Love is Transformative

A great relationship increases our ability to love ourselves. It all comes down to the science of love, what most of us would consider an extremely intangible and subjective experience.

The parts of our brains responsible for love and attachment are regulated by each other. As a baby, I learn love through my connection to my caregivers, as reflection in their eyes. Dr. Sue Johnson, in her book Love Sense: The Revolutionary New Science of Romantic Relationships asks, “How does a baby know he is delightful?” The baby knows he is delightful because when he looks into his mother’s eyes, he sees delight.

While most of our love template is created when we are young due to the fact that our brain is most primed for taking in information at that stage, we continue to mold and shape the emotional centres of our brain through continued experience in relationship.

The pursuit of self-love is entangled with a loving relationship. I cannot change the template or the dial or filter with which I can love myself by myself. In isolation, my only framework for self love is what I have known, and may be restricted if I was raised by a parent with limited ability to love themselves, who were distracted or not always emotionally available

If I want to change what my self-love dial is set for, I can do that through the eyes of a lover. When I am accepted and loved and can see that in another’s eyes, then a part of my brain recognizes that and recodes my own brain.  Wes Angelozzi sums this up well:

“Go and love someone exactly as they are. And then watch how quickly they transform into the greatest, truest version of themselves. When one feels seen and appreciated in their own essence, one is instantly empowered.”

I tested this a few years ago. I realized that I was withholding love from parts of my body, especially my stomach. So I asked my partner if he would rub oil on my stomach (which I hated people touching), while I did my best to be present and stay connected to him. He was amazing as he kept checking in with me to see if I was still present, and looked at me with kind loving eyes. I started to relax as I felt accepted and loved in that moment.

As I began to feel safer, I started to explore the edge of my fear. There was still part of me holding back from truly loving myself because I was afraid that my fat would jiggle and he would find it unattractive.

“Will you shake my tummy back and forth and jiggle my fat?”, I blurted, the courage leaving my lips before my brain had time to talk myself out of it. And so he did. My stomach moved back and forth and as it hit my thigh, making ripples there too. Neither of us pulled away, he just kept loving and accepting me with his gaze. I felt my fear dissipate and allowed myself to start loving the way my soft stomach moved back and forth.

That experience was one of the most vulnerable and freeing moments of my life. I went to the edge of my fear, sharing a part of myself that I did not love and I let someone else see that. My partner received what I thought was a terrible part of myself and did not recoil in horror, he accepted and loved me through it. My brain reset my self-love dial.

What happened for me in that moment is explained well in A General Theory of Love, a collaboration between Dr. Thomas Lewis, Dr. Fari Amini and Dr. Richard Lannon. “Those who succeed in revealing themselves to another find the dimness receding from their own visions of self.  Like people awakening from a dream, they slough off the accumulated ill-fitted trappings of unsuitable lives”.

Love is transformative. Love changes our brains. Our relationships help us to increase our ability to love not only each other, but also ourselves.

Christina Bianchini RPC, MPCC

Getting What You Need In Your Relationship

I’m not sure about you, but relationships 101 was never a class that I was taught in grade school. Prior to becoming a relationship therapist (and at times since) I find myself fumbling my way through, and not always getting what I want. We shame ourselves into believing we “should” know the right way to do relationships, when the only experience we may have is from watching our parents who are not always the most skilled themselves.
So let yourself off the hook and prepare yourself for an amazing relationship. One that is conscious, connected and loving.

This article is the first in a series of Relationships 101, because we could all use more skill in our relationships. I want you to know what to do when it does get hard, and I want you to spend time consciously creating the life you want with each other.

Let’s start with you. How good are you at asking for what you need?

One of the biggest misconceptions is “if they really loved me, they would know”. Well I have numerous ill-suited Christmas and birthday gifts to prove the contrary. Our partner’s job is not to be a mind reader. That puts all sorts of expectations on the other person, who isn’t likely to always get it right. Then you both lose; they are in trouble and you don’t have what you want.

If asking for what you need is difficult for you, here is a simple formula.

1. I Feel…

Start with how you are feeling. Anger can be quick to present itself, and know that it is often a primary defense emotion. Is there anything underneath the anger, like hurt, sadness, fear or loneliness?

2. When…… happens, I start to think….

Let your partner know what your head starts to say when they do a certain behaviour. This is often a place where our thoughts can take us to all sorts of scary places and sometimes create problems that weren’t even there to begin with.

3. What I need is….

What is it you need from your partner? Is it reassurance? A hug? Maybe it’s to be acknowledged and appreciated for your efforts?

Here is what it might sound like put together.

“I feel hurt and frustrated when you leave your dishes on the counter for me to put in the dishwasher. When I see that cup sitting there I start to think that you don’t care about me or what’s important to me. I need to know that my feelings matter and that I am important to you.”

As with all skills, give yourself and your partner time and patience to practice. If you struggle to get the words out, then you can begin by writing it out for yourself first.

Stop Attracting the Same Type of Unhealthy Relationship Q&A

Question:

I`m 36 years old and never been married. I want to get married and have an amazing loving relationship, and so far to no avail. It seems that in all the relationships I have had I tend to `lose` myself in them. When my last relationship ended, I thought that if giving was the key to a great relationship then he wouldn`t have left. How do I stop attracting the same type of relationships and finally find `the one`..

Desperately seeking partnership

Answer:

I believe that most people share your desire, to have a loving committed relationship. Getting lost in relationship is very common, especially in the early stages of dating…ahhhh the honeymoon period. I can`t eat, I can`t sleep, all I think about is THEM… and how dreamy they are… and this is a very normal part of courtship.  If however, getting lost means putting their needs ahead of yours, you send a message that who you are is not as valuable.

We all have beliefs about ourselves, and these are based on messages and experiences we have had growing up.  For example, giving seems to be really important to you. Without knowing more about you, I can say that often people who give a lot think that part of their value comes from what they do or give, not just for who they are.

Breaking these patterns of behaviour requires taking a closer look at oneself, to realize some of the conscious and unconscious beliefs, and then taking action to have a different experience.  For example, if you are dating someone who is frequently late, you might say this,

“I understand that traffic was bad and you were tied up at work, AND I want you to know that when you are late I feel disrespected and make up that you think my time is not valuable.“

This small step of counting yourself in from the very start will set a different template for the relationship, and you will know very quickly whether or not this person has values that match yours. I think often we are afraid to say something, or get angry. There is a place in the middle where you are both honoured, and either the other person will meet you there, or they may not be the one for you.  I do believe you can have amazing love in your life if you work on allowing it!