Question: I have to add to the voices that have commended you on your work, Yangki. For me reading your blog has been a life changing experience that has left me feeling differently about relationships in general. I was in a relationship with a man who loved me more than I loved him, and although this should have made me happy, I constantly felt shame and guilt for not loving him as much as he loved me. It got to a point where I could not even look at him or let him touch me, and not understanding why he broke up with me. It’s been almost 2 years and I still feel the guilt. Why couldn’t I love him as much?
Yangki’s Answer: I have no definite answer as to why you could not love him as much as he love dyou. I can theorize, but theory is just that, theory.
From my personal experience and from real experiences of my clients, there are some things that can be said of relationships in general.
1) Because different people have different ways of loving and showing love, it’s not always easy to quantify love as more or less.
2) Sometimes what we call “loving” more or less is about how much attention and affection one needs. Some people NEED more attention and affection than others.
3) It’s common for two people who love each other not to show it with the same amount of passion or commitment.
4) Dynamics in many relationships change so often that at any stage of the relationship, one or the other can be seen as more or less “loving”.
When the imbalance is so tipped to one side, the person “loving more” starts to feel inadequate and unworthy. Most people finding themselves loving more, try to even do more hoping that this will make them more loved. Their self-esteem and self-value becomes tied to how much love they get from the other person. This sometimes comes across as too dependent, needy, controlling, demanding or pushy. And because “loving” or giving even more doesn’t get them what they want, people who give more and more to be loved end up becoming bitter due to low self-esteem and self-worth.
The person who “loves less” on the other hand, begins to think there must be something “wrong” with them that they can’t love the person who loves them so much. And unfortunately, they are on the most part right. So many things happen in our lives that block the free flow of love. It may be fear of rejection or abandonment, fear of being hurt (again) or fear of settling with the “wrong person”. In my case, it was the fear of being “tied down” or “trapped for life”. That’s what “marriage” felt like to me.
There are also people who don’t know how to love or are just incapable of loving someone else. Sad, but true. They want to love, but they just don’t know how to, or can’t. Some of the reasons for this are deeply psychological.
It’s easy to think that people who love less or are incapable of love are happier, but it doesn’t always feel that way to those people. As your comment shows, guilt is not an easy burden to carry. That is not to say that all people who “love less” feel bad about it or have guilt about it. Some people actually prefer that kind of dynamic. To them, it means that they have the upper hand emotionally, even if it means someone else’s unhappiness.
The first step out of the guilt of not being able to love someone who loves you so much is not trying to love them back as much as they love you. It doesn’t work. It only makes the guilt worse. The more you try and fail, the worse you feel. The worse you feel, the more you show less love. That is what happened with you not being unable to even look at him or let him touch you.
The first step is to be emotionally honest and open, and explain to the other person what’s going on. Own your not being able to love as much and not blame it on some “shortcoming” of his or hers. This is about you, not him or her.
The second step is to ask for some physical and emotional distance between the two of you. This does not mean cutting off all communication or emotional accessibility. The physical and emotional distance is creating more time for your own self-reflection and inner work. In my eBook, I recommend letting the other person know how you are processing the whole experience, so they know whether to “wait” for you, or move on.
Some people receive this level of emotional honesty and openness well and others don’t. There is nothing you can do about that. But letting them have the choice of deciding what they want to do for themselves is the most loving thing you can do, under the circumstances.
Part of the inner work is being able to separate your personal issues from the issues in the relationship. Sometimes the reasons for being unable to love as much we want to stem from things that have nothing to do with the relationship or the other person. Other times, it’s all about the relationship — not being with the right person, too many irreconcilable differences or too many problems (arguments, fights, drama etc).
Whatever is in your power and control can be changed. Work on changing it. Whatever is not, let it go.
I hope this begins the process of letting go of the guilt. I did mine and opened my heart and life to more love than I thought I was capable of giving — or receiving.