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The Relationship Apathy Pattern

To generalize, people only put energy into something if they feel they are going to get what they want out of it. This is also true when it comes to relationships. A person won’t put energy into a specific relationship unless they feel like they are going to get what they want out of that relationship. If a person doesn’t feel that they will get what they want out of the relationship, they tend to become apathetic towards the relationship. There are all kinds of things that a person might want to get out of a relationship such as a sense of belonging, intimacy, togetherness, sex, trust, a sense of security, protection, shared experience, affection, attention, prioritization, emotional connection, joint goals, romance, significance, respect, kindness, honesty, dedication, excitement, encouragement, self-esteem, acceptance, not to be lonely anymore and the list goes on and on. If a person is in a relationship specifically for any one of these things and starts to feel like they won’t get it, they can become apathetic towards the relationship. Therefore, if you are in a relationship and someone is behaving apathetically towards it or towards you, it is very smart to consider that the reason might be that they want something out of the relationship that they are not getting and feel they are not going to get.

But today, I’m going to expose the deepest, most unconscious and most difficult to recognize relationship apathy pattern. And I’m going to tell you what to do about it. First, I’ll tell you what the pattern is. And then I’ll break it down for you so that you completely understand it. The pattern is that a person’s deepest desire is to be loved for “who they are” and they perceive that they aren’t going to get that in a relationship, and so they become apathetic towards the relationship.

The first thing that is important to understand is that when someone says that they want to be loved, 99% of the time, they don’t actually mean that they want to be loved. What they mean is that they want to be valued, appreciated and therefore wanted. So, really, this pattern is about wanting to be valued for “who they are”. 

The second thing that is important to understand is that in the context of the desire to be valued, “who you are” is a meaningless term. What does it mean? There are some questions you must consider if you want to be loved for who you are/if you want to be loved for “you”. 

  1. Who and/or what are you? 
  2. What is it about you that you want to be valued, appreciated and wanted for? What is it exactly that you are asking other people to value, appreciate and want about you?

To understand this pattern, we need to go way back into childhood. In some families, a child gets the message that their only value is what they DO for the parent or for other members of the family. They feel their only value is in their use. This leads to both extreme insecurity and exhaustion because it feels like they are on a never-ending treadmill to earn their place every day and will lose it the second they stop. Imagine a horse that is valued and wanted only for the fact that it races, and if the day comes that it doesn’t race, it immediately is not valued anymore and is rejected and discarded. Inside this child, a deep desire is being born. A desire to be valued for something intrinsic to them, something that is not dependent on their service or lack thereof or on their performance or lack thereof. They want to be valued, appreciated and wanted for something that has nothing to do with their use

The problem is, the only way this person knows to be valued enough to be wanted, is to be of use. And so, they will enter into a relationship with someone who has very obvious and desperate needs. Even to the degree that they need rescue. Therefore, again, they will be valued for what they do for the other person. But they will secretly hope and expect that to the contrary, doing so will magically lead to that person valuing them for who they are instead. 

This person will be a person who starts out pouring their energy into the relationship and into the other person. The exact opposite of apathy. Because they think that everything they are doing, will lead to them feeling valued, appreciated and wanted for “who they are”. But then the day comes where something happens that causes them to perceive that they will never be valued, appreciated and wanted for “who they are”. And so, they begin to test it. They start to drop the things they were doing for the relationship and for the other person. Naturally, this makes the other person upset at them. And this is further confirmation that they are only valued, appreciated and wanted for their use. And so, they go into full blown apathy mode. They drop responsibilities. They don’t put energy into the relationship or into the other person. They emotionally withdraw. They act completely passive and unhappy. They act unworkable. They become unresponsive. They lose their enthusiasm. And when the relationship spirals, they don’t put any energy into making changes to improve the relationship. They stop actively participating in the relationship and even sink into depression because it’s too painful to accept that in the relationship, they won’t be valued, appreciated and loved for “who they are”. And because they don’t want to sign up for a life or a relationship where they aren’t. Suddenly, the other person feels like they are in the relationship alone and as if they are the only one putting any energy into it. 

