Photo by mrjn Photography on Unsplash
A friend told me years ago, ?water seeks its own level,? as in when you put water into a container it will fill it at the same level. Applied to relationships, this means we are going to pick our partners based on how healthy or unhealthy we are.
No healthy person is going to date an unhealthy person long-term. We are attracted to our matches, in both the good and the bad. Even if we start out in a healthy place, if we begin dating someone unhealthy and choose to keep dating them, it will begin to influence us, and we will, in the long-run, start to be as unhealthy as our partner is.
Your relationship is as healthy as the least healthy partner.
Or like this quote taken from Codependent No More by Melody Beattie: ?Did you hear about the woman who kissed a frog? She was hoping it would turn into a prince. It didn?t. She turned into a frog, too.?
If we are insecure or scared or extremely fearful of abandonment, we are going to be attracted to people who manifest those same qualities. Because it?s what we know, what we are most familiar with, we are going to be attracted to that and then accept that.
Likewise, if we are telling ourselves we are unlovable and unworthy of love, then we are probably going to date someone who feels the same way about us and treats us that way. It reinforces how we think and feel about ourselves. We don?t think we deserve better (subconsciously or consciously), so we settle for people who treat us poorly.
We accept what little breadcrumbs of love we get because we think that?s all we?re ever capable of getting.
Many of us have developed these unhealthy ways of looking at ourselves because of family-of-origin issues.
We may have had a physically present, but emotionally absent mother or father, so we date women or men that are similar.
Our parents may have not given us the love and support we needed or deserved.
Our parents may have also abused or neglected us.
Regardless of the reason, we have to recognize that we did not get the training in healthy relationships that we needed, and we need to break that pattern.
If you?re in or just got out of a current relationship where you don?t/didn?t feel valued or cared for, it?s time for you to face the hard truth:
If you want to be treated better, you have to start treating yourself better. If you want to be truly loved, you?ve got to start loving yourself.
It?s always easy to place the blame on the other person. To tell yourself, ?He was a jerk,? or ?she never made time for me,? but whenever we point a finger at someone, we?ve got three pointed back at us. YOU are always the person you need to look at and hold responsible for your unhealthy relationships. You can change you; you can?t change those other people.
I know. It?s a hard pillow to swallow, and it definitely doesn?t taste good going down.
Too many of us see being loving as sacrificing. We put others? needs before our own. We ignore or don?t share our own needs. Instead of working on a compromise, you are the one that always bends, so you do. Every time.
A true partnership should be based on mutual love and respect, where you both inspire and support each other to be better people. This can be hard and scary to ask for, especially if you?ve never gotten it before, but if you won?t accept anything less, you won?t get any less.
If you want real love, you?ve got to start doing it for yourself first.
Many of us do this by starting to see a professional counselor or therapist.
We start filling in those holes within our hearts with affirmations and positive self-talk.
We start doing things that we know are good for us, like eating healthy and exercising, etc.
We look into our own eyes in the mirror every morning and say, ?I love you. You are capable and worthy of great love. You deserve respect and caring.?
We do this until we believe we?re good enough, until we won?t take anything less from a new or current partner.
While this hard work doesn?t guarantee we will only be attracted to healthy people, we can learn to make different choices.
As Beattie says,
Even if we deal with our characteristics, we may still lean toward frogs, but we can learn not to jump into the pond with them.
If you want real love ? better love, true love ? , you have to cultivate your most important relationship first: the one with yourself. You have to care for that self the way you wish a partner would.
If you do the work and keep not jumping in the pond with frogs, you?ll eventually get a prince or princess that believes you deserve great love as much as you believe you do.
Read more from this author here:
How to Identify and Avoid Energy Suckers
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Tara Blair Ball is a memoirist and freelance writer. Check out her website here or find her on Twitter: @taraincognito.