You join a gym but can’t stop smoking. You finally pull free from a destructive relationship but are binging on junk food. You stop wasting time on mindless TV, but then compulsively check Facebook. Does it seem like pushing forward in one area of your life must be balanced by slipping backward in another? For many of us, the deep-rooted belief that we don’t deserve good things makes us resistant to taking care of ourselves as fully as we can.
Are you interested in someone? Is he or she interested in you? Maybe—but it’s a lot easier to assume not, because if you lower your expectations, there’s much less far to fall. This tendency to manage expectations and keep them low is meant to be protective. The problem is, whether you’re expecting a lot or a little, you’re still down if it doesn’t happen. The only chance you have of the situation you’re in becoming a viable relationship is if you open yourself up to the possibility that you deserve emotional reciprocity.
When we were young, we created many of the patterns that control our adult lives. This can be especially true of relationships – what did you learn to expect in your earliest relationships? Do you expect emotional reciprocity and respect? Or do you expect to be disrespected and rejected? As an adult, it can be hard to break these patterns of expectation.
One pattern I see frequently in my practice is that of patients who, now or when younger, used sex to try to pull an emotionally distant person closer. This tactic, of course, is not to be confused with the kind of sex that helps to bring you and your partner closer or sex that is relaxed and fun. Instead, we’re talking here about the kind of sex that is meant to close a perceived power gap – this person has emotional power over you, and you want very much to even the playing field.
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