You don't have to love yourself to be loved, and you don't need to understand or respect yourself to have friends. We all know people who have no self-respect or have no self-love, but are in romantic relationships and boast a large circle of friends. That doesn't necessarily mean those people are happy or that their relationships are healthy and meaningful.
Can people in conflict with themselves have good relationships anyway? "Yes," says Tanja Diamond, Founder of ModernTantra™ and Tantra for Business™, "but that's because their standards are so low."
"In any relationship in which two people become one, the end result is two half people." –Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
EXPLORING OUR INNER CONFLICT
Ms. Diamond, author of Beyond Sex:Tantra,believes our attitudes and values are programmed into us by our parents and by society. We are raised to believe this is all we can hope for, and often we don't take the time to explore what we really want out of life, to learn our own "authentic truth." "When we are conflicted, we live with chronic tension, so we don't even notice," says Diamond. "We may not be consciously aware of it, but it could cause anxiety, depression, or addiction."
Because of this conflict, we tend to choose partners from that conflicted area when we truly desire something else. "Whether you're talking about family relationships, friendships, or romance, if you're running old programs you are not truly engaging in a deep, open relationship. Let's face it – there isn't a lot of role modeling for what a healthy relationship looks like. We end up in relationships that are just habits we put up with."
Psychotherapist Silvia Dutchevici agrees. "Often the people we pick to have an intimate relationship with reflect something about ourselves we are working through. Therefore, if we have a troubled relationship with ourselves (don't like who we are, feel not good enough) we are more likely to pick someone who will reflect those feelings in us. Romantic relationships in particular bring out our insecurities because they require a level of intimacy and vulnerability that exposes us emotionally, and psychologically."
"When you struggle with your partner, you are struggling with yourself. Every fault you see in them touches a denied weakness in yourself." --Deepak Chopra
SEEKING OUR AUTHENTIC TRUTH
What is our authentic truth, and how do we find it? "We go into and out of conflict most of our lives," says Diamond. "We make most of our big decisions in young adulthood. The core issue of why so many people are unhappy is that finding our truth takes time and it takes work." It means finding a way to divorce ourselves, even temporarily, from the distractions of our daily tasks.
Diamond suggests beginning with deep breathing exercises. "It's one of the micro practices that keep you checked into yourself.You can start by taking five deep breaths – at a traffic light, on the bus, anywhere – so you can begin to see what it feels like to be relaxed instead of tense. We have to feel the contrast to notice. Then ask yourself the question – why am I so tense?"
"Rebuild the critical, negative voice in your head until it is giving you the kind of support you always wanted, like a friend who loves and supports you," says Tina B. Tessina, PhD, (aka "Dr. Romance") psychotherapist, and author of It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction.
"Knowing I can and will 'be there' for myself is at the heart of self-esteem. As you understand how to respond to yourself, you'll create a role model for healthy relationships with others: friends, family, lovers, and colleagues. You'll also recognize the others who are willing to relate to you in a healthy manner, and be capable of relating to them in the same way."
HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU'VE FOUND YOUR AUTHENTIC TRUTH?
"As you become totally honest with yourself," Dr. Tessina tells Natural Choice Directory, "you’ll learn to catch many of the nasty relationship surprises before they happen. You'll clearly see the difference between love and dependency, and choose to love and be loved. The more self-supporting and functional you become, the less you lean too heavily on anyone else. Relationships become mutual, with a balance between supporting yourself and others. No one needs to avoid you because you do not demand what others are not prepared to give. You can get what you need from yourself and enjoy what others want to freely give."
"You'll know you've found your authentic truth when you don't feel the conflict anymore," adds Diamond. "When we are unburdened by conflict, we are ready to have relationships that encourage us to grow."
Marriage and family therapist Lesli Doares says you'll know it "when you are alone in a room and you like the company you're with. It's also about being immune to guilt when you aren't meeting someone else's expectations. You have clarity about why you are choosing your actions and are willing to explain your reasoning but not defend or justify your choices. You add yourself into the equation when you consider the impact of your decisions."
THE DYNAMICS OF RELATIONSHIPS
Diamond cautions that the journey doesn't end when you've done the self-work and found your own authentic truth. "When you become involved with someone else, there's a new dynamic. All sorts of things will come up that you can only deal with in a relationship."
Indeed, relationships – with ourselves and with others – are not static. They are always changing. We must continue on the quest for self-realization, staying in tune with the core of who we are, so we can experience fulfilling relationships that enrich our lives.