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This is one of a
seriesof articles in self-improvement
Lesson 4 - optimize your relationships. This
subseries focuses on improving primary relationships.
“I love you not so much for who you
are as for how I feel when I am with you.”
Mary Carolyn Davies
This article explores
options if a spouse doesn't feel
loved well enough by their mate. It offers...
a perspective on love
a "love inventory"
summaries of probable
primary "love" problems, and...
about yourself with this anonymous 1-question
Let's set the stage with some...
Perspective on "Love"
Psychologically-healthy kids and adults need to feel. give, and get
"love." Millions of words have been created about this primal need,
which comes in several forms: love between mates; friends; family
members; people and animals; and believers and their Higher Power, A
prize that many seek across their years is non-egotistical
Have you found that prize yet? Do you agree that "you can't love another
until you love yourself"?
This brief YouTube video offers perspective on Self love:
Unconditional love is
spontaneous, irrational, and organic. It cannot be demanded, bought,
forced, or bargained for. Love is deeper than liking, and
far more than desire. Kids and adults who lack enough love - or
who associate love with pain - usually battle private numbness,
depression, emptiness, loneliness, and perhaps despair.
Unaware people lacking
often confuse needing with "loving." Paradoxically, kids and
adults who have never felt genuinely loved can only guess at what
it feels like. Do you know anyone like that?
One measure of love is the degree to which you're willing to give of
yourself and sacrifice prized things for the welfare of a beloved other
person without resentment. Sacrifices made because of duty,
loyalty, shame, guilt, addiction, social pressure, and/or fear signify
inherited psychological wounds and neediness, not love.
A common stressor in many (all?) cultures is the inherited expectation
("rule") that certain people must love each other,
regardless of their personalities, behaviors, and their relationship. If
they don't love, society judges them as "bad." To avoid this
shaming label, people pretend to love the other person/s, and say "I
love you" without really feeling it. Thus usually promotes
confusion, doubts, distrust, guilt, and resentments.
Not feeling genuine love for the other person - e.g. for an abusive,
neglectful mother, father, sibling, or relative - can cause chronic
shame, guilt, self-doubt, and confusion. Have you ever felt these?
A reality that may cause personal, marital, or family stress is that love
may not be reciprocal. One person may feel it mire intensely than their
partner. Similarly, love may not be "distributed" equally in a family -
a child may feel their parent/s or relatives love another child "more."
Another reality is that the quality and degree of a person's may
increase or decrease over time. This is so because personalities
inevitably evolve (personal growth"), priorities and values change, and social and earthly environments inexorably shift. Peopled can
discover their partner really isn't the person they first seemed to be
because of deception and distortions. Over time, what mates labeled as
courtship love may be recognized as neediness, desire, pity, and illusions.
Part of the mystery and paradox about this primal need and emotion is
that we can truly love someone and also dislike or "hate" some of their
traits, attitudes, and/or behaviors. Have you experienced this vexing
duality? It comes from having
who have different needs and values, and who each see the world
Pause and notice what your subselves are
thinking and feeling.
increase your awareness by getting undistracted, and taking this...
Rate each of these items
totally agree) to 5 (I totally disagree). Option: after focusing on
re-do this status check and use the second blank to guess how your partner or
someone else would
answer. Then ask her or him to take this inventory and compare results.
1) I am worthyof
being loved now without any qualification. ___ ___
2) I know from life experience what being
truly loved feels like. ___ ___
3) I have feltloved well enough, recently. ___ ___
4) My recent
actionsdemonstrate that I love myself as deeply as anyone else now. ___
5) I deserveto be loved now
because of who I am, vs. what I do. ___ ___
6) I amfully
capable now of _ feeling and _ expressing real love for another
person. ___ ___
7) I'm clear on the difference between
liking a person and loving them. ___
8) My feeling loved can only come from
another living thing ___ ___.
9) I can clearly discern between feeling
needed or desired and feeling loved
now. ___ ___
10) I canclearly tell the difference now
between genuine love and _ pity, _
(obligation), and _
or receiving love
involves some pain. ___ ___
12) Each of my earliestprimary caregivers genuinely loved themselves. ___
13) I got enough genuine (vs.
dutiful) loveas a young child. ___ ___
14) I can recognize the
difference between love and respect
15) You can’treally love anotherperson unless you feel genuine
self-love. ___ ___
16) The oppositeof self-loveis shame. ___ ___
17) I can care about another person
without loving them. ___ ___
18) Love must be
spontaneous, vs. expected, requested, or demanded. ___
can choose to change their
abilities to (a) feel, (b) express, and (c) receivelove if
they really want to. ___ ___
can lovesomeone without respecting or liking
them. ___ ___
21) I'm clear how
loving a person differs from loving what they do. ___
22) Romantic love is
temporary, and differs from mature adult love. ___ ___
23) Mates married before God
must love each other, no matter what. ___ ___
love and hate a person or themselves at the same time. ___
25) My mate and I are each able
to form healthy
bonds with each other and other selected people. ___ ___
26) I can describe the
difference between healthy love and
addiction). ___ ___
27) I look forward to
discussing this inventory with my partner now. ___ ___
28) I feel some mix of
calm, centered, energized, light, focused,
up, grounded, relaxed, alert, aware, serene,
purposeful, and clear, so
true Self probably filled out this inventory.
