When will we become lovable? When will we feel safe? When will we get all the protection, nurturing, and love we so richly deserve? We will get it when we begin giving it to ourselves.
~ Melody Beattie,
As a psychotherapist, I can’t count how many times I have seen individuals and couples struggle with building healthy connections in their relationships.
The most common complaint has been that they feel unfulfilled, devalued or unappreciated in relationships with others. It is my professional experience that when we get caught up in what others can do to make us feel good about ourselves, we are likely to become angry and resentful.
So how do you avoid the resentment trap in your relationship?
Four Tips to Avoid the Resentment Trap
1. Ask yourself: Am I being realistic with my expectations?
Perhaps due to unmet needs, you project your disappointments onto people who are incapable of meeting your standards. No one person can meet all of your needs. If this describes you in relationships, you will ultimately set yourself up for feeling unfulfilled and empty. Friendships, work relationships, family and partners all participate in your life in meaningful ways. But in the end, it is up to you to love yourself the way you deserve to be loved.
One common theme of having unrealistic expectations is getting caught up in the fantasy of what a relationship is supposed to look like — for example, having expectations that your “Prince Charming” will sweep you off your feet and all of your troubles will slip magically away. Now if this isn’t a resentment waiting to happen, I’m not sure what is!
How many women have dreamed of having their lives turn out like the fairy tale endings of Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty? Realistically, how many women have had those fantasies fulfilled to their expectations?
2. Remind yourself: I am a valuable, lovable human being.
No one person can make you feel good all of the time. You can feel loved in another’s presence, but if you choose one person to define how you feel in a relationship, you will be setting yourself up for deep disappointment. If you don’t feel good about yourself, begin by acting as if you do by creating a loving mantra and reciting it each morning in front of the mirror before the day begins. Examples may include “I deserve love,” “I am lovable,” and “I am perfect just the way I am.” Recite a mantra often enough and you will begin to believe it!
3. Surround yourself with healthy people.
By healthy people, I mean people who accept you unconditionally. I am talking about people who don’t shame you or try to prevent you from making your own decisions. These are individuals who will support you with your day-to-day challenges, accept you for your “human-ness” and are okay with you making mistakes. Write a list of people you know who have these qualities and keep in contact with at least one of them on a daily basis. These are also individuals who you can give you a healthy reality check. If you struggle with an issue that keeps you feeling stuck, ask for their perspective.
4. Focus on self-care.
If you deplete yourself to the point of exhaustion, it is far more likely that you will be vulnerable to wanting your needs met by others. You may possibly go to a child-like place and demand that you get your needs met immediately. I see this sort of thing in my work with clients who are struggling in love-addicted or codependent relationships.
So what is the best remedy for healing the vulnerable child within? Replace your expectations with gentle guidance and nurture yourself through a walk, deep breathing, a yoga class, journaling or meditation. Get to know yourself better.
One exercise I recommend is making an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses. Think deeply about your interests and passions. How can you begin focusing more on the things that bring you joy? You deserve loving care — and who better than yourself to give it to you?