Genuinely Loving Relationships
Genuinely loving relationships have a distinctive character to them. They inherently help the participants grow in positive ways. Some of these ways include growing in self-awareness, healthy self-love, capacity for further growth, etc. They also help folks heal the wounds that might have been hindering such growth. (See also: Genuine Love Is A Powerful Force.)
Tragically, genuinely loving relationships are a rarity in our character-impaired times. And there are many reasons for this, including:
- A lack of mature awareness about what real love is and isn’t
- A need-driven tendency to settle for less than genuine love
- Mistaking behaviors mimicking love for the real thing
Growing Within A Relationship
Most personal growth occurs within a relationship of some kind. And the overall character of that relationship will either be positive or negative. Becoming embroiled in a toxic relationship can easily stunt a person’s growth. It can even cause a growth regression. (See also: Chapter Nine, How Did We End Up Here.) Some folks who’ve weathered a character-impaired relationship will often tell you how the experience caused them not to be the vital person they once were. Others will tell you the very moment they realized just how much they had “outgrown” their partner. In any case, discovering how an unloving relationship has held you back often provides the impetus to start growing again and reclaiming personal empowerment. (See also: Chapter 10, In Sheep’s Clothing.)
Genuinely loving relationships facilitate positive, forward growth in both partners. A true lover wants only the best for their partner. They’re also willing to make the sacrifices often required to faciltate their partner’s growth. Such attitudes of mind and heart benefit both partners. (See: Essentials for the Journey.)
How Love Inherently Heals
Let me be clear, no amount of caring can magically bring to health a person of disturbed mindset and heart. That would be a true miracle!! But genuinely loving relationships can go a long way toward helping heal old wounds.
We all come to our relationships with some types of emotional “baggage.” And only genuine love (both for ourselves as well as for others) can help us work through that baggage. But over-caring, and doing someone else’s growth work for them is not genuine love. In fact, it’s to a large degree self-punishing, degrading, and defeating.
On the current installment of the new Character Matters, I begin a discussion of these issues.
18 thoughts on “Genuinely Loving Relationships Heal and Grow”
The only thing that TRULY EVER CARED FOR ME. HAD FOUR LEGS A TAIL AND WENT WOOF
Same for me
What a lovely, affirming post this week! Upon reading it, I felt hopefully about the future even while I recognized a truly healthy, genuinely loving relationship is a rarity.
I recognized two things:
One, the sacrifices I made were normal and healthy and truly loving, not co dependent or any of the other negative labels I’ve been assigned. I’ve always been very confused and upset that something I did that felt so healthy and loving could be seen so negatively. It’s caused me to be self isolating and feel insecure that I could be a healthy partner is a relationship if what I think is healthy and normal is actually unhealthy and dysfunctional.
Two: I just recognized the sacrifices were a one way street in my relationship. I cannot recall a single time that he actually sacrificed anything for me or showed any concern regarding my goals, my hopes, my dreams. I was so focused on being a good partner I didn’t regularly assess whether i was giving more than I was getting. If I did start to feel resentful, I fell into the trap of equanimity. For example, I worked 8 – 12 hours on completing our taxes and he unloaded the dishwasher. I got buried under his outrage but I didn’t stop to consider how unhealthy a dynamic it was.
If you have never been modeled a loving relationship, its takes a lot of work to get to the place where you can put trust in people that show they can be trusted. Reaching out to people has been very scary for me but as I continue to do it, regardless of my fear, I am realizing that what I experienced as a child and in my marriage doesn’t have to keep happening. I can put thoughts out there that push people away and cause my fears of rejection to happen, even when it doesn’t start out that way, I can make it happen. Or I can keep reaching out and learn that not everyone is going to reject me. Thats been my experience and I am really trying to learn to form good relationships-which is really one of the most important things in life-its worth the work.
Thanks Kat! My difficulty is actually the opposite of what you’re experiencing.
I’m less concerned about being rejected (although never feels good) and more concerned about seeing what’s underneath the surface of whomever I’m meeting or interacting with. So I guess I’m rejecting others. But now that I know what I know, I see what I see and I see so much! We talk about red flags and I’ll see multiple red flags even in very short conversations. I’ll see the shallow, the superficial, a bit of self aggrandizing ego maybe a bit of contempt, sarcasm, or condescension and I’m out of there. Nope, nope, nopity, nope. Stick a fork in me, I’m done! Back to hermitville!
