“I will (or will not) love again”
“He will not love me – I’m not good enough – as I am.”
“He is suffering that’s why he hurts me. I can save him.”
“Something must be wrong with me if I’m still single at this age.”
Our beliefs shape our experience. What are your beliefs about love and relationships?
Belief #1: “I will (or will not) love again”
A few years ago, I was visiting my favorite uncle in Asia. He and I talked about life, and one of the topics on my mind was whether to reunite with an ex-boyfriend after yet another break up. He asked me if I loved my ex. I said yes. He said that if I love him then I should give him another chance. At the same time, be prepared for the relationship not to work out as it’s likely that he may disappoint me again.
I pondered in silence for a few minutes. Then I said, “That’s okay. If it doesn’t work out, I know I will find someone else at some point. I know I will find love again.” A big smile shined across my uncle’s face. He said, “I’m so glad you know that you will love again, regardless of what happens with this guy. I feel comforted knowing that you know that.”
This moment of our interaction is memorable for me because at that moment, I felt confident and safe to reunite with my ex. I was prepared for love as well as potential disappointment. I know I will be okay even if the relationship fails again.
Many people who struggle in relationships are afraid that they will not love again. The sky will fall mentality associated with break ups cripples their ability to make good decisions, takes risks, and act rationally. Certainly, we experience grief from loss. However, if we believe in our hearts that we are worthy of love and will love again at some point, we can let go more easily and feel hopeful for the future.
Question: How confident do you feel you will find love again, and again?
Belief #2: “He will not love me – I’m not good enough – as I am.”
Most women suffers from insecurities. One of the most popular pick-up technique is making us feel less than. They give attention and compliment our friends at a bar so that we feel less than and begin desiring their affection. They are inconsistent with making themselves available for dates so that we don’t get too comfortable. These tactics work only because we are insecure about our worthiness.
We feel insecure because most of us have experienced rejection at some point in our lives. Perhaps our parents once said we are not good enough at something. Perhaps we were not popular in school. We internalized past experiences into beliefs that we are not good enough. The constant fear of rejection lies underneath the surface, which motivates us to solicit affection tirelessly from other people by working hard and looking good.
“I’m not enough” belief has caused many women to pick the wrong partners – people who are not that into us – not willing to commit and not attentive to our needs. Oftentimes, they look good on paper. They are often ambitious and successful. Our confidence pales in comparison to theirs, which makes us want them even more.
On the other hand, we reject people who are into us. We complain that they are too nice. It doesn’t feel right that we don’t have to work hard at anything for their affection. We dismiss them as boring or just not the right fit, without giving them much of a chance.
Question: Are you trapped in this cycle? If so, how can you work on your self-worth?
Belief #3: “He is suffering that’s why he hurts me. I can save him.”
Perhaps your partner suffers from depression or mental disorder. Perhaps they experienced trauma that still haunts them. Perhaps they grew up with dysfunctional role models that influences how they behave.
We love our partners. We want to help them when they are suffering. We also want to believe that they love us and never want to hurt us. When our partners demonstrate hurtful behaviors or are absent to our needs, we often dismiss our own needs because we see that they are suffering. They confide their darkest secrets in us, and we feel honored that we are their witness and potentially their savior. We feel hopeful that they can overcome their condition, and we work hard to help them fix themselves.
Many women stay trapped in savior mode for a long time only to realize that they can’t save their partners. Since behaviors can be hurtful regardless of intent, we unconsciously allow ourselves to get used to being hurt. When we accept hurtful behaviors as the norm, we lose our self-worth.
Question: Are you letting your focus on fixing them overshadow your needs? Are you letting your empathy for them overshadow your empathy for yourself?
Belief #4: “Something must be wrong with me if I’m still single at this age.”
All my friends are coupled up or married
I thought I will be married with kids by now
People tell me I am too ____ that’s why I’m still single
Many people have an expectation about when they should not be single. When I was traveling in Indonesia for work almost a decade ago, my taxi driver asked me how old I was. I replied, “I’m 29 years old.” He said in shock, “And you are not married? What are you doing?”
The driver’s response was understandable since most women in Indonesia were married by their early twenties. At that time, I felt no shame and saw no reason to be married by age 29 because I was a foreigner, I’m not related to this taxi driver, and I was a working professional focused on my career. If I had grown up in Indonesia and the taxi driver was my father, my emotional response will very likely be – yes, something must be wrong with me.
Our expectation is shaped by the cultural norm around us, however, we have the power to question and decide for ourselves what feels right to us. Everyone wants love and companionship at every point in their lives. The desire is constant and not dependent on age. Just because most people get married or divorced at certain age, it doesn’t mean that something is wrong with us if we are not doing the same; it just means we are all different and walk different paths in life.
Desperation leads to making poor choices. Poor choices leads to feeling low self-esteem. If you are single and feel desperate to pair up, visualize being transported to a place where everyone at your age are single. Now, how will you feel? Another visualization is to imagine being stranded on an island by yourself after a plane crash, how can you build a life you love when you are alone?
When you realize in your being that you can be happy with or without a partner, that’s when you know you are confident in your self-worth. Ironically, the right partner tend to show up when you are happy being alone. Cultivating your self-worth and self-love is not easy, but if you don’t work on it, you will face the same problems in your relationship even when you have a partner. Unaddressed self-worth issues usually result in selecting the wrong partner or co-dependent relationships. You can avoid a lot of heartbreaks, and even divorce, by cultivating self-worth when you are single.
Question: Are you afraid of being single? When your partner thinks you are too _____, do you automatically believe him/her?
What relationship is and is not
Many people look to relationships as a form of safe harbor. When we reach the destination, we will finally be out of the turbulent waters of life because someone will be by my side to fill my gaps. Even though this belief is true at some level, relationships are more so about continuous self-improvement, and less so about kicking back on the beach after you get to shore.
Our feelings in a relationship ebbs and flows constantly. It doesn’t stay good for very long before challenges appears. These challenges are the way for us to discover our own blind spots, flawed beliefs and unconscious behaviors. We can grow and improve our lives tremendously by learning from our relationship experiences.
We can start by shifting our attention away from asking what’s wrong with our partners or where are our soul-mates, to asking what lessons can we learn from our relationship.
Let every experience be our teacher. Focus on the process, not on the destination.