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From Self-Love to Other Love and Back Again

Mini–Love-Lesson # 185

Synopsis: This mini-love-lesson teaches you about how healthy self-love supports and improves love of another, how that influences how much love comes your way and how it improves love’s quality.  This mini-love-lesson also covers self-love’s influence on the magic ‘five to one ratio’ that keeps relationships alive and growing, and it reveals the importance of love cycling.

What About This First Love Yourself Stuff?

“To love another you must first love yourself” is a frequently stated concept – you may have run into it before.  You even may have wondered about it.  Is it true?  Can self-love really help you in your love of someone else?  Are problems in love relationships rooted in a lack of self-love?  (See mini-love-lesson Self-Love – What Is It?)  What does love yourself really mean?  How exactly does self-love effect loving another?  Doesn’t this idea contradict the ethical and religious teachings that say self-love is a bad thing and a serious sin?  If someone I love doesn’t love themselves is that hurting our relationship?  How exactly does one go about loving themselves?  Yes, there are a great many questions to ponder concerning this often repeated concept.  Let’s see if we can answer some of them and let’s start with this one.

What Happens in a Relationship Lacking Sufficient Self-Love?

Without sufficient self-love, an adult love relationship is not adult enough!  At least frequently that is the case.  Especially in romantic and life-mate style love, childlike neediness tends to occur and get in the way.  Dependency forms of false love, including the much written about one called codependency, develop.  Healthy, adult style real love is blocked from developing.  Immature, dysfunctional ways increasingly tend to sabotage the interactions in the love relationship.  Usually this destroys the growth of healthy, real love and the relationship comes to a painful end.  At best, the relationship never attains its potential for fulfillment, happiness or healthy adult functioning.

One way to think about it goes like this: the love relationship is dominated by the love-needy, inner child self in one or both partners.  That subconscious, inner child self wants parent type love instead of adult-to-adult love too often and too much.  That makes it easy for one or both partners to have lots of child level, fear-based dynamics.  Then frustration, misunderstandings and miscommunications increase.  Frequently sibling-like fights break out and immature, unhappy, childish emotions prevail.

Worst of all, a great lack of developing, adult ways of going about life together occurs and keeps getting worse.  The how-to’s of adult, healthy, real love never are learned because needy, child-level love is the best the couple usually can manage.  They may at times play well together in passionate sex and other fun ways which helps them keep going but that too usually fades as resentments and disappointments go unresolved.  Adult love skills never sufficiently are learned and adult, problem solving, love-based teamwork goes unpracticed.

Erich Fromm, the great psychotherapist and social philosopher, once said, “To love without knowing how to love wounds the person we love”.  Without sufficient self-love we keep getting easily wounded and then we act to wound back the one we love most and we don’t know how to stop.  We keep wanting our loved partner to play the all-forgiving, loving parent and fix us.  If they don’t, it just gets worse because we do not know how to do self-love based, self fixing, let alone couple fixing.

Self Fixing and Team Fixing Via Self-Love

With sufficient self-love you do not easily get hurt but when you do it is a lot easier to either fix yourself or ask your loved partner to lovingly assist you in your adult self fixing and to work with you in relationship fixing.  Without that self-love, you are likely to ignore your own needs or get defensive, manipulative, demanding or overly wimpy.  Then you may put too much needy, fix me pressure on your beloved.  Healthy, real self-love helps you stay adult and keep working out adult  “I win, you win” improvements and solutions.  Insecurities, frustration and anger may corrupt cooperative, love interactions. If you can stay on track with the help of your real self-love, and not go into escape or attack modes of reacting, improvements can occur.

When hearing what sounds like criticism or putdowns, with self-love it is easier to think something like “It’s getting kind of hard to catch what this person is throwing at me, so it must be time to remind myself that I am abundantly okay and wonderful enough, so I don’t need to let myself get all hurt and upset.  In fact, I’m also strong enough to hear, with love, what this person has to say, knowing it may tell me something useful and perhaps tell me more about them than me”.  Without sufficient self-love you might find yourself thinking something like “I’m under attack and have to attack back or escape, and what a terrible person my beloved is for attacking me” or “Of course my beloved is right and what a miserable and inadequate person I am”.  Self-love can help you stay okay enough to keep working on mutual solutions even when things are hard and not going well.

