If you are British and of my generation, I have no doubt you just heard “…baby, don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me…”😂 If you’re not, Google ‘Haddaway’. Best of luck ridding yourself of that particular earworm, sorry!
It’s a good question though, especially now, in a time when many people are struggling to find genuine and healthy connection. It’s definitely a question I have absolutely no authority to answer, but I’m going to offer an opinion anyway-being vocal about things I’m significantly underqualified to talk about is basically one of my favourite hobbies!
Partnership, love, compassion and connection are being devalued in a society where relationship has taken a turn for the ‘transactional’. Romantic partnerships in particular- the landscape here has increasingly changed to become more like a marketplace for consumers. People are overwhelmed in a chain of novelty, variety and disposability. The endless, empty loop of casual emotionless intimacy. Dating apps, unsolicited genital pics, sexting, side chicks/dudes, hook ups, benching, ghosting, breadcrumbing…🤢 a proliferation of behaviours de-valuing human relationships and creating ‘supply/demand’ mentalities. I’m going to talk mostly in relation to romantic relationships here, but many of the principles apply in most types of human-human connection.
Traditional relationship paradigms and definitions of partnership, those of love as accepting, overwhelming and unconditional have lead modern relationships to often encompass unhealthy behaviours and attachments, and at worst they open the floodgates for abuse. Ideals that we often see played out in books, films and television-such as that “I will love you no matter what you do to me” “I’m so on love with this person, I will do anything to make them love me” and “I can help fix or change this person I love so as things will be perfect”, they are just plain toxic in a lot of cases.
So what makes for a healthy model for love and relationship? Recently I’ve been called to look more deeply at and question some of my own criteria and definitions- I’ve found a lot of discussion on the subject among friends, in groups I’m a member of and on courses I’ve done. I have been reading/listening to a lot of different views and opinions, and have come to a few of my own conclusions. Most of these are revelations to me personally, although probably a lot of people reading this will be saying “of course that’s how it should be, you doughnut”. So…
1. Self aware
In order to be able to have a healthy relationship with another person, the first thing we have to be is self aware. We need to know our own needs, wants and boundaries-so as to be able to express them and understand if we are as truly compatipable with the person as we feel. Being self aware, knowing our strengths and where we need to do inner work, also allows us to present people with the best possible version of ourselves. Contrary to being selfish, being self aware cultivates good feeling for everyone around you too. You must be prepared to fully explore and embrace the less attractive parts of your personality if you are truly going to heal and grow. For example, on my journey to ‘healthy and happy’ I’ve had to confront uncomfortable truths about aspects of myself so as to try and move past them. Even our ‘good’ qualities have shadow parts which we must be aware of and keep in check. For instance, I consider myself to be enthusiastic, fun and excitable- but the shadow side to these positive attributes is that I can often slip into intense, immature and outright annoying if I’m not careful!
2. Not a finite resource…
‘Self love’ like self awareness, is often confused with self absorption or selfishness. It’s a little disturbing to see how sometimes we can villify people for having self confidence and being content with their own inner love and compassion. Absolutely, if a person ONLY cares about themselves- how they look and how they feel, and cannot extend love and compassion to others-this is toxic. But that’s not self love and appreciation, that’s narcissism and inability to empathise/consider others feelings. At a base level, in loving yourself you are not TAKING love from anyone else! It’s not limited?! Love isn’t a pool which once dry will leave the world completely devoid!! If anything it’s like a muscle, if you exercise it then it builds bigger and stronger than ever. That might not be the best analogy in retrospect. I probably won’t tagline this “exercise your love muscle”😂
A person coming from a place of self love, awareness and compassion is the only kind of person who can offer these authentically to someone else.
When we choose to bring someone into our lives, and take them as a part of ourselves, when we choose to accept someone for who they authentically are, when we choose to forgive someone for past mistakes- this is all CHOICE, made of our own free will. Accepting someone as a partner for your journey does not mean we have to give up our sense of unique self and identity. If we choose them and present ourselves authentically to them, and vice versa, there should be no giving up of our needs, wants and boundaries. It definitely does not mean we accept abusive and unkind behaviour. We can also still love a person while accepting that they’re incompatible as a life partner. We can’t control our feelings, only our actions and what we think is best to choose to do with them.
Having an idealised view of what your relationship and partner should be like places uneccessary pressure on both. No relationship, even a healthy, conscious one, will be perfect and plain sailing. Nobody can wake up one day and erase old values, behaviour patterns and triggers. People will make mistakes. There will often be conscious effort involved. But you have to be free from expectations in order to be vunerable and yourself, to trust and accept- and allow others around you to feel they can do the same.
Not absorbtion. It’s finding the third option. Love is commiting to finding a solution that meets both your mutual best interests. It is consciously seeking out a way in which both sets of needs can be met, rather than one person abandoning theirs in favour of the other. It is removing the ‘competition’ element, there is no need for a winner or a loser, no need for one person’s reality and needs to be ‘right’ over their partners wrong. Nobody takes precedence, the priority is and always will be finding ways to keep both parties happy and satisfied in the connection. The battle of the ‘selves’ is no longer. There is self and us coexisting and commiting to cooperation.
Ultimately, living from a place of love should be a good feeling. Connection is key and basic to human nature. Staying with synergy and love, it’s my way forward!❤