This is the month that we celebrate all things love. You know, the sexy, all-encompassing, epic, self-sacrificing kind of love. The one we are told we all should have and need in our life to be complete.
Unconditional Love Doesn't Really Exist.
Love is wonderful. Being in love is beautiful, fulfilling, and healing. Partnership is about coming home—being you and being loved for all your parts. Yet so many have been taught to idealize romantic love that they unconsciously hide parts of themselves in fear of losing love—just as we did as when we were children.
When we are young, being loved and being seen is vital to our existence. As children, we are naturally curious and try on different parts of ourselves and engage in crazy adventures to experiment with our bodies. Our parents, being human with their own set of wounds, react in ways that have very little to do with us, but as children we have no way of knowing this, so we personalize their response.
Phrases we internalize are something like:
"If they like what we do, I am loved so I will do more of that."
"If they dislike what we do, I lose love, so I will do less of that."
When relationships first start, all put their best parts forward, but overtime, this becomes too hard to do, so we slowly let other parts emerge. And just as when we are young, we experiment to see which meet someone. As a couples therapist I also know that many hide many parts of themselves from their partners.
I once met with a couple that came into session after Valentine’s Day because he had given her a massive diamond ring. I mean, MASSIVE! It had taken him weeks to find it, and had gone through huge efforts to get it on time for the big day. He was dumbfounded because he had not received the response he had expected—the one he had seen in movies when a man gives a woman this type of gift. She was livid and swore she would never wear it.
All she would say is “he doesn’t know me.”
We all need to be seen. It is essential to our human condition. And yet, at times, it can feel quite scary.
To be seen means that you can be you, no matter what. No extra sprinkles and glitter are needed. Self-love is often overused and has become a cliche, but if there is no self-love, does anything matter?
And when you dare see and love yourself just as you are, your heart opens wider to those around you. The fear that our faults and mistakes will be judged has a chance to melt away. We reciprocate and begin to see our loved ones in the same way.
After a few rounds of “why I am hurt,” we were able to get to the root of the conflict over the massive ring. She wanted time with him and for him to turn off the light in the closet without her reminding him. This would mean that he had listened to her, had seen her, and valued his time with her.
He had been so busy procuring the ring he had not heard her.
He also was able to share his side of the story. He said that his parents had struggled so much with money as a child, and he recalled an occasion when his father wanted to buy a ring for his mother and could not. The ring reflected how much he valued her and their partnership. He loved providing gifts to his family. He also realized that he hid behind his gifts—he would leave them somewhere where they could find them and disappear.
Rather than using your energy to do the most spectacular V-Day event or birthday party, are you really seeing yourself or your loved one?
When we say or do things that displease them, we feel that love is taken away. In our innocence, we then decide to hide that part of ourselves. This way we don’t ever risk losing love again.
I encourage you to show yourself, show yourself to your partner and to you. Reconnect with who YOU are.