Most of us reach adulthood with a burning desire… To be approved of, liked and loved exactly as we are. Those of us that grew up in dysfunctional families tend to struggle with this dynamic the very most. In dysfunctional families (and remember that most families today fall somewhere on the spectrum of dysfunction) the parents exhibit a behavior or many that are detrimental to themselves and to other members of the family. But they display an unworkability when it comes to changing that behavior. This puts every other family member in the position to continue to try to get them to change that thing about themselves and face consequences for doing so, or to accept and adapt to the dysfunction by enabling it. When they accept and enable it, leaving this person exactly as they are, they receive approval and positive feedback for doing so. The parent or caregiver feels loved. As a result, they learn that the definition of loving someone is appreciating a person exactly as they are and not asking them to change anything, even if what they are doing is detrimental to themselves, to the person and to others.
When we have to change ourselves so that someone else in our family doesn’t have to change and so that they approve of and love us, we feel bad about ourselves. We feel unlovable for who we authentically are. And we set out on a lifelong quest to be loved exactly as we are, without having to change anything… including what is dysfunctional about us. Ironically, we set out on a mission to unknowingly become the very thing that hurt us. We become inflicted with the very same wound that made our parents unworkable. And because that wound then makes us unworkable, we inflict the very same pain on the people in our lives that our parents inflicted on us as children. We damage them with our un-changeability.
Because our subconscious definition of love is to appreciate a person exactly as they are and to not ask them to change anything (even if what they are doing is detrimental to themselves, to us and to others), this is what we are looking for. We are looking to finally be able to be in the position that our parents were in with us when we were growing up… Where we have a person who demonstrates their approval and love of us by not ever disapproving of us. And by not ever asking us to change anything. We have decided that this is how to know if we are supported and loved. We want to be in a feel-good relationship the way we are, even if our behavior is not conducive to a feel-good relationship. We want our partner to make themselves compatible to us, even if they are not actually compatible to us. And we often decide that the ultimate testament of love is if someone is willing to be in pain so that we can have this experience. To understand more about this, watch my video titled: The “Suffer So I Can Feel Loved” Relationship Dynamic.
When we have this pattern, this desire gets in the way of self-development, personal expansion and making necessary changes that would make our relationships and life better. If we want to be loved exactly as we are and without changing anything about ourselves, seeing anything about ourselves in a negative light and consequently making changes to anything about ourself, seems to take us in the opposite direction from what we really want. So, we stay as we are. And by staying as we are, we become a new link in the chain of the same dysfunction that runs through our own family line. And our relationships become a repetition of the same dysfunction. This pattern is one of the hardest for people to put an end to.
So that you can understand this pattern better, here is an example. Weston grew up in a home with a father that was passive and took the back seat to his mother. His mother was super into control and got everything her way. In her home, everything had to be the way she wanted. This included how Weston dressed, behaved, when and how his needs were met and what his interests were. Weston was in a lot of pain about this. He was hungry, but couldn’t get food because his mother decided it wasn’t time for him to eat. He wanted attention, but couldn’t get it because his mother decided she didn’t want to give it and put no energy into finding someone who could give it to him instead. He hated the preppy outfits she made him wear. They were uncomfortable and he always had to keep them clean. He longed to wear lounge clothes. He loved to spend time exploring, but his mother put him on a regimented schedule. He loved music. But his mother thought that was a useless interest and enrolled him in academic interests, where he didn’t excel. When anyone had conflicts with her, there was no win-win to be found, she would simply get rid of the person. Weston watched her do this with his older brother, who was sent away from home to a behavioral modification boys camp when his behavior displeased her. And this led to Weston becoming conflict avoidant. Weston conformed to what his mother wanted. He felt he was not loved exactly as he is. But, as a result of changing himself to suit her, he became the golden child. He demonstrated his love for her by approving of her exactly as she is and changing himself, because she was unworkable. She would not change anything. In her mind, if her children were good and loved her, they would do exactly as she says.
Because of all of this, Weston is on a subconscious mission to find love. But not real love, his dysfunctional definition of love. He is on a mission to be loved exactly as he is and not have to change anything about himself and his behavior, even if it causes the other person pain. Recently, Weston moved in with his girlfriend Sahara. And Sahara is suffering. There are things that Weston is doing that is detrimental to himself and to her. When conflict arises, he refuses to engage and leaves the apartment. He spends all his free time listening to music and exploring places he hasn’t been to in the city instead of finding ways to improve their financial situation, leaving her to be the primary provider for the two of them. He leaves piles of things everywhere in the apartment because he hates to clean. His ill-fitting lounge clothes have holes in them and he wears them everywhere, even when it is totally inappropriate to do so. And she is pretty sure they don’t want the same things in life. Many of these things don’t only hurt Sahara.
