The reason most people complain about not feeling loved in their marriage or significant relationship is because their idea of love is a fantasy based on the illusion that “their partner” can heal the wounds of “their” childhood.
The yearning we feel is not the need to experience love, it’s the need to be loved in exactly the right way so-as-to heal the pain and fill the emptiness we experienced in childhood.
For example, if we grew up invisible in childhood we will be happy and feel loved when we are in our partner’s vision; talking to us and listening to us. However, the moment our partner picks up a book to read, or head’s out to visit a friend, the loneliness and pain of childhood will come rushing back into our awareness. We will immediately feel unloved, and our happiness will quickly revert back into unhappiness.
There are two simple realities that can be helpful if you are not feeling loved in your relationship with a significant person in your life.
I know it doesn’t make sense, but there is a basic principle taught in couples therapy that says we tend to marry the worst parts of our parents. We are attracted to people who behave much the way our parents behaved.
If we need closeness, we will be attracted to someone who prefers to be a loner. If we need someone who really understands our feelings, we’ll be attracted to a person who wouldn’t know a feeling if it hit them square between the eyes. In fact if you start to talk about feelings, their eyes will glaze over and they’ll start inching toward the door.
The theory says, we figure out what we didn’t get from our parents, and then we unconsciously look for a partner, who like our parents, has no ability to offer it to us.
It’s as if the child inside of us is saying “I’m addicted to the struggle; not the goal of achieving what was missing in childhood. So I don’t care how long it takes or how much conflict it’s going to create in my life, but one way or another, I am going to figure out how to get my needs met”.
Let me say it again. We are attracted to those people who do not have the ability to offer us what we need to heal the pain of childhood. It’s not that they won’t give us what we need. They can’t.
If you don’t feel good about the relationships you have with those who are close to you, this might be part of your problem. Stated simply, you may not feel loved because your partner is not rescuing you in the way you need to be rescued. Notice I said rescued, not loved.
Instead of helping you feel heard, they bring you flowers, or fix you a nice supper. Instead of helping you feel like you are important, they offer to take you to the movies or they order a Netflix movie they think you would like. Of course, if you want a chick-flick, they will order an action movie. If you want an action movie, they will order a chick-flick.
What you might be missing is the fact that they are loving you the way they would like to be loved, not the way the child inside of you needs to be loved. You need chocolate, but they insist on bringing you a vanilla milkshake. To them, chocolate probably feels like a foreign language.
The disconnect, between what you need and what the other is offering you, leaves you stuck with the unresolved pain of childhood; the empty feeling inside that —- no one understands you, no one feels you are important, no one thinks you are loveable, no one truly cares about you, no one “gets” you.
What we fail to understand is that no one can fill the emptiness, the loneliness, or heal the wounds of our childhood. We have to do that work for ourselves. And it’s a work that will never end because childhood is over. It happened. It is history. There is nothing that can remove the memories and the hurt that we are carrying. All we can do is learn how to love and care for ourselves.
Until we are willing to accept this simple reality, we will a) continue to assume it’s our partner’s job to make us feel loved and happy, and b) when we continue to feel the pain of childhood, we will assume that it’s because our partner doesn’t love us.
The danger in this kind of thinking is you begin to create unhappiness in your relationship because you criticize your partner for not trying hard enough, or you begin to fantasize that maybe there is someone else out there in the world that can rescue you from the pain you’re feeling. Maybe it’s that pretty woman at the office that always smiles at you. Maybe it’s that handsome guy sitting at the bar.
Loving yourself means accepting the fact that like 99% of all people, your childhood was not perfect. But you don’t have to keep reliving your childhood story over and over. Your life story is not about who you “are“, it’s about what happened to you a long time ago.
You can begin to rewrite your life story. You can begin to live the life you’ve always dreamed about living. You can embrace your life purpose and live the life you were born to live.
But all of this work is an interior work. A work you have to do for yourself. And it won’t happen until you love yourself enough to begin living the life you were meant to live.
Loving yourself is simple, but it does take courage.
It means learning to live your life authentically. Learning to be comfortable in your own skin. Authenticity happens when the person you are inside, and the person you are outside are the same.
You can’t ask or expect others to somehow rescue you or make you “feel” loved when you haven’t learned, or embraced the courage, to love yourself.
And you can’t do it “for” your partner.
The dream of being rescued is just that; an illusion; a fantasy that will keep you in bondage to your past, and bring deep unhappiness and suffering into your life and your relationships.
When you awaken to the fantasy that another person somehow has the ability to take away the pain of “your” childhood or fill the emptiness “you” feel, it’s not uncommon to find that you are already in a relationship with a person who loves you deeply. They just show it in their own way.
When we’re not asking to be rescued from our past, a vanilla milkshake can feel very loving.