As a therapist working with couples or even individuals, when they are struggling in intimate relationships it is not unusual to find that they each are likely to have low self-esteem, low value and low self-respect.
Most people when they come into therapy concerning their relationship have two things they bring to therapy, either my partner is breaking this relationship and I don’t know what to do, or I’m no good, I'm breaking this relationship I don’t know what to do.
If we explore either statement, the first being blame, if we always look to blame others and not look at who we are in the relationship then we always give others the power over our happiness.
For example; Let me introduce my fictional character, Amy.
Amy 36yrs old
Married for 12 years to Dan 39yrs old
1 child 8 yrs old.
Amy Works in IT
Dan works in Sales.
Amy is the oldest child in her family. Having a younger sister.
Dan is a twin with a sister, she is 3 minutes older.
Amy Came to see me when she and Dan were struggling, Amy felt Dan didn’t spend any time with her and their son.
We explored the dynamic of their relationship to include family time, work time any changes in their lives and their sex life.
3 years ago, Dan was promoted at work and as their son was now at school full-time this felt like a really good time for Amy to go back to work full-time allowing them to buy the house they had wanted for some time.
They couldn't have been happier, they moved within 18 months.
However, a few months after moving as Dan was now having to commute, he was getting home later, Amy was finishing work, picking up their son, cooking dinner whilst doing homework and then putting their son to bed all this alone.
Amy felt tired all the time, their sex life was almost non-existent and they began to argue, Amy felt unsupported by Dan.
Dan felt Amy was no fun and just moaned all the time.
When they tried to talk Amy would blame Dan for caring about his job more than his family, that he didn’t fancy her any more, that he must be flirting with all the young girls in his office.
Dan didn’t know how to respond to this because he told her it wasn’t true; he did fancy her but she was so difficult to come home to these days he'd rather be at work.
These discussions would result in both Dan and Amy walking away feeling they were right in their position and neither would budge.
So, Amy contacted me, Dan refused to come saying it is your problem, not mine.
Whilst exploring Amy's life and view of herself, she had always struggled to feel attractive or pretty when she was at school, she was quite shy, and only had a handful of friends compared to her younger sister who was loud and full of personality, she had loads of friends.
Amy had had a couple of boyfriends but not many she had little experience of boys until she went to university, she had a boyfriend that she met in fresher’s week and she fell head over heels, they spent all their spare time together until summer break when they both went home, when they returned to university life, her boyfriend was quiet and withdrawn.
Amy didn’t understand, she looked and felt good about herself for the first time, she was excited to get back and see her boyfriend, only to learn through rumours he had met someone while on summer break and had cheated.
Amy was devastated, she didn’t understand why he would do this, however, she didn’t want to break up with him, she would be embarrassed in front of friends and family, they had joint friends, they all socialised together and , she didn't want to be on her own, she didn't want to feel lonely, so Amy stayed.
So, when they were together, she would ask him what was wrong, she would get angry when he would withdraw until eventually, he ended the relationship.
Amy felt alone, she withdrew for a while from socialising, this took a long time for Amy to recover from this.
I asked Amy what her perfect relationship looked like, she said one where they love each other and want to be together, spend time as a family.
I then asked what does she expect from Dan that he is not doing?
Amy said he is not making me feel good about myself, or lovable, he makes me feel unattractive, unwanted, undesirable, lonely.
I challenged Amy to look at why she accepts this in her life, why does she accept less than she wants and desires in her life.
As we continued through therapy Amy began to realise that, it wasn’t Dan that was making her feel this way it was herself, she was saying these things to herself.
As we progressed Amy began to find new confidence, she felt she could now talk to Dan without blaming him.
This lowering of her expectation for Dan to make her feel a certain way enabled Amy to build her self-esteem and feel more powerful.
This example shows our expectation of the other to create in us the feeling of being valuable, when we don’t value ourselves, is always going to end in disaster and erodes our self-esteem and confidence.
We must put a value on ourselves in our relationships whether family children or lovers.
In other words, the value you put on yourselves had got to be higher than the value you expect your partner to put on you, this gives you the confidence and power to have the happiness you require.
So back to Amy, we challenged in therapy Amy’s view that Dan was causing all the issues, what this exploration and revelation brought was that Amy was bringing some of the agenda to their marriage and because she was so sure it was Dan that was the cause she had stopped talking to him and was now just angry at him all the time this gave Dan nowhere to go to discuss anything with Amy.
During therapy Amy learned how to stop and listen and make time for Dan, he felt helpless and had told his sister it must be me I don’t know what I'm doing wrong this is what we both wanted, he felt like a failure.
Amy didn’t know Dan was feeling this way, so when they talked, she found out that Dan didn’t feel he could save their marriage and that it was him that had run it off the road but couldn’t do anything to fix it, so he didn’t want to come to therapy because he was sure he would be told its all your fault, he already felt it was his fault he didn’t need a therapist to tell him.
Here we can see that had Dan come to therapy he would have been looking to blame himself.
But clearly, we can see no one person is to blame.
Our values of self, need to be a priority going into any relationship if we have low values or no value system in place if we have little regard or respect for ourselves, we are likely to have difficult relationships.
If we value ourselves, we can value our relationships, by recognising I have control of myself in this relationship, what I expect and what I allow, empowers the individual to be creative in their relationships.
This is how to create a successful relationship, with both of you being valued and respected.
Now imagine how magical that would be.
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