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Love ’em or Leave ’em

Screen Shot 2015-05-27 at 4.50.22 PM“The beginning of love is to let those we love be perfectly themselves, and not to twist themselves to fit our own image. Otherwise we love only the reflection of ourselves we find in them.”
―Thomas Merton

Much of what I know about happiness, or perhaps better said, unhappiness, is that it comes from wanting things to be other than what they are—when I desire things to be other than what they are, I can’t appreciate what is.  This is commonly true in relating with others. When we want someone to be other than who they are, we can miss out on their lovable qualities.

As a teen, my mom wanted me to be someone other than who I was. For a few years, all I got from her was criticism and complaints. I felt that she couldn’t accept or enjoy me for my lovable qualities because she was only focused on who I wasn’t. Interestingly enough, she wanted me to be who she wasn’t. She wanted, in me, the qualities she didn’t have in herself.

So, one day in tears, I said, “I wish you could love me for who I am—not who you want me to be.”  She actually got it. After that one sentence, she started appreciating me for who I was. I could then be myself without being concerned about what she thought or if I was doing myself “right.” My mother changed in response to my request. She realized I couldn’t be who she also couldn’t be.

Struggling in love

I commonly see patients who are struggling in love relationships. Either they want their partners to change—be someone other than who they are—or their partners want them to change.

Often we think if the other person just loved us enough, they would change to fit our picture of who we think they should be. But this change is unlikely, especially if we are expecting them to change their nature—their fundamental way of being.

A person’s nature determines things like whether they are introverted or extroverted. These things don’t change just because we want them to. If you push your partner to change their nature—to be more outgoing and social, for example—any change will likely be temporary. They may try for a while, but then nature takes its course.

In hindsight, we might have seen the mismatch before we got so deeply involved, but often because of our desire for a relationship, we ignore the warning signs early on. Or if we were conscious of the mismatch before we got together with our partner, we likely went forward hoping that he or she would change.

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Realistic expectations

If we have chosen our partner well, then expecting them to grow and mature along with us is a reasonable expectation. We should both be willing to change certain behaviors to make our relationship run more smoothly. This is not the same as asking someone to change their nature.

If your partner wants to make behavioral changes and makes a real effort, that doesn’t mean the change will be perfect. They’ll have their own interpretation of what you’re asking of them and they’ll have their own unique version of what the change will look like.

If the response or change is not enough for you then you have another choice to make. Either you lovingly accept them for who they are and change what you focus on, or lovingly end the relationship and quit making both of you unhappy.

In either case, love is involved. The more loving thing for yourself and your partner may be to let go of trying to twist them into a reflection of yourself.

 

Love ’em or Leave ’em


Jake & Hannah Eagle

Jake & Hannah Eagle conduct small retreats at beautiful locations around the world for the purpose of encouraging people to live more consciously. They also provide coach and health consultations.


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APA Reference
, . (2015). Love ’em or Leave ’em. Psych Central. Retrieved on January 20, 2020, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/healthy-relationships/2015/05/love-em-or-leave-em/

 

Last updated: 27 May 2015
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.