The Lack of Self-Love and the Growth of False Love

Those who lack sufficient self-love are thought to be much more vulnerable to false forms of love infecting their lives.  It works sort of like the starving person who is much more likely to eat anything they can get and, thus, is in danger of becoming malnourished and food poisoned.  The self loving person can be much more discerning about what they take in.  They also are much more likely to insist on getting higher-quality, real love.  If they are love knowledgeable and can tell the difference, they will not long put up with false, stingy or poor quality love efforts, which is what low self-love causes people to do.

It seems dependency forms of false love are particularly common among those who are low in healthy, real self-love.  Living with large amounts of neglect and both psychological and physical abuse, along with unfulfilling false love, is seen to be much more common among those with low self-love.  Susceptibility to destructive addictions unfortunately frequently can become part of this picture.

The dynamics described above show how important it is to learn the differences between healthy, real love and the major forms of false love.  That is part of why Kathleen McClaren and I wrote Real Love False Love, Which Is Yours? which is the only book we know of covering multiple forms of false love and the only book that tells you how to understand each and what you can do to avoid, escape or transform false love into real love.  By the way, Real Love, False Love is now available internationally at Amazon.com, in the Kindle edition at a new low price; reviews are desired.

What Happens in Relationships That Have Enough Self-Love?

The couples who have enough healthy self-love in both people are thought to be much more able to accomplish the almost magical five to one rule.  The five to one rule refers to the discovery that when couples send back and forth 5 love-positive statements or actions for every 1 anti-love or non-love statement or action they are far more likely to succeed as a lasting, okay couple.  This 5 to 1, positive, communication, ratio dynamic especially is found to be helpful when couples are interacting where conflict is involved.  Those with low self-love are thought to be much more likely to fall below this ratio which means mutual misery and possibly break-up is much more likely. (Consult the “Love Positive Talking” mini-love-lesson).

High self-love also means a greater likelihood of avoiding, or more quickly fixing, all the problems mentioned above.

With healthy self-love you have far more love to give because your cup runneth over, a lot and often.  Not only that, but because you seldom are in an empty or needy state, you want to give your love more and better.  It is like the difference between being hungry and malnourished with only scraps to eat or having a full larder and wanting to create and serve up wonderful meals for all those you care about.  Not only are you able to feed the hungry but you can serve up love meals that are much healthier and especially tasty.

One of the greatest advantages to high self-love is the lack of fear in people who have it.  With high self-love they tend not to fear being worthy enough, being important to their beloved, being afraid of rejection or abandonment or being unlovable.  Those with low self-love tend to fear those things a great deal of time.  High self-love people also do not have to fear asking for the love they want and the way they want it showed.  That means they are free of having to play psychological games and other trickery trying to get the love they hunger for.  In turn, that means they do not have to go for long periods tolerating not having love showed to them (being fed) and they are not likely to undervalued or poorly receive the love coming their way.

Remember, with high enough healthy self-love, part of your self-care is to insist on getting frequent, high quality love and not just scraps.  First insist on that of yourself as well as insisting to yourself that you give likewise.  Then you can lovingly effectively go after what you want with and from your beloved.

People with healthy self-love tend to have more love to give and tend to do it better. That helps make them more okay and, thus, more desirable to healthy, self loving others.  Two strong, okay, loving people make a strong loving couple much better than if one or both are weak or stuck in victimness and in need of repeated rescuing.

The Return Trip of Love

In healthy, happy, well functioning, love relationships there is a cycle of love going out to a beloved and then love coming back from the beloved.  Self-love is very important for creating this cycle and keeping it going.  Sometimes there are things that get in the way like a crisis, having to be absent from one another for a lengthy time, external ongoing heavy demands on time and energy for one or both, etc..  At these times healthy self-love is a big assistance for getting through them.  Healthy self-love can motivate healthy self-care to compensate for gaps in the ongoing cycling of love. Healthy self-love also can provide strength and motivation for getting those gaps closed so the love cycling is flowing again.

It is not good to barter giving love so as to get it because real love is a free gift.  But when two people connect in love with each other, a two-way cyclical dynamic can be created.  The same happens in families and friendship groups except the numbers of participants often are larger.  Part of the support for the dynamic of healthy love cycling is healthy self-love.  Healthy self-love supports and often motivates healthy love of others and then it motivates an other to send back love, creating an ongoing cycle of love.

Work at keeping your cycle running and your love relationships likely will be lasting  (See mini-love-lesson “Cycling Love for Lasting Love”).

As always – Go and Grow with Love

Dr. J. Richard Cookerly

Love Success Question:  How good are you at self-love and self-care, while at the same time lovingly interacting with someone you love, especially when there is a difficulty occurring?  (We suggest you take some time with this question and maybe talk it over with a loved one to find out how they see it).

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