Giving love to someone who doesn’t love themselves enough to accept it it hard, but you can help them through it.
We were sitting across the table from each other in one of the most awkward and comfortable dates either of us have ever been on. Partially because it was the first date since either of us had broken up, partially because it was completely unintentional, we were having a completely open and honest conversation which led to us going out for dinner.
As we told each other our stories about how arriving at this point, miles away from where we had been, in a place neither of us in our wildest dreams were supposed to be, we tried to deconstruct the events that led us from our happiest, love-filled moments with people we thought were our soulmates, to here, single, and not knowing what to do next.
He told me how his wife, who he was currently separated from, suddenly didn’t want to be with him anymore. She didn’t know if she loved him, she didn’t know if she ever did. He told me how he tried everything to keep them together. He fought with her. He succumbed, and with her sold their house and all their furniture. He told me stories about how in love they once were, and he called her by his pet name for her. He told me he was out of options, and ideas. Now here he and I were.
I sat and listened. I knew this story, but from the other side. I was her. So I said, “It sounds like she fell out of love with herself.”
He looked at me with a blank stare. A moment of revelation that no one else in this world had brought to him before.
I continued, “You exhausted yourself because you gave her so much love and it never felt like it was good enough. That’s because it wasn’t. She was an empty vessel and everything you gave her she was giving back to you, but she was never filling herself up.”
It wasn’t a matter of doing more things for herself. He said she took up running, and was meeting friends every day. He said he told her he loved her every day. The problem was that she wasn’t saying it to herself.
That was my problem too. I was working so hard on creating a life that all my energy was going into creating something for the future and I didn’t take any time to appreciate what I already had in my life. I didn’t congratulate myself for my accomplishments. I would finish one goal and move onto the next without savoring the joy of even the smallest successes.
Here is what I suggested, because it was what I would have wanted too.
1. Be Patient
This is the absolutely toughest thing you could possibly do for someone else. The hardest part about patience is the waiting. Be there for them. Listen to their complaints. Chances are, behind all the points they are making there is a sound of exhaustion.
Maybe she also sounds empty. Whatever she is going through she needs to know that you are still there for her, even if it’s at a distance. Tell her you still care for her, you still love her, you still want to be with her, and if she needs time to devote to giving herself loving kindness, you completely understand. If you don’t want to break-up with her, don’t. If you want to be with her, then be with her. If she loves you she won’t be unfaithful, unless she feels that you’ve turned your back on her. She may go quiet for a day or two, but I promise, if she still loves you, you will hear from her regularly while she is working hard on filling herself up with love.
2. It’s Not You
She will probably have a laundry list of things wrong with the relationship. Items that never bothered her before, but are all of a sudden an issue. Her points may have some validity to them, maybe you have been working a lot more than usual lately, maybe you’ve been spending more time with your friends and not as much time with her as you usually do, but instead of creating an argument simply ask her, “What is this really about?” Hopefully she gives you more, such as she needs more time with you. First address the issue, book a special day with her. Show her that she’s still important in your life. Then when she’s in a calmer state ask her to talk. She will likely bring up insecurities about herself. Don’t interrupt this process. Don’t object to every one she makes with a compliment. Let her finish. Give her a hug and a kiss and tell her you love her because of everything she is.
3. Allow the Process
Falling back in love with oneself can be a long journey. Some people need a little bit of time alone. Some people will start to unravel some inner demons and will need professional guidance from a life coach or a psychologist. Your job is to encourage the growth to happen. Listen to the progress and things for both your lives will return to the loving state it was before, maybe even better.
4. Know When to Fold ‘Em
Besides all these recommendations it is important to ensure you are taking care of yourself first. The last thing you want is to become exhausted and fall out of love with yourself in the process. If you’re not ready to give up just yet, look towards professional help. Someone outside your inner circle can help to navigate the situation so you maintain a loving relationship with yourself. However, if you have done that and still feel like the relationship is leaving you feeling drained the best decision may be to end it instead of emptying yourself all the time.
Some couples need mutual time apart to grow, and they may find themselves back together again. Other couples were meant to meet to grow, learn their lessons in life and find themselves in a better position for another love in their life. Please know there is more than one person for everyone in our lifetimes. There will be someone new who will love you more than you could ever imagine, again.
The man I had dinner with that night continued to talk to his wife. He listened to everything she was going through. They stayed separated, but never apart. After a month his wife was back to her loving self. They got back together and are now expecting their first child.