When it comes to people, I figure if the good outweighs the bad then its ok, I know I have many defects that may irritate or annoy others so if I want them to accept me, then I need to do the same. I am working on just letting others be who they are and concentrating on dealing with my own stuff – after all, I am the only one I can change so my time is better spent like that then thinking about their defects. I find most people can take me or leave me, others for some reason just don’t like me and theres actually a few out there that like me.
Your current outlook is the same outlook I’ve had for most of my life. You be you and I’ll be me. I was so busy working and focusing on my own character that I didn’t realize others were not doing the same. That’s how I ended up marrying and staying married to a man with psychopathic traits. I would tell myself I wasn’t perfect either, there were things about me that he didn’t like, and he was actually more normal than I was. His traits, his character were more like other average people than mine was. He fit in and felt comfortable with others better, shared similar beliefs and humor with others than I did. And I saw those traits when we were dating. He did and said the same things I saw so many other people doing and saying. They couldn’t be all bad, could they?, I remember asking myself. But I felt so comfortable with him, he felt so familiar to me that I accepted those negative traits because they were normal. I wasn’t going to find someone ‘perfect.’
As Dr. Simon keeps reminding us, we are in the age of the character impaired. So while I don’t presume everyone I converse with is high in narcissism or psychopathy, when I see poor character traits, I run for the hills.
While is is upsetting and demoralizing for me to keep running into these poor character traits so very often, I take heart from Dr. Simmons posts like this one. While character impairment may be the norm, he reminds us good character is a rarity. Rare means there are people out there with good character and I just need to be aware and choosy so hopefully, one day, I can find a couple of them.
I get what you are saying, how you felt with your ex was exactly the frame of mind I was in when I met him, and that was a result of my childhood and how I felt about myself. I have a much better perspective now and would see the red flags with what I know now – thank goodness! I now can recognize abusive people and stay clear of them. I have boundaries and am much more confident in dealing with people now. It may take me a while to collect enough information about the person and it may take me a while to determine if they are someone I need to steer clear of, but I am much more confident that I can do so now.
This website has helped me immensely to learn about narcissism , I was totally oblivious to it before.
What I am thinking is the alanon concept of “defects” of character. Some of those things are what I would imagine we all struggle with as humans. For instance, someone may be very controlling and constantly giving you advice – I had a friend like that I had to quit seeing because her constant unasked for advice was too much for me to be around. I knew she wanted to be helpful, but she was also controlling and got mad at me if I didn’t agree with her – I think it was insecurity on her part that she would doubt herself if one didn’t agree with her – but whatever the reason, it was unhealthy for me. The best way I can describe what I am talking about if I get to know the person and the good outweighs the bad – if they are basically a good person but have their not so likeable traits as well – can I be around them and have a healthy relationship with them. I am judgemental many times and have to remind myself that what I accuse others of is often something I am guilty of as well. I don’t mean tolerating bad behaviour that is unhealthy – just giving others some forgiveness for their lesser character qualities that may just be the weaker side of their character. I don’t know if this makes sense, its a hard thing to explain.
I don’t think I’m understanding your concept. I looked up an AA site on Step 6 Defects of Character to see if I could understand your point better.
Step 6 is defined as:
“ Step 6 is not a means to generate shame or to focus on what is wrong with you; on the contrary, it is a path to free you from guilt. Step 6 does not aim to change your personality; instead, it is a path to becoming fully who you are without harming yourself or others along the way. Step 6 is not expected perfection; it is an ideal to humbly strive for while honoring your humanity. Step 6 is not self-directed willful change; it instructs you to be willing to have your higher power remove your defects of character.
“ A character defect is a destructive coping mechanism that has helped you survive in your given environment. These coping mechanisms are considered unfavorable for two reasons:
They have become habitual or compulsive, and you have lost power over their presence in your life.
Although they have helped you cope in the past, they have done so at the expense of yourself and others.”
This aspect of being judgmental and expecting perfection versus character assessment/discernment is something my conscience struggles with. I once told a therapist who was urging me to ‘look for red flags’ that I see the red flags, I just don’t know what they mean and what I should be doing with them.
I like to think I’m a non judgmental person but that thinking has gotten me into heaps of trouble in the past. What I’m interpreting in Step 6 is that often people’s character defects come from poor coping skills, that are destructive to themselves and others, derived from hardships and those coping skills often harm others in order to protect themselves.
So while I feel empathy and sympathy for those hardships and difficulties, I don’t think I should feel guilty or judgmental for not wanting a close relationship with people who in their struggles can harm or damage me through their coping methods. Even one of those defects can have serious repercussions for someone in the receiving end of them.
