What if there really is ONE major cause of relationship problems, one issue that if you address, would change everything? The good news and the bad news is – there is!
The good news is that it makes it easier to understand why you might be having problems in your relationship, or why your relationship has failed.
The bad news is that to resolve the issue takes a deep personal commitment to heal.
The one cause is: self-abandonment
Let’s take a look at what self-abandonment is and why it causes almost all the problems in relationships.
There are many areas in which we can abandon ourselves: emotional, physical, spiritual, financial, relational, and organizational. One or more of these areas may be affecting your relationship, or may have caused your relationship to fail. The area of self-abandonment that often causes the most problems is emotional self-abandonment.
The Encarta(r) World English Dictionary defines ‘abandon’ as: “to leave somebody or something behind for others to look after, especially somebody or something meant to be a personal responsibility.”
As adults, our own wellbeing is our personal responsibility.
Do you abandon yourself, making your partner responsible for you, and then feel abandoned by your partner or others when they leave you or don’t take responsibility for you?
As an adult, another person cannot abandon you, since they are not responsible for you. We can abandon a child, an ill person or an old person – someone who cannot take care of themselves. But if you are a physically healthy adult, you can be left, but you cannot be abandoned by others. Only you can abandon yourself.
What are the ways you might be abandoning yourself?
How often do you judge yourself with comments to yourself such as:
“You are not good enough.” “You are inadequate.”
“You are stupid.” “You are an idiot.”
“You are ugly.” “You are not attractive enough.”
“If you fail, you are not okay.”
“If someone rejects you, you are not okay.”
“It’s all your fault that….”
“You will never amount to anything. You are a failure. You are not reaching your potential.”
…and so on.
Just as a small child feels alone and abandoned when a parent is harsh and judgmental, so your own inner child – your inner feeling self – feels alone and abandoned when you judge yourself. Self-judgment not only creates inner feelings of aloneness and emptiness, but it also creates feelings of anxiety, depression, anger, hurt, fear, guilt, shame, aloneness and emptiness. Then what do you do when you have judged yourself and created all these painful feelings?
Making others responsible for you
Once you judge yourself and then ignore the pain you have caused, it is quite likely that you then turn to your partner for the love and approval that you are not giving to yourself. Your inner child needs love, approval and attention. We all need the love and comfort of others, but when you abandon yourself with your self-judgments and ignore your feelings, the wounded child part of you turns to your partner in needy, controlling ways that may actually push your partner away. Because the child part of you is desperately needy for love, you likely become manipulative to get that love – getting angry and blaming, or becoming overly nice or compliant and trying to do everything right. You have handed your inner child away to your partner, hoping he or she will give you the love you are not giving to yourself and that you so desperately need.
The more you make your partner responsible for giving you the love, attention and approval you need, the more your inner child feels abandoned by you, leading to more addictive and controlling behavior to fill the emptiness and avoid the pain of your self-abandonment.
People tend to treat us the way we treat ourselves, so the more you abandon yourself, the more you might feel rejected by your partner.
When we refuse to take care of ourselves financially, instead expecting our partner to take financial responsibility for us, this can create problems. This is not a problem if your partner agrees to take financial responsibility for you and you fully accept how he or she takes this responsibility, but if you choose to be financially irresponsible, much conflict can occur over your financial self-abandonment.
If you refuse to take responsibility for your own time and space, instead being consistently late or being a clutterer, and your partner is an on-time and/or neat person, this can create huge power struggles. In fact, some relationships actually break up over these issues. While these issues might not have seemed so major at the beginning of the relationship, over time they can erode the love between you.
If you refuse to take care of yourself physically, instead eating badly and not exercising and possibly causing yourself health problems, your partner may feel resentful at having to take care of you. Your physical self-abandonment not only has negative consequences for you regarding your health and well being, but it also has unwanted consequences for your partner, which can lead to much conflict and power struggles.
If, due to physical self-abandonment, you have put on a lot of weight, this might be a turn off to your partner. It might not just be your weight that is the turn off, but also the fact that you don’t care enough about yourself to take care of your physical wellbeing. Again, not caring about yourself might be reflected back to you in your partner also not caring about you.
If you refuse to speak up for yourself in your relationship, instead giving yourself up and allowing your partner to control you, you are eroding the love in the relationship. When you abandon yourself to your partner, you create a lack of trust that leads to conflict and resentment, because if your partner knows that he or she can manipulate you into giving yourself up, how can he or she trust that you are not going to allow yourself to be manipulated by others?
When you make your partner your dependable source of love rather than learning to turn to a spiritual source for your dependable source of love, you place a very unfair burden on your partner. When your intent in the relationship is to get love rather than to share love, then you will pull on your partner for attention, approval, time, or sex. When you do not take responsibility for learning how to connect with a spiritual source of sustenance and comfort, your neediness can create much conflict in the relationship.
Controlling behavior pushes your partner away
Trying to get love, rather than learning to fill yourself up with love to be shared with your partner, is a major result of self-abandonment. The more you abandon yourself in these ways, the more you will try to control your partner, and the more you try to control your partner, the more he or she will likely pull away.
What are the ways you try to control your partner?
- Explain and defend yourself?
- Shame and judge your partner?