(If not, a well-meaning
false self may have distorted your answers).
Have you ever taken a “love inventory” like
this before? What are you thinking and feeling?
you and your mate believe about “love and marriage.”
shape whether your love expectations of yourself and each other are
attainable or not. Compare your beliefs to these...
Premises about Love and Marriage
In what follows, "marriage" means "commitment to a primary
partner.": That may or may not be sanctified by a license and
religious or civil ceremony.
writes that in Western cultures, marrying for
love vs. for economic,
practical, and political reasons, just became fashionable in the 19th
century. Yet that's the media-hyped reality most people take for
granted as we begin the 21st century.
This suggests that your parents, you, your mate, and any
ex mates were conditioned to expect your spouse to fill your primal needs to give and get enough
love and to feel
lovable. The tragic U.S. divorce epidemic
testifies how millions of average couples find these needs hard to fill.
experience as a therapist is that many
adults have survived early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and
abuse ("trauma"). and have
inherited significant psychological
wounds. Many don’t
(want to) know that, or what
mean, and/or how to
Sometimes these wounds combine to block kids' and adults' abilities to
about and love other people,
and/or to accept love from others.
unawareness raise the odds that romance-dazed,
needy men and women
will choose the wrong
people to commit to,
for the wrong
reasons, at the wrong
time. Several Lesson-4
worksheets can help you decide if you and/or a partner made any of
these unwise courtship decisions.
The ideas below invite you to clarify
(a) what you believe about marital love, and (b) what you need from whom. Your and
your partner's love-related beliefs, needs, expectations, and fears determine
your current love satisfactions. See how you feel about each of these
is a mix of
things: respect + admiration + acceptance +
empathy + companionship + trust + interest +, a communion of souls +
sexual-sensual desire. A related dynamic is needing to feel
consistently special ("primary") to your "significant other.".
Various people can
fill combinations of these needs for you. Ideally, your commitment ceremony
celebrated you mates each deciding that your partner filled most of these needs
better than anyone you knew up to then.
Love grows or fades over time
mates age, the world and your priorities change, and each of your
marital needs are filled well
enough or not. Major factors are whether you each are...
Premise 3) Romantic love drew you to each
other during courtship. If you each married the
right persons, for the
reasons, at the right time, this marvelous feeling mellows into a deeper mature love. Longing to
keep or regenerate the unique thrill and sparkle of fresh romantic love
usually yields disappointment and frustration.
If you mates cherish the
memory of your courtship romance and work to evolve a deeper love together,
you may be content.
There are four love “domains” in your
each of us loving the other. The fourth domain is...
a communion with and reverence for a
Higher Power. Though
this domain affects your
serenity and relationship, it’s beyond our scope here.
Personal and shared discomforts can occur in at
least the first three of these four domains.
More premises about marital
Your (a) need for adult love and
(b) your ability to feel lovable and loved
are greatly shaped by your first several years of life. You can’t change what you experienced
then, but you can understand and heal from it if you weren't loved well
Do you feel that healthy infants are born with the ability to love
themselves and other entities equally?
Needing, feeling, and expressing love for other living things is a normal
human response that grows automatically if the environment is
and your mate are each somewhere on
a line between “very well loved as
a young child,” and “very unloved as a young child.” Your subjective
opinion of where you fall on this line may be accurate or not. If you
weren’t loved well enough, you’ve probably “forgotten,” denied,
repressed, or numbed that reality to reduce past and
subselves may (idealistically) expect your
mate to provide your
inner kids with the love they never got. If you
loved well enough, your inner subselves are probably longing for and
expecting your mate to provide the same selfless adoration, care, and
willing sacrifice. Either way, these needs are primal,
not rational or
responsive to logical discussion, hints, threats,
requests, or demands.
Liketrust, respect, empathy, and forgiveness,
love can only be given spontaneously. Therefore manipulating,
requesting, pleading, or demanding that you or your mate love yourselves or
each other more is a self-defeating ”
Be spontaneous!" paradox.
adult experience of love and your
expectationsabout it are limited by your life experience so far. If
you’ve experienced little altruistic (selfless) love from other people,
your perception of what “love” is and feels like is less than if you have
been able to experience genuine love.
