Friday, June 22, 2007

In Your Relationship with Your Significant-Other… How Do You Feel About Yourself?

The nature and the essence of a significant-other relationship can be tested and plummeted in numerous ways. When discussing this aspect of adult romantic relationships in my self-help book, Adult Loving Relationships, my number one suggested litmus test is captured in the following axiom: The best indication of the nature of our relationship is how I feel about myself in your presence.

In my contemporary romance novels, this concept typically surfaces. For example, in My Sweetpea: Seven Years and Seven Days, on numerous occasions Sheila asks herself this question (and you can imagine what her answers were just before she filed for divorce). In Fear of Feeling Loved, Marcia’s favorite aunt, Aunt Betty, facilitates Marcia’s consideration of how she is feeling about herself with Jack in her life. And in If Ever Again… It’ll be for Love, Diane thinks about her developing relationship with Michael and visits this consideration on numerous occasions.

Four years ago, I published my favorite pop-psych book, Living Life, Anyway. The double entendre in the title of this book captures it all. Living Life is what it’s all about– not existing through life or struggling through life, but living life. Moreover, you can live your life anyway – anyway meaning “any way you want to live your life,” and anyway meaning “in spite of the unwanted and undeserved dirty deals your life may have handed you.” For many people, life’s most important journey is an inward journey, and better yet, a life of inward travel. Seriously and humorously, the book’s 22 chapters address living life – including Chapter 22, “Living Life, Lovingly.” Apropos of the essence of this Post, below is a relevant part of Chapter 22:


When discussing this principle of “my love of you and my feeling in-love with you are in some ways an extension of me” with one of my graduate students, she shared with me her illustrative and apropos experience of falling in-love with her husband: “I first was attracted to my husband because he embodied values which I highly valued. His values not only were similar to mine, but they also represented the kind of person I would like to be more like.” When giving a lecture or a book talk, I frequently am asked, “Why do people fall in-love, and why do they stay in-love?” Typically, my response is: “Among a multitude of reasons, and perhaps most importantly, people fall in-love with another person because being in that loving relationship with that person makes them feel special. And in terms of why people stay in-love, they continue to feel special. If or when you no longer feel special in your relationship with that person, you begin to fall out of feeling in-love.” Pertinent to this overall notion, one of my favorite quotes from my book, Adult Loving Relationships is:

The best indication of the nature of our relationship

is how I feel about myself in your presence.

If I am in-love with you, but when I am around you I feel vulnerable, apprehensive, uncertain, scared, uncomfortable, unworthy, unsuitable, and “less than,” among others, then chances are I will begin feeling less and less in-love with you. However, if I am in-love with you, and when I am around you I feel comfortable, worthy, proud of myself, confident, positive, self-assured, and deserving, among others, then chances are that I will continue feeling in-love with you. In a good, healthy, meaningful and long-term adult loving relationship, the attributes of safety, security, acceptance and connectedness are paramount.


Question: Has “How you feel about yourself in your relationship with a significant-other?” ever been an important consideration for you?



Misa said...

This is an interesting discussion topic. I believe in the intuitiveness of sensing what type of people are good for you and what type of people are not and I couldn't imagine being with someone, be it spouse, boyfriend, or friend, with whom I felt uncomfortable or who made me feel less as a person. I recognize that people get into those situations all the time, but can't ever see myself in one. Whether it's upbringing or self-awareness or something else, I can't say. My husband is supportive and loving (perhaps not in a traditionally romantic sense), and I am able to be myself (the MOST important thing, in my opinion, is to be able to be yourself--good or bad, moody, happy, sad, etc.) when I'm with him.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello Misa,
Thank you for stopping by and sharing your experience. I am happy for you – you have the self-esteem, ego-strength and overall mental health to not sell yourself (or your soul) on order to be with someone else). After 33 years of doing therapy, trust me – I’ve seen some very sad situations. Moreover, you have a husband who also is healthy – he doesn’t need you to e anything but who you are in order to love you (e.g., he’s not threatened by not having to control you, etc.). Count your blessings!
If this topic truly interest you, read an excellent book I’ve recommended to people for years: “Do I Have to Give up Me to Be Loved by You?” by Jordan Paul and Margaret Paul .
I’m delighted you visited and shared!
Thanks again,

Julia Phillips Smith said...

I'm the sort of person who would rather be on my own than be with someone who didn't accept me for who I am, or who felt accepted by me. In fact, there was a six-year gap between my boyfriend and my husband. I enjoyed that time to myself, and when my husband came into my life, the kindred-spirit recognition was very strong (although we tried resisting it!)

I'm all about acceptance. In fact in a perverse way, if there is a lack of acceptance, I reject that person!

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello Julia,
Thanks for stopping by and sharing your experience. You are very fortunate in many ways… not the least being that you have a strong sense of self and the ego strength to not have to be with someone to feel good about yourself. And as such, you are with someone, viz. your husband, because you want to… not because you have to. I’m happy with and for you.
Thanks again for the visit,

Julia Phillips Smith said...

Hi, it's me again. I just went to read your post about your dad. Thanks for mentioning it in my comments. It's a great moment. When he was in the window waving, I found that was the most tender moment of all. He'd obviously pushed through considerable physical pain because he wanted another look at you. I'm glad you helped me to find that post.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Julia,
Thanks for returning and your gracious comments about my Post about my Dad... and him! He really was a great man. I never doubted that he loved me (once I figured out how he showed it and I knew what to look for).
Herewith I also want to alert my fans and friends to your wonderful poem about your Dad and suggest that they treat themselves to it:
Thanks again!