I want to talk about something super important today, and that’s how self-love affects our relationships with other people – specifically a romantic partner.
We have heard the saying over and over again. “You can’t love someone fully until you love yourself.” It comes off as trite and is easy to brush off. In my own personal experience, I simply didn’t embrace this statement as true. There was so much I couldn’t stand about myself – hated, even – but that didn’t change how much I loved my partner! I was full of love for him, and my feelings about myself were unimportant.
What I learned, however – as I watched my relationship with him fall apart – was that I had neglected to remember that love is not just an emotion…it is also an action. The feelings were all there. I loved my partner deeply. But that love was not being communicated or acted out in a way that was healthy. I had never mastered the act of loving myself, and I could not master the act of loving him, either.
It doesn’t take long for even those of us with the very best of intentions to become the “energy vampires” we try to stay away from ourselves. The kindest people can become emotionally abusive, and relationships full to the brim with love – the emotion – can become unhealthy in practice.
That is why self-love is so important. So, today I’m going to share some of the ways that a lack of self-love can ruin your relationship. I encourage you all to open yourself up and let this information in – I certainly wish that I had.
When You Don’t Love Yourself, You Rely Heavily on the Love of Your Partner
We all want to be loved. It is a universal desire. Love makes us happy – it makes us feel validated and important.
When we are healthy and have mastered the art of self-love, then we feel those things both on our own and with our partner. We know that, even without the love of our partner, we would be whole, loved, and worthy.
But when we don’t love ourselves, we become incredibly dependent on the love of our partner. It’s all we have! All of our validation comes from our external world, and we need that validation desperately. Otherwise, all of those horrible thoughts we have about ourselves must be true!
This is, of course, an overwhelming amount of pressure to put on someone else. Your partner becomes less of a person and more of a tool – something you use to validate yourself and make yourself feel better. And this leads to any number of unhealthy habits that can begin to form in relationships.
For me, it manifested like this. I would begin to feel bad about myself, and it would make me incredibly depressed. Nothing could pull me out of it – nothing except the short-term reward of knowing I was loved by somebody else. So, by the time my partner got home, I needed to feel validated in that way. It made me desperate for an unfair amount of attention. It meant I felt abandoned when he wasn’t able to console me, even when I didn’t know how to console myself! The only time I ever felt good about myself was when he was right in front of me, reassuring me that I was lovable for the millionth time. But, my lack of self-love meant that those reassuring feelings were gone the second he was.
The way you feel about yourself is not your partner’s responsibility. More often than not, we don’t even notice that we have created a situation in which we’ve given them this responsibility for our emotions. I certainly didn’t notice until I was out of the relationship and finally took a look at my own feelings about myself.
Without Self-Love, Your Mind Seeks to Validate Its Own Negative Opinions
If you do not love yourself, then it likely means that you hold some pretty negative opinions of yourself. Whether you are conscious of it or not, your mind will go out of its way to prove that these negative opinions are valid. This leads to a whole lot of projecting.
Let’s look at this situation. Your mind has told you, over and over again for years, that nobody thinks you are important. You believe this to be true.
You’re having a bad day and, because you never learned how to make yourself feel better, you are waiting for your partner to come home and do that work for you. However, you find out they have plans to go out with their friends or do something for themselves. Now, you’re furious.
This is a super common situation for people struggling with self-love, and it’s because our mind validates the idea, nobody thinks I’m important, by applying it to as many situations as it can. You believe this statement wholeheartedly, and so the obvious conclusion to draw is that your partner is going out on your bad day because they do not think you’re important, either.
Obviously, this isn’t true. Your partner is going out because they made plans, need some space or alone-time, have something to do, etc. They are not obligated to be with you every time you are feeling bad about something. Especially if you’re someone who feels bad about things a lot.
Once someone has convinced themselves that they are not a priority in someone’s life, the relationship can get unhealthy super quickly. It isn’t uncommon to start looking with jealousy at all of the things your mind has convinced you are more important than you. Why are their friends more important than me? Why is that family member more important than me? Why is that hobby more important than me? Once you’re far enough in, you have built resentments up about aspects of your partner’s life that the true you, the one underneath the limiting beliefs about yourself, would never have. You say things you don’t mean, and you may even begin to tear your partner down.
How Can We Stop a Lack of Self-Love from Ruining Our Relationships?
Nobody, especially anyone currently in a relationship, is going to want to hear this…but you have to be in a place where you can focus on yourself, not your relationship. I’m not saying that it’s impossible to work on self-love while in a relationship with someone else – just that it will take extra work to allow the relationship to be light and free from stress while you honor the time you’ll need for self-reflection.
When my relationship ended, these realizations about self-love and unhealthy behaviors hit me hard. It felt like I was having an epiphany and changing my thought pattern rapidly every day. What I’ve learned, however, is that I finally hit a point – in a cycle that’s been going on for years – where I was able to recognize patterns and pull out of them. The same things had been happening to me my entire life, but I was finally in a place where I could analyze them and take a long, hard look at myself.
I recommend writing out a list of all the issues that are present in your relationship or previous relationships. Now, look at each item on the list and ask yourself, what negative opinion do I hold about myself that is contributing to this situation? From there, try to pinpoint when that negative opinion of yourself first formed. Take its power away, and work hard to convince yourself every single day that the opposite of that opinion is true. To understand this more, read my post about limiting beliefs.
If I sat here and tried to write down all of the ways you can work on loving yourself, we would be here all day. So I’ll end things here, letting you know that the first step is finally acknowledging your own thought patterns and why you behave the way you do within relationships. I’m on my own intensive self-love journey right now, so I am sure that plenty of related posts will follow soon.
Until then, be easy on yourself. Be forgiving. You have taken responsibility for yourself, and that is worth being proud of. Without the mistakes you have made, you may never have been in a position to fight so hard for the amazing person you know you can be.