So adults emotionally
neglected as young kids
pity, sexual desire, companionship, needing, and/or controlling (“I know
what’s best for you, so do what I say.”) are “love.” These
reality distortions will
inner-family and marital
Few adults think about who they’re relying on to fill their blend
of current love-needs: their Higher Power, themselves, their mate, their
children, kin, friends, co-workers, mentors, one or more therapists or
coaches, and/or animals. You and your mate can each control only one of these
Pause, breathe, and reflect on these premises about marital love. If you or
your partner disagree with any of them, what do you believe? Your beliefs will shape your shared needs and expectations about exchanging
love with each other.
Now let's shift from these abstract ideas to some common...
Surface “Love” Problems
Premise: "Problems" are unfilled
needs (discomforts), which can be superficial ("surface") or primary. Surface relationship
symptoms of underlying primary needs. See if you’re
one or more of these surface needs:
I need to
feel more loved by my mate more often.
says or implies that s/he needs to feel more loved by me, and I
need to know what to do about that.
out of love with my mate, and need to decide what to do about that.
says s/he doesn’t love me as much or at all, or s/he says s/he does, but
her/his acctio0ns say otherwise. I need to clarify my feelings, needs, and options.
One of us desires and/or loves another
person, and feels torn, guilty, ashamed, and scared. Variation: one of
us has had, or is having, a romantic/sexual
affair. I need
to know what to do.
If either of you
partners is experiencing one or more
of these surface problems now, the bad news is: you’re stressed! The good news is: you may
reduce your stress in ways you’re not aware of. Start by considering these…
the surface problems above is a symptom of one or more of these
One or both of you is psychologically
and is unaware of it,
denies it or doesn’t know what that
means or what to
do about it.
Such wounding may mean that one or both of you can't feel, experience,
or give genuine unconditional love because of excessive shame + fears +
One of many symptoms of significant wounding is
you have a marital problem, and focusing on a child, an ex mate,
money, work, health, relatives, and/or something else. Another symptom is confusing love with pity, duty, need, excitement, power, flirting, rescuing, and/or lust
either of you partners may have
wrong people, for the
wrong reasons, at the
wrong time; and needs to
avoid admitting and accepting that. This YouTube video offers perspective on making
three wise commitment
choices: The video mentions eight self-improvement lessons in this web site.
I've reduced that to seven.
If either of you made wrong choices, you can adapt to and learn from
that, but you can't "fix" it.
or both of you may have lost respect for the other - in general and/or as a wo/man and/or
a partner, It's hard to sustain love for someone you don't respect.
Options: read, discuss, and apply the ideas in
this article together when your true
Self is guiding each of you,
"love" problem may be that...
either of you may beblocked ingrieving some
losses (broken bonds). This can hinder solid bonding, and may dilute or
numb feeling or expressing your love.
Options: As you progress with Lesson 1 (wound reduction),
study and discuss
It will educate you on bonds, losses, and healthy three-level grief, and
show you how to assess for and finish incomplete grief, over time.
possibility is that...
one or both of youreally
primacy (specialness), acceptance,
empathy, honesty, sensual/sexual
satisfactions, intimacy, excitement,
companionship - not more "love;"
If so, psychological
wounds, unawareness, or something else
has been blocking your recognizing, asserting, discussing, and satisfying these needs well enough.
If one of you wants to
regain the thrill and excitement of courtship love, you're probably
distorting reality. You can't willfully re-create the
novelty of new love, any more than trying to regain the innocence and
wonder of childhood.
Similarly, seeking "more romance" in your relationship is unrealistic,
because by definition, "romance" is a spontaneous relationship
dynamic that can't be requested, demanded or "created."
Unrealistic expectations is usually a sign of significant psychological
wounding (reality distortion), and being governed by needy and/or naive
Inner Children. Working on Lesson 1 together can help you form realistic
expectations about yourself, your mate and your relationship.
one or both of youput a child
or an ex mate
ahead of your mate and
your relationship too often. The flip side of this is one of you (a
stepparent) is too needy, insecure and distrustful, and your subselves are
oversensitive to or distorting your partner’s
need to nurture their child/ren.
Option - adopt a long-range outlook and patiently study,
discuss, and apply at least Lesson 7 in this web site. Studying
lessons 1 thru 7
is far better in the long run - specially if you're parents..
+ + +
Notice what’s not included
as primary “love” problem: a child’s behavior or welfare, a
parent-child relationship, a legal
suit, money, sex, or an intrusive, needy, or domineering relative.
Those can be
major surface problems, but don’t cause love problems between
Lesson-4 article offers perspectives and options
if one or both of you mates have unfilled needs for love for or from your
primary partner. The article covers:
a perspective on love
a "love inventory"
perspective on how
develops - or doesn't
summaries of typical
primary "love" problems, and...
options for reducing or
resolving the latter.
Pause, breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get
what you needed? If not, what
you need? Who's answering these questions - your wise, resident