Step 4 is called a “fearless and moral inventory” where we assess ourselves through a long series of questions as in a book called “blueprint for progress”. We look at ourselves honestly for both for what is working and what doesn’t work in our lives, or what has outlived its usefulness. Step 6 is the process of being ready to let go of those defects that we hold on to that don’t work any longer. I can’t explain it in a nutshell but much of what you mentioned are a part of the program. I used to think I was not controlling because I thought of it in a limited way – I didn’t realize that by isolating and holding myself at arms length with others that it was controlling or manipulative. Many describe the process as “peeling the onion” We don’t see all at once, just a layer at a time as we become more aware and honest with ourselves. Its a matter of being aware of our character and then practicing healthier behaviors as a result. Its a process that is ongoing throughout our lives if we seek self growth. I try to keep in mind that if I cannot have a healthy relationship with someone, there is either something in my life I need to address, or something in the other person’s character that is not healthy for me to be around. Theres a lot to think about in that program and I have found that it has revealed a lot of coping mechanisms I had that I want to change, the alanon saying – “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference”, is the essence of that program – theres a lot to that.
I hear you. None of us are perfect and delightful 100 percent. I am becoming choosier with who I surround myself with.
Work here is so much more peaceful with the two coworkers retired. And I once would have said they were both friends, but I have not spoker to either in two months, and don’t care to. They were work friends. The one had no interest in spending any time with me outside of work, so fine, that’s how it is. The other had become so emotionally deranged that no one could stand to be around her. She’s since had an order of protection filed against her. So since she’s left, she’s more toxic than ever. Glad she’s gone. That’s a friendship I can do without. I find that people who I’ve been friends with for year and years sometimes no longer fit into my life. Because I’ve tolerated so many things for so long does not mean it has to be tolerated till the day I die. So I’ve given up on two “friends” recently. And I feel better.
Thats got to be a real stress reliever that the toxic person is gone from work. I have also found that friendships change over time, sometimes something I didn’t see previously becomes very evident to me that it is unhealthy and I need to figure out what to do about it, what changes if any I need to make. Relationships can be so tricky sometimes, but then I really didn’t reach out to people before and I have a lot to learn, so I am in the process and probably will be my whole life.
Hi, Lucy, Hi, Kat,
I’m wondering if we are conflating personality traits with character traits. Are they the same? Different?
I’ve said the ‘no one’s perfect’ many, many times in my life to excuse and accept someone’s poor character behavior. So many times in fact that it’s become unmoored from any meaning. I’ve certainly had plenty of others remind me no one is perfect when I disclosed I was concerned or disturbed by someone’s behavior.
So what does that really mean? I’m not thinking I’m perfect, I don’t want to be perfect, I certainly don’t want anyone to expect me to be perfect nor do I expect anyone else to be perfect. We all make mistakes, we all have our bad moments. Truthfully, seeing someone make a mistake and how they handle it has become an important part of assessing someone’s character for me.
But when we see entitlement behaviors, contempt, superiority, lack of empathy towards others, bragging, arrogance, game playing, lying, talking about people as extensions of themselves, or superficial charm for example, I don’t think I’m being judgmental or expecting perfection when my fight/flight instinct kick in and leaves skid marks on the pavement I’m heading to the hills so fast.
I always like to check my thinking and make sure I’m not off kilter or missing something. Maybe if Dr. Simon is following along he could weigh in?
Being judgmental is a poor character trait in my opinion. I’m trying to thread the needle between making judgements and assessing or discerning the character of someone I’m willing to let in under my guard if that makes sense.
I do’nt hold out much hope at all. I went on MATCH the dating site. I text, e-mailed about 20 ladies in a space of about 6 weeks. I eventually went out with 2 of them.
My concern was that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM WATED TO KNOW TWO THINGS:
1. How much money did I earn
2. Did I own my own House.
I Gave up looking.
Unfortunately theres a lot of users out there, my son experienced many women who had children that they did not have custody of, or were living in their parents home and wanted an escape. Hopefully theres a few good ones out there but I would imagine it would get discouraging.
I don’t know that I would see those questions as inherently negative. I can see the prospective of user or looking for status. But I can also see the perspective of can you be a good financial partner and someone who is committed. I see a guy who owns and maintains his own home and I think settled, stable, able to commit to the care, maintenance of something.
Charlie, I agree. Women are looking for stability usually, I think more information about those ladies is needed before determining if they are not acceptable. My son had some doozies from a dating service, one was extradited from his home and hauled off to another state, lol, but then he was not being at all discerning.