So that you can understand this better, here is an example: Michael was born into a poor family with lots of kids. He was left in the crib a lot as a baby, because every member of the family was too busy doing what needed to be done to get by. When he was old enough to pitch in, he was immediately put to work. Tending to his siblings, taking on tasks for the household, helping to bring in income. No one in the house was valued for anything other than what they practically did. For example, Michael had an incredible sense of humor. But no one cared. All they cared about is whether he lit the wood fires first thing in the morning or brought back enough money from his afterschool job. 

Michael is now an adult. Since his life experience has taught him that he holds no value other than what he does, he has deep insecurities about his own worth. This causes him to get into relationships with women who desperately need a man because they are fending for themselves. He does this because by doing so, he does not risk rejection. Also, all he knows is to be in a relationship with someone who really needs him for something that he does. The woman he is with now, Kelsey, is a single mother with a history of severe sex abuse. She needs all the things that a father would provide, but that her father never provided, and even more. She needs someone to provide for her financially. She needs protection. She needs a father figure for her daughter. She needs a man to be there for her whenever she needs him emotionally. She needs to be supported in her goals. She wants to be taken care of and taken responsibility for. Michael is convinced on a subconscious level, that if he steps up to such a degree for Kelsey, she will fall in love with him for who he is. What he means by this is, Kelsey will value, appreciate and want him for his soul. For how he feels. For his sense of humor. For the way his body feels against hers. You know… for everything that takes no effort on his part because it isn’t about what he does. Kelsey does actually value him for all these things. But the reason she got into a primary partnership arrangement with him isn’t because of those things. It was because of all the things he does for her. Things like taking responsibility for upkeep around the house and paying for bills and bringing home dinner for them all and talking her through her problems for hours and providing incredible containment and setting up elaborate dates. 

One day, Michael runs into a situation where he doesn’t have enough money to pay the grocery bill. And Kelsey gets upset about it. A shock wave goes through Michael’s system. Suddenly, he feels like his security with Kelsey and his place in her life is dependent on his use. In this case, financial providership. He is in a state of constant anxiety then. He doesn’t talk to Kelsey about this fear. Instead, he decides to test whether this is in fact the case. He doesn’t put the trash out on the street on trash pickup day, like he has of his own accord every other week in their relationship. Again, Kelsey gets upset. She becomes afraid that all the pressure is starting to fall back on her shoulders and like she is going to have to either do things herself, or manage Michael to do them. When Kelsey gets upset, Michael’s worst fears become even more real. She might never love him for who he is. And it is at this point that progressively, he goes into full blown apathy mode. 

Michael starts dropping all of the responsibilities he signed up for in their relationship. He stops doing anything romantic. He stops initiating sex. He withdraws emotionally and spends most of his time working. But he passes up opportunities to make a lot of money because he doesn’t want Kelsey to value him for how much money he has. He stops providing containment. He leaves her to fend for herself in conflicts with other people in her life. And when the relationship really turns bad, he is uncharacteristically passive about it. He won’t read books about how to make the relationship better. When Kelsey tells him directly what he needs to do to make her feel happy in the relationship again, he doesn’t do it. He reluctantly shows up to a visit with a marital therapist but won’t go back. Kelsey has lost her partner. Michael has slipped into an apathetic depression, leaving her to fend for herself and carry him. He is stuck in that depression because he can’t consciously admit that what he wants is to be loved for “who he is” and Kelsey is a woman with very serious and practical needs. She will never love him enough for “who he is” to have that be the reason to be in a primary relationship with him, or with any man for that matter. Part of Michael’s despair is that he truly believes that this is the very thing he offers to Kelsey. Something he feels he can give to any woman in his life, but that he never receives in return. If you ask him, he will say that he always ends up in relationships that are conditional when all he wants and what he offers, is unconditional love.  

What he doesn’t realize is that he also is in a conditional relationship with Kelsey. The need he is trying to meet and what he is trying to get out of a relationship is esteem. His childhood led him to believe that he is worthless as a person outside of his use. He wants a woman to value, appreciate and want him for things that have nothing to do with his use, so that he feels esteem. And if he doesn’t get that in a relationship, he stops participating in the relationship. He becomes apathetic. On top of this, he dupes the women he enters into a relationship with by entering into the relationship on the foot of “value me because of all the things I can do for you”. Only to drop the relationship when it becomes obvious that they do because his real request is “value me for who I am, regardless of what I do or don’t do for you.”

