best feelings come from others loving us and our worst feelings come from others abandoning us.
The loving adult knows that our best feelings come from taking responsibility for our own feelings, and from being connected with our higher guidance and bringing love to our inner child, and from taking loving action on our own behalf, and from sharing our love with others, rather than trying to get love.
The loving adult knows that being loving to ourselves and others is what fills us up, and that trying to have control over getting love and avoiding pain leaves us feeling empty inside.
The loving adult knows that our worst feelings come from abandoning ourselves by judging ourselves, ignoring our feelings, numbing our feelings with addictions, and by making others responsible for our feelings of worth, safety, and lovability.
The loving adult knows that it is self-abandonment, not being abandoned by others, that creates our fear, anxiety, depression, and emptiness.
While getting love from others always feels good for the moment, when we abandon ourselves to get love, we will always end up feeling badly. The wounded self wants to believe that our bad feelings are coming from not being loved by the other, but they are really coming from having abandoned ourselves to get love.
Do you accept that it takes work to create a loving relationship, or do you believe that unless it’s easy, it’s not the right relationship? We all have baggage from childhood that needs to be healed, and it’s our unhealed wounds, especially our fears of rejection and engulfment, that are triggered in committed relationships.
Are you committed to working through the difficult and painful issues that inevitably arise in relationships, or do you run when things get hard? If you want to have a long-term loving relationship, you need to learn to hang in through the hard stuff.
When my clients Isabel and Lloyd met, they both felt that this was the relationship they had each been looking for. They could talk for hours. They were each deeply interested in learning about and getting to know each other. The chemistry between them was incredible. They had both been through previous marriages and both felt they were ready for a loving relationship. They enjoyed reading the same books and they both seemed open to learning.
For a few months, everything went well. But the first few months of a relationship is the honeymoon period – the period before the deeper fears of rejection and engulfment surface. These issues will inevitably surface, as everyone has them to one degree or another. Problems arise, not just because issues surface, but because of how each partner responds to – or reacts to – these issues.
Relationships provide a wonderful arena for healing our issues when both people are willing to do their own learning and hang in through the hard times.
If you are a person who knows you are courageous, tenacious, and willing to learn through the hard times, then your challenge is to be open to knowing whether or not your partner is on the same page.
Isabel and Lloyd ran into problems when Isabel’s fears of abandonment surfaced and she started to pull on Lloyd to make her feel safe, and Lloyd’s fear of engulfment surfaced and he started to pull away from Isabel. It’s a chicken-and-egg situation that is not caused just by one person. As people become more attached to each other, their deep fears of rejection and of engulfment surface. It’s not about one person moving into their wounded self and then triggering the other – it’s about both people moving into their wounded selves and triggering each other.
As Lloyd started to shut down out of his fear of losing himself, he triggered Isabel’s fears of abandonment, and as Isabel became more needy and made Lloyd responsible for her feelings, she triggered Lloyd into his fear of engulfment.
If both of them had been devoted to learning and healing, they could have gradually healed these issues within the relationship.
But Lloyd was a runner, and he had run away from many relationships. First, he would give himself up, over and over, and then he would end the relationship. He did not have the devotion to his own growth, nor the tenacity to heal his fears, that is required to build a loving relationship.
After Lloyd left and then came back a number of times, Isabel finally realized that the relationship had become unsafe for her to do her healing work. Isabel was very dedicated to healing her fears of rejection and was very open to learning in her sessions with me. She was heartbroken that Lloyd did not have the courage, devotion, and tenacity that she did. She knew they loved each other, but she finally had to accept that Lloyd was not going to hang in through the hard times. He was more interested in ‘peace’ and ‘safety’ than in learning. Sometimes learning is tumultuous and anything but peaceful. True inner peace and a deep sense of inner safety come from healing the underlying fears of rejection and engulfment, not from avoiding them.
I encourage you to go inside and be honest with yourself. Are you willing to hang in through the challenging times, or are you a runner? If you discover that you are a runner, ask yourself these questions: What are you so afraid of about hanging in and doing your inner healing work? What are you afraid of learning?
I hope you take the time to evaluate your relationship with clear eyes and be honest with yourself regarding what work you might need to do to create a truly loving relationship with a partner and with family and friends.
And I hope you take my 30-day video relationship course, Wildly, Deeply, Joyously in Love, as well as my 30-Day”Love Yourselfcourse. And be sure to take advantage of our website at https:www.innerbonding.com, and of the many books on Inner Bonding that can be a huge help in your healing process.
I’m sending you my love and my blessings.