Relationships are meant to trigger issues so that we know that they exist within us, and we have the opportunity to heal and free ourselves.
Many years ago, I found myself in a long-term relationship where I felt completely unappreciated. I bent over backward and even sacrificed my own integrity in order to receive morsels of appreciation, but no matter what I did, I still felt unappreciated. I requested, I demanded, I whined – still, less than nothing.
As I grew resentful that my partner withheld appreciation, I began to withhold understanding. The key nuggets of our frequent arguments were, “You don’t appreciate me” versus “You don’t understand me.”
As I felt unappreciated, I also felt unworthy of love, and as the pain grew with the passing of time, I arrived at the point where I was done seeking appreciation because it was just too painful.
The true purpose of emotional pain is to wake us up and make us pay attention to the false belief(s) that is causing the pain in the first place.
Of course, you can ignore this pain through methods of distraction, addiction, rationalization, etc… but the pain is designed to grow stronger the longer you ignore it, requiring greater and greater methods of avoidance.
Depending on your ability to tolerate emotional pain, eventually, there will come a point, where the only way to be free of this pain is to uncover its true source and pull it up from the roots.
Finally, I stopped looking outside myself and I looked within. I began to see a hidden history revolving around my need for appreciation that began with my mother in childhood. I could see that my need for appreciation was a symptom of trying to prove that I was worthy of love.
I could also see that there was an empty space inside me where my own self-love was missing. It became perfectly clear that in this unconscious game of trying to prove my worth, the cards were stacked against me.
Relationships cannot prove your worth. Relationships can only demonstrate whether or not you believe that you are worthy.
Until we are fully awake in our lives, the purpose of relationships, and especially intimate ones, is to alert us to our disempowering beliefs, so that we can heal and wake up. Other people, we call family, lovers, and friends unknowingly act out our false beliefs and trigger our issues so that we have the opportunity to recognize and release these false beliefs and heal our wounds.
Therefore, if I believe that my worth is conditional and I must prove that I am worthy, my partner can only reflect this belief by unconsciously offering behavior (withholding my primary emotional need) that activates my feelings of unworthiness.
If you don’t love yourself, you will need others to behave certain ways so that you feel worthy of love, but others can only demonstrate your belief that you don’t feel worthy of love.
In addition, because worth is intrinsic and unconditional, it cannot be proven or disproven. The mere act of trying to prove that you are worthy of getting others to treat you a certain way so that you feel worthy comes from a belief that you are not worthy. If you know that you are unconditionally worthy of love, you don’t need proof.
Identifying Emotional Needs
If you listen to your own words and thoughts, when you are feeling unloved by your partner, you will begin to understand your primary emotional need. If you have found yourself, saying or thinking, “You don’t hear me,” the primary emotional need is likely being heard.
In the case of, “You don’t approve of me or you always judge me,” the primary emotional need is likely approval. Your primary emotional need is more than likely the same need that did not get met in childhood.