Love has always seemed like a mystery to me. It’s something I’ve craved for as long as I can remember, but never understood. It’s also something I haven’t been able to fully receive, until now.
When I got married at 23 years old, I thought I had a pretty good handle on love. We’d grown up in the same area, shared the same faith, and both loved music…but that’s where the similarities ended. Six years later our marriage ended as well, and I began to fear love.
I sought out shallow relationships that I deemed “emotionally safe” and then wondered why I continually felt so empty. I had so much love to give but was too afraid to allow myself to receive it.
Then I met my now-husband, Jason, who was incredibly patient as I worked through the layers of hurt and baggage that only a new and much more significant relationship can trigger. And I wondered why I still didn’t feel love the way I so desperately needed to.
I thought it was Jason’s fault. My primary love language is words of affirmation and Jason is a man of few words. When he says something, he makes it count, and I love this about him because I never question whether he means what he says. But when we were dating, I needed more.
We came close to breaking up a few times during the six years we dated, and the driving force for me was always wanting to be loved better—meaning, the exact way I thought I needed to receive love. But something deep inside me knew we were supposed to stay together.
Then we got engaged, and things shifted. I began to feel more loved by and connected to him. After we got married, and it seemed like everything changed. I suddenly felt deeply loved and was convinced that he was different. Finally loving me like I wanted and needed to be loved.
There may have been some truth to that (although Jason insists that he’s exactly the same) but I finally realized that this change came about because I was different. With the security of getting engaged, I allowed myself to take the risk of believing that I was worthy of his love.
The impact of those three words, will you marry me, was profound, especially because I’d been married before. Until that moment I didn’t feel worthy of anyone’s love, and when Jason proposed, it hit me that he loved me enough to want to spend the rest of his life with me.
Our wedding was confirmation that we truly did belong together—I belonged with him. But the greatest lesson is that my fear was getting in the way of feeling completely loved, and all I had to do was change my beliefs.
Here are three ways to help you open your heart and understand your expectations.
Evaluate Your Beliefs
In her new book Everything is Figureoutable (which I highly recommend), Marie Forleo says, “Beliefs are the hidden scripts that run our lives. Beliefs create behaviors, and the culmination of those beliefs make up your entire life.
“Every belief has a consequence. Your beliefs heal you or harm you. It doesn’t matter what’s true, it matters what you believe.”
Because I was operating from the belief that I wasn’t worthy of love and belonging, I couldn’t feel the love I was seeking. Period.
And it makes me so sad that I spent six years blaming Jason instead of digging deep to uncover this belief and do the work to change it.
Uncover the Root of Your Expectations
The first step for changing a belief is to understand where it’s coming from.
As an only child, I’ve always felt like the center of my parent’s universe. I wasn’t spoiled, but my parents did a lot for me, and still do to this day. They’re highly supportive, and I got used to receiving love in very specific ways.
We all do this.
Think about how your parents or siblings or extended family made you feel loved growing up, and compare that with the expectations you have of your partner (or a potential partner) today. Chances are, they’re eerily similar.
The problem is that your partner did not grow up with the same set of “rules”. The ways they give and receive love have been shaped by their family, which is likely quite different from yours.
Expectations have the power to steal the love from any relationship, especially when they’re unspoken. As Tony Robbins says, trade your expectation for appreciation and your world changes instantly.
Changing your beliefs and letting go of your expectations isn’t easy. It’s hard work and requires dedication and accountability, but it truly will transform your life.
Self-Love Is Key
There’s a third piece that needs to fall into place to ensure you’re able to receive love on the deepest level: self-love.
We’ve all heard that our capacity to love others is determined by our capacity to love ourselves. I believe that this capacity also determines how deeply we’re able to receive love.
I couldn’t feel fully loved by Jason until I believed I was worthy of love and belonging. I continually felt not good enough for him, and my inner critic had a lot to say about it—not smart enough, not cool enough, not marriage material—the list went on and on.
My journey to change these harmful messages is ongoing, but every bit of progress makes an impact and allows me to love myself just a little more. By managing our inner critic, changing our limiting beliefs, and letting go of how we think we need to receive love, loving and accepting ourselves becomes a little easier.
I wish I could give you a quick glimpse into how different my marriage looks from my dating relationship with Jason, and how differently I feel—how deeply loved I feel. Our beliefs can be driving motivating factors in our lives, but they can also be toxic, holding us back from who we were created to be, how we’re meant to feel, and what could be the best parts of our lives.
If my story resonates with you, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, or you can schedule a complimentary consultation.
Read this blog next to discover strategies for reframing your inner critic’s message and generating self-compassion at the deepest level.