Love blossoms when two people have each other’s best interest at heart. And it withers when they stop meeting one another’s needs.
Romantic relationships start with flirting, that artful skill of getting someone to notice you. Once people have each other’s attention, they build a connection by focusing on what makes the other person happy. If they both sustain a high level of energy for meeting one another’s needs, the attachment between them becomes secure.
But so much can go wrong in relationships. Often people pick poorly at the outset. They flirt with people with whom they have a superficial attraction. It’s like buying a car that’s beautiful, but has a poor reliability record. It’s destined to break down sooner or later. Attraction is important, but it must be backed up by an ability to consistently keep another person’s best interest in their heart.
There are many questions to be answered in order to determine whether someone will be able to provide the ingredients essential for maintaining a loving connection. Can they listen, empathize, negotiate, respect, trust, adapt, have fun, be romantic? Were their parents able to be that way with each other? If so, they grew up with a good model of how to sustain a satisfying marriage. If not, their ability to love will remain stunted until they develop the skills required to engage in a healthy loving relationship.
If you were hiring someone to work for you, you’d have a job description against which you’d carefully compare their previous experience. It’s imperative to examine a person’s relationship resume before getting too committed. What evidence is there that a potential partner has the interest and ability to make a lifetime commitment to creating a mutually satisfying relationship?
If there’s no history of their having been able to take care of other people’s needs for a sustained period of time, what would make you think that they’d be able to do that with you? How has the person handled friendships? What’s the nature of their connection to their children and parents? Is there evidence that the essence of their relationships revolves around a fair exchange of giving and taking? Or has it been one-sided?
- And what issues are you bringing into the relationship?
- What about your ability to have win-win relationships?
- How well have you been able to take care of other people’s needs?
- How effectively can you assert and negotiate for what you want?
- Do you often do you end up resentful because you’ve given more than you’ve received?
- Do you frequently find yourself angry and engaging in power struggles with people in an effort to get what you feel you deserve?
- Do you find significant satisfaction in making the world a better place for others, or are you primarily focused on your own desires?
- Are you able to turn toward others to get your needs met in an equitable exchange?
- Or do you turn toward substances such as alcohol, drugs, or food for comfort?
- Are you able to take good care of your body so that you have positive energy to bring into your relationships?
- Have you been told by people you’re close to that you’re too critical at times?
- Can you maintain an optimistic frame of mind when facing challenges?
- When there’s a problem, do you lapse into worrying, frustration or discouragement?
- Do you nurture your spirit by communing with nature and tapping into the loving energy of the universe?
If you look at yourself and feel that you have a lot to learn about how to be a more loving person, find people to teach you what you need to know. Hang out around friends who have loving relationships and model your own interactions after theirs. Find a therapist who can coach you on how to form loving connections.
If you find yourself in a relationship that’s not making you happy, start working on what you can do to be a more loving person. If your partner doesn’t reciprocate, and you’ve been very clear and encouraging with them about how you want them to meet your needs, then go to couples counseling.
The longer you’re locked into a situation that lacks sufficient satisfaction of your needs, the more likely you are to feel unlovable. At a minimum, marriage counseling can help you look at your own ability to love yourself and others. And when counseling succeeds, you and your spouse will both have learned to apply the relationship skills required to make your marriage happy.