One of the pieces of relationship advice that you often hear people giving (and misusing) is that relationships are about sacrifice, you know that thing we do when we give up something of value in order to make something else more worthy or important. Now here’s the thing:
Any relationship, romantic or otherwise, has a level of sacrifice. This is actually the case with any decision that we make about anything because there are trade-offs, so for instance, if we decide to be self-employed, we give up the stability of the job we’re in for the freedom and sense of ownership that we might enjoy by being our own boss. With it comes a great deal of uncertainty and certain stresses that we don’t get with employment but it’s the sacrifice we make and many good things come out of it.
The trade-off of deciding to be in a relationship is that we give up the freedom of singledom or casual relationships for the freedom of being in a mutually fulfilling healthy relationship. We trade what might be the uncertainty (and any excitement that might bring) for the certainty and yeah, to a degree, the predictability of being in a relationship with the same person and making ourselves available to them.
Whatever the sacrifice is that we make though, one we should never make is sacrificing us.
Many people share stories with me of pain and suffering that in essence amounts to them believing that sacrificing themselves is love. No it’s not! The only people who sacrifice themselves are the ones who don’t believe in their worth. They give themselves up because they think that by making the other person as more valuable, that they will gain self-worth. It’s like, I’m making you better than me so if you will treat me right, love me, change etc, this will mean that I am now worthy and important. They make a martyr of themselves because they continue with the painful behaviour and choices no matter the cost.
When we act as if we’re the sacrificial lamb in our relationships, we’re actually allowing us to be destroyed or to have our use exhausted to fulfil a purpose. Seriously–who told us that our purpose is to pump people up?
If you haven’t been treating and regarding you with love, care, trust and respect, can you see how this has impacted on who you who you are attracted to and remain around?
When you’ve felt that you were less than and put your needs, desires, expectations, feelings, opinions and beliefs on the back burner along with your boundaries, you sacrifice you in relationships in order to say, “Hey! I’m worthy enough to be loved”.
Choosing a partner to increase your worth is you looking outside of you, which is self-defeating because it’s external esteem not self-esteem so it’s like shifting sands. By looking to someone else to make you feel good about you, you’re trying to cover up feelings of low self-worth but actually end up exacerbating them. Romantic relationships hide feelings of low self-worth for a time but the moment that the honeymoon fades or you have to deal with reality, conflict, criticism, and basically this person not being perfect, those feelings will start poking at you.
The relationship is used to prove your value and your partner has the job of making you happy.
You give up the all-important responsibility of taking care of you and making choices that honour your values because you think that giving that job to someone else outside of you is better because they’re more worthy and important hence they’ll do a better job of it. Sure, it can’t be any worse than what you’re doing?
There’s a lot of problems though with this outlook, namely that you can’t make someone ‘better’ than you and hope to have a loving relationship with them or be happy plus, thinking that someone is more superior to you is based on projection not reality. Imagine meeting someone tomorrow with the outlook that you have to give you up in order to be loved—exactly how do you think you’re going to interact with that person?
Isn’t it outrageous that so many of us take a person we haven’t met yet, or a person we just met or don’t know that well or do know but don’t like how they’re unfolding, and decide based on our judgement of us, that we have to make them more important? That’s jacked up! No wonder we feel like sh-t.
When they and the relationship don’t live up to the image in your mind, which represents your hopes and aspirations for you, you feel afraid, unhappy and angry, because if the relationship doesn’t work out, if this person is less than perfect, then in your mind it means that you have no value and that you’ve been sacrificing you for nothing. Then it’s like, “Gimme back what I’ve put in! I’ve made you more important and not only have you failed me but I feel like less than what I was when I met you. Who am I going to be without you and this relationship?”
If you’ve been sacrificing you in your relationships, HALT.
If tomorrow, one of my daughters are in danger, I would undoubtedly throw myself in harm’s way to protect her but my marriage is not about throwing me under a bus every day just so that I can make Em in to the messiah in my mind and feel all virtuous about it in the hopes that he will recognise my sacrifice as a badge of honour and give me self-esteem and self-worth. I have to show up as a worthwhile and valuable person in our relationship instead of making it about me being inferior and him being superior and hoping that he’ll slice me off a piece so that I can feel worthy.
Relationships are about mutual importance not about superiority and inferiority and definitely not about one person sacrificing. No one has to give themselves up—if you can’t be yourself in a relationship, what’s the point? There are various situations in life where you might be inclined to play a certain role to get things done but if there’s two places that you should be able to feel safe, secure and yourself in, it’s in your own skin and in a romantic relationship where you’re claiming to that love that person.
No person who truly loves, cares for, trusts and respects you, or has a strong foundation of integrity, is comfortable with another person sacrificing themselves for them. They will not sit by while you hurt to make them more important.
Your perception of your value governs the type of mate that you will consider. Raising your self-worth means that you upgrade the type of partner that you choose and respond to, hence when you stop sacrificing you, you will stop sacrificing being open to a relationship where you can enjoy mutual love, care, trust and respect.
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