- Comply, giving yourself up?
- Withdraw, shut down, ignore, resist?
- Yell, blame, and attack?
- Cry as a victim?
How does your partner respond when you attempt to control in these ways? Does this lead to closeness or to distance? These are some of the ways you might be trying to get love from your partner when you are abandoning yourself.
The way out: learning to love yourself rather than abandon yourself
When you decide to learn to love yourself rather than continue to abandon yourself, you will discover how to create a loving relationship with your partner. Practicing the 6-Step self-healing Inner Bonding® process is a very powerful way of learning to love yourself!
A brief overview of the Six Steps of Inner Bonding
Step 1: Willingness to Feel Pain and Take Responsibility for Your Feelings
In Step 1, you move into the present moment and focus within, tuning into your feelings and emotions – moving toward your feelings rather than away from them. You make the choice to be mindful of all your feelings, including your pain, rather than protect against them with various addictions. You make a conscious decision that you want to take responsibility for your feelings, which means that you want responsibility for learning how you might be causing your own anxiety, depression, anger, guilt and shame with your own thoughts and actions, and that you want responsibility for learning how to nurture the painful existential feelings of life – the loneliness, heartbreak, grief and helplessness concerning others that are so challenging.
Step 2: Move into the Intent to Learn
In Step 2, you focus in your heart and invite the compassionate presence of your higher self into your heart, by simply saying, “I invite love and compassion into my heart.”
Now you’re ready to focus on “intent” – your deepest desire, your primary motivation. There are only two possible intents you can have in any given moment:
- The intent to protect yourself from pain with various forms of controlling, self-abandoning behavior, or
- The intent to learn about loving yourself and others
When your intent is to learn, you are operating as a loving adult. When your intent to avoid your pain with some form of self-abandoning behavior, you are operating from your programmed ego self – what we call in Inner Bonding your ‘wounded self’.
Step 3: Dialogue with Your Wounded self and Your Inner Child
With kindness, gentleness and compassion toward yourself, you discover the thoughts and false beliefs from your wounded self that may be causing your shame, fear, anxiety, depression, aloneness, emptiness or anger, and you learn how to release anger in appropriate ways. You uncover the false beliefs that were created in the past and have led to the self-abandonment that is causing much of your current pain. You explore what may be happening with a person or event that is causing the existential painful feelings of life – loneliness, heartache, heartbreak, helplessness concerning others, or grief. You explore your core self – your essence, your inner child, which is your feeling self – and discover what brings you joy.
Only when the unconscious false beliefs that have limited you for so long are understood and identified, can they be replaced by new and healthier truths that will nurture and heal you.
In Step 3, you ask yourself questions, such as, “What am I telling myself and how am I treating myself that is causing my pain?” “What am I trying to control or avoid with my controlling behavior?”
Step 4: Dialogue with Your Inner or Higher Guidance
In Step 4, you ask a source of inner or higher wisdom – whatever that is for you: “What is the truth about the false beliefs I may have uncovered in Step 3?” And, “What is the loving behavior toward my inner child in this situation? What is in my highest good? What is kind to myself?” You open and allow the answers to come through you in words, pictures or feelings. The answers may not come immediately, but if you have a sincere desire to learn, they will come.
By staying open to learning, you will begin to experience that you are never alone. This is where fears start to fall away and you begin to receive all the love and wisdom you need to take loving actions for yourself and with others.
Step 5: Take Loving Action
Step 5 is about telling yourself the truth and taking the loving action based on the information that came through from your inner or higher guidance in Step 4.
You have opened to your pain, moved into learning, started a dialogue with your wounded self and inner child, and tapped into your higher wisdom. In step 5 you take the ‘loving action’ that, over time, heals the painful feelings that have been the result of your self-abandonment.
Step 6: Evaluate Your Action
Once you take the loving action, you check in to see if your anxiety, depression, guilt, shame, anger, aloneness or emptiness is getting healed. If not, go back through the steps until you discover the truth and actions that bring you relief, peace, joy, and a deep sense of intrinsic worth.
Turning this daily practice into a way of life is what will protect you from going back into self-abandoning behaviors. Much like attending to – say – a child’s feelings, you learn to keep a loving relationship with yourself throughout your life, no matter the challenges that come at you. This loving relationship with yourself and your higher guidance fills you and empowers you to handle life’s challenges with strength and equanimity. This is what then leads to being able to share love with your partner, rather than always trying to get love.
Even if just one of you in a relationship starts to learn to love yourself rather than abandon yourself, your relationship can begin to heal. Try it! You will be truly amazed at the results!
Learn more about the Inner Bonding Process and heal your relationships, your emotions, and your spirit. Dr. Margaret Paul hosts the Inner Bonding workshop at the Art of Living Retreat Center from May 17th-19th, 2019.
Dr. Margaret Paul is a bestselling author and co-creator of the powerful Inner Bonding® self-healing process, and the related SelfQuest® self-healing online program – recommended by actress Lindsay Wagner and singer Alanis Morissette. She has appeared on numerous radio and television shows, including Oprah. Margaret holds a PhD in psychology, is a relationship expert, public speaker, consultant and artist. She has successfully worked with thousands and taught classes and seminars for over 50 years.
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