Needless to say, Michael and Kelsey’s relationship ended. And both of them are retraumatized because the relationship was a repeat of each of their original wounding. 

If you recognize yourself in this pattern, the first thing you need to do, is to throw away the idea that there is a right or a wrong reason to be in a relationship. People who want to be loved for ‘who they are’, love to defend this desire by believing that it is the only true and good and right reason to be with someone. This is not true. There is nothing wrong with a person being in a relationship with someone for any reason, provided that there is a mutual agreement about it. What causes pain in relationships is a mismatch between what someone is valued, appreciated and wanted for and what they want to be valued, appreciated and wanted for. In the relationship with Michael and Kelsey, there is a mismatch between what Michael is valued, appreciated and wanted for and what he wants to be valued, appreciated and wanted for.    

The second thing you need to do, is to figure out what you want to be valued, appreciated and wanted for. When a person says “I want to be loved for who I am” or “I want someone to love me for me”, what this usually means is that the person has certain specific aspects about them that were never valued, appreciated or wanted. Potentially they have been rejected for those things in the past. Or potentially, those things have never been adequately recognized. On top of this, they may have been valued, appreciated and wanted for something that they don’t want to be valued, appreciated and wanted for. You need to figure out exactly what it is about you that you want to have be appreciated, valued and wanted. To understand more about this, you can watch my video titled: Want To Be Loved For Who You Are, Watch This! Using our example, Michael realizes that he wants to be loved for his presence, for the way he feels to the other person energetically, for the feeling of his touch, for his humor, for his ideas, for the sound of his voice, and for how nice he is.    

The third thing you need to do, is to decide whether or not being valued, appreciated and wanted for those things is a requirement for a partnership or whether you could have a partnership with someone based off of another agreement and establish other relationships where this need is met. If the answer is yes, you will either need to find out if your partner can change the reasons for being in the partnership with you, or end the partnership. I need to warn you that it is rare that a person will simply change their reason for being in the relationship with you when you change what you are offering, simply because you decided that you want them to be in a relationship with you for something other than what you offered to begin with.  If you decide that being valued, appreciated and wanted for certain things is not a requirement for a partner and could get this need met in other relationships, you need to drop the apathy and start stepping up and into the relationship. Using our example, Michael decides that he wants a partnership to be based off of a person valuing, appreciating and wanting him for these things, rather than for things like providing financially or offering containment or protecting them or taking on responsibilities around the house. So, he decides that it was right for the relationship with Kelsey to end. In fact, it wasn’t right to be with her in the first place. But he can see that he was the one who duped her, so he meets her for coffee to offer a serious apology and explain his pattern and why everything happened the way it did.       

 The fourth thing you need to do, is to advertise whatever it is about you that you want someone to value, appreciate and want. Part of this implies communicating with others about specifically what you want them to appreciate, value and want about you. And never forget that you are more likely to be appreciated, valued and wanted for something when you advertise that thing specifically to the people who are most likely to value, appreciate and want that thing. This means, if you don’t want to be valued for your use (for what you do for someone) then you need to not set up the relationship on the foot of “I will do these things for you”. You have to be willing to take the risk of putting what you want people to value, appreciate and want out there. Using our example, Michael stops looking for women who need rescue because they are carrying too much responsibility and are too alone. Instead, he decides to look for women who are very resourced. Women who are very close to their family and have lots of close friends. And rather than taking on responsibilities or doing things for them, what he offers, is quality time and touch. This way, he can tell that they are in a relationship with him for what he wants them to be in a relationship with him for. 

     Relationships need to be fed. A relationship will end if it is approached with apathy. For this reason, it is critical to know what you want to be appreciated, valued and wanted for in a relationship. And it is critical to know what you want to get out of a relationship. And it is critical to make sure that you are on the same page and in agreement with the other person about both.   


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