We are conditioned to believe Hallmark channel ideas about romantic love. We are vulnerable to them because humans are hardwired to seek connection. This contrasts our own direct experience which is that people can let us down and hurt us. We search for that special someone to fill the holes from emotional disconnect or betrayal. When that doesn’t happen, we try to protect ourselves. Some become cynical (fight response) and some go into a freeze response and build higher walls.
As we mature emotionally, many people become more realistic. Dr Stephen Porges speaks about being safe enough to relax and be ourselves with another person, to be interested in and supportive of them as they are interested in and supportive of us. We are friends. We count on each other.
The mutuality and connection Dr Porges speaks of is not possible without a foundation of connecting in a kind way with ourselves. This opens up in our lives as we heal the profound disconnection from childhood neglect and abuse. We no longer turn against ourselves. We see through false core deficiency beliefs. Our standards for what we will accept in relationships might move from “at least they don’t hit me” to feeling worthy of being with someone who delights in our connection and wants the best for both of us.
This doesn’t mean we never hurt each other. It does mean there is a basic good will and respect. Dr John Gottman can predict the outcome of a romantic relationship with 94% accuracy based largely on contempt. The antidote is to build a culture of fondness and admiration and this article explains how.
“Treating others with disrespect and mocking them with sarcasm and condescension are forms of contempt. So are hostile humor, name-calling, mimicking, and body language such as eye-rolling and sneering. In whatever form, contempt is poisonous to a relationship because it conveys disgust and superiority.”
What we keep coming back to is a healthy relationship with ourselves. When our inner critic blasts us with contempt, it is hard to believe we are worthy of being treated with respect by another.
This is a list I compiled of some elements or signs to evaluate the relative health or toxicity of a relationship. The reasons we stay in an unhealthy relationship are complex. We are susceptible to denial and wishing for something to be what we want when it isn’t. We also want to watch out for black and white thinking. No relationship is perfectly supportive all of the time.
Healthy relationships with ourselves or others, take consistent effort and good will. This includes friendships as well as romance. Join us Sunday in our community meeting where we explore and inquire into healthy relationship. Details and Zoom link are here https://lynnfraserstillpoint.com/workshops/trust-connection/