Many of these things are actually sabotaging Weston’s success and preventing him from getting what he wants. There are negative consequences he is experiencing as a result of them. People don’t take him seriously or see him as professional because of how he dresses. He is stuck in a crappy financial situation and in an apartment he hates. He can’t have good relationships because he doesn’t handle conflict well. He is distracted and unfocused because of the clutter everywhere and is constantly losing things. And instead of finding a compatible relationship arrangement with Sahara, he is simply keeping things as-is, which means the emotional tension in their relationship keeps rising to the point where the relationship is mostly negative now.
Sahara is being more loving to Weston and one could argue, more in alignment with his own best interests than he is by recognizing that certain things that Weston is doing are working against his best interests, and by drawing his attention to the need to change them. But Weston refuses to entertain this notion. In his mind, if she truly loved him, she would stop creating conflicts, approve of him spending time on music and exploration, stop getting upset about finances, stop getting upset about the apartment being clean (or simply clean it herself) stop caring about what he wears and start focusing on all the ways they are compatible instead of harping on the idea that they might be incompatible.
Because Sahara gets upset with him about these things, he doesn’t feel valued or loved. He keeps insisting that if she valued and loved him, she would value and love him exactly as he is and would not ask him to change any of these things. He is being unworkable because of it. He refuses to change anything about himself. Weston has slipped into a withdrawn, surly attitude because he feels Sahara isn’t a good person because she keeps trying to change him. And he thinks that because she wants his to change, Sahara doesn’t really value and love him. Of course, this just serves to make the relationship worse.
Whenever Weston gets negative feedback about anything he does, he feels harmed, unseen, shamed and unloved. Recently, Weston attended a self-development seminar. And he hated it. When the speaker suggested that in order to get what he wants, he has to change himself, he disagreed and he felt insulted. He decided the speaker is not a good person. He thinks that the advice he got is the opposite of what he needs to do. All he was really looking for was validation. All he really wanted was advice about how to get what he wants while staying exactly as he is. All he really wanted was to be told how to get the experience of being valued and loved the exact way he is and without changing. When the speaker explained that to get different results, you have to be willing to change, he decided that the seminar wasn’t for him and simply didn’t return after lunch for the afternoon segment. Weston is thwarting his own self development. He is looking to stay the same. He is looking in the wrong places for validation and he is simply looking for people to approve of him exactly as he is and enable his dysfunction. But he is stuck in the illusion that this is progress and this is love. Weston doesn’t see things about his behavior as being dysfunctional and will not recognize them as being detrimental to himself and others, even though much of his behavior is dysfunctional and is detrimental to himself and to others. So, he feels it is self-hating and against himself to change them rather than self-loving and for himself to change them. He has become just as unworkable as his mother was. And now, Sahara is in the same position with him that he was in with his mother.
When we fall into this pattern, the reality is that we have decided on a subconscious level that someone only loves us if they support our dysfunction. We also fail to really make a conscious choice about what things we want to change about ourselves because they are detrimental to us and others and which things we want to stand for and embrace because they are beneficial to us and others. And in turn, this makes it impossible to properly assess compatibility in our life. We can’t assess our compatibility with places, jobs, situations, things or people. To understand more about this, watch my video titled: Incompatibility, a Harsh Reality in Relationships. When it comes to life, knowing (a) what you are willing to change (and why) and (b) what you are unwilling to change (and why) is critical. You need to know where you can and where you can’t be pliable in order to create the life you genuinely want.
To love yourself is to act in alignment with your own best interests. Changing something about yourself that is detrimental to yourself can be a profoundly self-loving act. To love someone is to take them as a part of yourself. When you do this, their best interests become a part of your best interests. You cannot be ok with them being in pain for your sake. And so, you want to either (a) change the thing about you that is causing them pain or (b) recognize that you are unwilling to change what is causing them pain and thus, must acknowledge incompatibility and act accordingly, so as to not keep them and you stuck in the pain of that incompatible situation. The more compatible we are with someone, the more they will approve of us exactly as we are. But love is something entirely different. Both love and self-development imply some degree of making changes to ourselves.