There is a pattern in relationships that dissolves the perception of love in the relationship. This pattern is responsible for so many breakups and not only that, it is responsible for why so many relationships end on very bad terms. And this pattern is the: ‘If you loved me then x’ pattern.
Most of us feel we have a handle on what our own best interests are. And regardless of whether this is actually the case or not, we understand on a visceral level that to love something is to take it as a part of us. It is to include it in our self-hood. Love naturally gives rise to experiences like compassion, closeness, understanding, empathy, caring and appreciation. When we love something, we cannot hurt it or act against its best interests without hurting ourselves. Therefore, we feel that someone acting against our best interests is not love. So, anytime someone acts out of alignment with what we perceive our best interests to be, we make it mean that they don’t love us. It dissolves the perception of love in the relationship.
For example, Rachel perceives that it is in her best interests to be fully committed to by a man who is monogamous with her. When her boyfriend Mike flirts with other women, she no longer feels loved by him because she perceives him to be acting against her best interests. She has decided that if a man loves her, then he will not flirt with other women. She has decided that if a man loves her, then he will commit to her and want only her and be monogamous with her. This is the ‘if you loved me then X’ pattern. The problem is that Mike was enmeshed as a child. He perceives that it is in his best interests to be free and autonomous. When Rachel flips out when he flirts with other women or when he expresses his hesitancy about getting married, he no longer feels loved by her because he perceives her to be acting against his best interests. He has decided that if a woman loves him, she would let him be free, and not restrict him by expecting him to commit to her needs for security over his needs for enjoyment. This is the ‘if you loved me then X’ pattern.
Another example is that Justin perceives that it is in his best interests for people in his life to value his art and approve of him being an artist. When his parents keep responding unenthusiastically to his art and instead keep bothering him about when he is going to go to college or get an internship, he no longer feels loved by his parents because he perceives them to be acting against his best interests. Justin has decided that if his parents love him, they would support his art and the fact that he is an artist. This is the ‘if you loved me then X’ pattern. Ironically, his parents actually think that they are acting more in Justin’s best interests than he is. They perceive what they are doing to be in alignment with his life success and therefore to be loving. When Justin refuses to get serious about his professional life, they fear that he will fail and that they will not only have to worry about him and support him forever. But that they will look like bad parents in society because of it. They don’t feel loved by their son because they have decided that if their child loves them, he will make the most of the opportunities given to him and be grateful to them for those opportunities. And also, they have decided that if their child lives them, he would also make choices that don’t worry them and that make them look good instead of bad and that take financial pressure off of them, not put financial pressure on them. This is also the ‘if you loved me then X’ pattern.
For one final example, Joanna has decided that it is in her best interests for her friends to be confidential about anything she tells them. When she finds out that her friend Megan didn’t keep this confidentially, but instead told another person what she confided in her, Joanna decides that Megan is not a friend and does not love her. Joanna has decided that if a friend loved her, she would never share something that Megan told her to another person. This is the ‘if you loved me then X’ pattern. Megan decided that it was in her best interests to tell her other friend what Joanna had said because what Joanna had said had affected her relationship with that person. Megan needed to confront that person to get the truth. When Joanna was so upset with Megan for telling the other person what she had said, Megan felt like Joanna wasn’t a good friend and didn’t love her. Megan has decided that if a friend loves her, they won’t put her in the position to choose in their best interests (in this case to keep a secret) over her own (in this case to confront someone with that information so as to find out the truth). This is the ‘if you loved me then X’ pattern.
All of us enter into relationships (I mean any relationships, whether they be friendships, work relationships, family relationships, romantic partnerships) with a whole collection of ‘if you love me, then you will do X’s’ as well as a whole collection of ‘if you love me, then you won’t do X’s’. All of us have found ourselves on both sides of this equation. We have all experienced this feeling that someone does not love us because of something they do or don’t do. And we have all experienced the torment of someone putting us in an impossible position where they decide that we love them only if we do something that is completely against our own best interests. Or when they make something that we do or don’t do mean that we don’t love them, when what we did or didn’t do had nothing to do with that.
One of the most difficult elements of life is that we live in a world of separation. Relationships can actually only exist in a world of separation, because for a relationship to happen, there must be at least two parties. We have a separate identity. So, even when we love, our own needs and wants and therefore best interests can be different than those belonging to the person we love. And even oppositional to their best interests. Problems with the ‘if you loved me then X’ pattern occurs when we perceive ourselves and another person to have conflicting best interests. We feel like we are in a lose-lose scenario.
It is at this point that we usually bring in another common, but faulty belief that love is selfless and that love is about self-sacrifice for the other person’s sake. When we perceive ourselves to be in a conflict relative to best interests, we decide that if a person loves us, they will act in our best interests instead of their own. And when they don’t, we decide they don’t love us. Very quickly, this can escalate to us deciding that the other person never did love us. It was all an illusion.
Loving something implies wanting it to have what it needs and wants and what is in its best interests. It is not loving to expect a person to forfeit what they need and want or to forfeit their best interests to prove that they care about you and like you and love you. This means, love recognizes the beauty in conscious transaction. If you want to learn more about this concept, you can watch my video titled: Be Consciously Transactional. Why Every Relationship Is Transactional.
To break free from this pattern, we need to do two seemingly opposite things.
- We need to question our conclusions when it involves an ‘if this person loved me then they would or wouldn’t X’. Most of the time, what a person does or doesn’t do has nothing to do with whether they love you or not. It has to do with what they perceive their needs and wants and their own best interests to be. So, we may just be adding meaning that does not inherently exist. To understand this deeper, you would benefit by watching my video titled: Meaning, The Self Destruct Button.
- We need to put genuine energy and focus into understanding anyone who comes into our life. And they need to put genuine energy and focus into understanding us. We need to put more focus on this than we put on trying to make each-other feel loved. The reason is that if we understand someone, we will actually understand what they perceive their best interests to be and maybe even what their best interests actually are. This allows us to act in their best interests and to foresee when there is going to be a conflict between their best interests and our own. This put us in the position to be able to communicate about it and problem solve and caretake and resolve that conflict of best interests before it turns into something that dissolves the perception of there being love in the relationship. Doing this, makes it possible to build and maintain trust in the relationship, even when there is a conflict of interests. And doing this, makes a person feel cared about and loved. To understand more about this, watch two of my videos. The first titled: Stop Trying to Love Them and Start Trying to Understand Them. And the second titled: Trust (What is Trust and How to Build Trust in Relationships).
Loving someone does not make our own needs suddenly not exist; so that all we care about is their needs and wants. Love is not selfless. Instead, it causes you to include the other as part of yourself, meaning that it ends your ability to play a zero-sum game. This means, if you truly are choosing to be loving to someone, you care both about your own wants and needs as well as the other person’s. You are looking for a win-win… A way to act in their best interests, as well as yours.