Last year we shared all about love during the month of February, and this year we’re taking it a step further. This is why we’d like to talk about our theme for the month: the shadow side of love. Love isn’t a one-way street. It can feel like a dirt road or the Autobahn. There are detours and shortcuts, traffic jams, traffic laws, fines, etc. It’s not always what you see in the movies and most definitely not a Disney movie. Many people display their sweet side of love publicly. However, we never really know what is going on in a relationship dynamic behind closed doors, unless it’s our own relationship. This is why we’d like to highlight some of the sides of love that typically don’t get discussed openly. Shadow aspects of love include (but are not limited to): codependency, fear, jealousy, unworthiness, etc.
Our first shadow aspect of love is CODEPENDENCY. According to Wikipedia, “codependency is a behavioral condition in a relationship where one person enables another person’s addiction, poor mental health, immaturity, irresponsibility, or under-achievement. Among the core characteristics of codependency is an excessive reliance on other people for approval and a sense of identity,” Wow. Take that in. Codependency can vary from person to person, relationship to relationship, and the level can fluctuate quite a bit. Being codependent isn’t always a negative thing, in fact, it’s relatively common in many relationships in varying degrees.
Codependency is a response to trauma, or even from our childhood attachment style, and therefore reflects in a romantic relationship later in life. Were we cared for, nurtured, and responded to as children? Were our needs met consistently? Did the caregiver suffer from alcoholism or other forms of addiction? If so, this could all lead to unhealthy codependency as adults. Do we rely on our partner for our survival? If something were to happen to our partner, would we be able to live and function despite their absence? Codependency can happen in any and all relationships (not just romantic relationships).
Some signs of codependency (everydayhealth.com):
- Having difficulty making decisions in a relationship
- Difficulty identifying your feelings
- Difficulty communicating in a relationship
- Valuing the approval of others more than valuing yourself
- Lacking trust in yourself and having poor self-esteem
- Having fears of abandonment or an obsessive need for approval
- Having an unhealthy dependence on relationships, even at your own cost
- Having an exaggerated sense of responsibility for the actions of others
Here are a few journal prompts for you to explore this a little deeper within yourself: How am I currently codependent within my relationships? Do I have healthy boundaries within my relationships? How do I currently feel emotionally? How can I trust and approve of myself even more in this moment without needing validation from others?
If you feel as though you are in a codependent relationship and want help working through this, a few options are:
- Seek therapy. A counselor or therapist can work with you directly with this.
- If you’re in a romantic relationship seek couples therapy if both of you are invested in it.
- Reconnect with family and friends—many individuals in codependent relationships tend to seclude themselves. Be sure to seek out healthy relationships and spend time with people who aren’t your partner.
- Commit to your alone time. Maintaining and establishing a quality sense of self is essential in adulthood. Don’t forget to take yourself out on dates, too!
- If you or your partner are struggling with drug or alcohol addiction, seek treatment. Al-anon is an excellent resource for those who have been affected by substance-abuse.
The second shadow aspect of love we want to discuss is FEAR.
In the beginning of any new relationship there is a lot of learning & navigation involved in developing said relationship (romantic or otherwise). Intimacy on all levels (including friendship) can bring our fears and endured hardships right to the surface to look at directly head-on. It requires diving into the relationship and not running away or turning your back because you might get pummeled.
Some of the different fears that arise in a relationship:
One of my biggest fears in relationship is loss. Losing the partner or friend due to death, breakup, divorce, a fight, substance abuse, abandonment, suicide, etc. We’ve all experienced loss in many different ways, so it’s an important topic to explore.
- Fear of being vulnerable and the person either sharing my secrets or leaving me because of what I shared.
- Fear of commitment. Our time is precious & valuable. Is the other person worth the time commitment?
- Fear of repeating our parents patterns. Some of us had patriarchs and matriarchs whom we would want to model. Others have had parents we don’t want to be like and personality traits we’d like to transcend in our family lineage. Would said relationship reinforce what I’m trying to avoid?
- Fear of constraint. Not being free of the things you want to do or how you want to be.
- Fear of intimacy. We’ve all had people hurt us in the past. Could this person do the same thing to me as the last?
- Fear of judgement. What if they find out who I really am? What if they judge me for my past? What will they think about my family/home life?
- Fear of change. It’s difficult at first to navigate a new relationship and also difficult to end a relationship. It all requires change and the unknown can feel uncomfortable.
Listen, we all have fears. It’s scary to let someone new into our lives with resistance to past experiences & traumas. But, what if we never dove directly into the wave? What if we kept running? I think we all want to share this life journey with someone. Although some of us enjoy alone time, it’s our relationships that truly help us grow. It only takes one step to do the hard thing. To show up as ourselves, open & willing to be who we are. Step into fear. Swim towards the wave. Let’s all stop running from our problems, address issues when they arise, and live more vulnerably. There’s so much more on the other side of fear!
Another shadow aspect of love is: JEALOUSY.
What I find interesting about jealousy is that it surfaces as a defense mechanism from your ego. Your create this emotion, typically to prevent you from experiencing pain. You don’t want your friend to stop spending time with you because they found a new bestie. You don’t want your lover to leave you in the dust for that attractive person that seems interested. We humans are wired to be a part of a tribe or pack. Evolution has caused us to seek safety in numbers. If we lose our friends or romantic partners, our brains interpret it as danger.
An old friend once told Brittany and I, that if jealousy was a part of our relationship we must work to overcome it, that jealousy is a toxin which is detrimental to any relationship. I appreciate those words of wisdom, because I was able to see the toxicity jealousy creates. When we feel emotions, those feelings directly affect the course of actions we take giving us the results of our lives. Our thoughts and feelings can inspire actions that serve us well, or cause us more suffering. I am here to say jealousy causes suffering.
Think about it, when has feeling jealous in a relationship ever served you?
I personally cannot think of a time feeling jealous has enriched my life. I find it ironic that we are the ones that create the emotion for ourself, inevitably causing our own suffering. It’s crazy town!I am not saying that you should not feel jealousy. However, if you are carrying that emotion around with you, I at least want you to recognize that it isn’t benefiting your life. I want you to have awareness around how much pain feeling jealous can cause. I want you to think about your behavior when you experience that emotion, and recognize what it may be costing you. Ultimately, I want you to understand that jealousy is just a byproduct of fear.
So what to do? I’d like to offer that you experience your emotions, even jealousy, and ask yourself why you feel that way. Dig deep to find the roots of your feelings, and uncover your beliefs around the loving relationships you have in your life. If you find yourself feeling jealous, allow it to happen by saying to yourself “I feel jealous right now” and feel it without reaction. When you can observe your emotions and thoughts without reacting to them, it gives you the opportunity to make new discoveries about yourself, and maybe uncover some internal work you have to do. Remember, we are meant to experience all the emotions we feel; it is part of the human experience.
The last shadow aspect of love is: UNWORTHINESS
It wasn’t until Jonah and I formed a relationship where I actually learned what it meant to love, be loved (romantically), communicate and have a healthy relationship. His parents demonstrated love to me and for a while I wasn’t sure if it was even real/possible to have a love like theirs. Deep down part of me felt guilty for having a healthy relationship and someone to love me—there are so many people out there in the world seeking a partner. How’d I get so lucky?
During a recent full moon ecstatic dance while in Tulum with Fit For Service, I had a profound realization that, at times, I haven’t fully let people in (especially my husband). I haven’t fully allowed my husband to really love me or believe that his love was true. A big part of this comes deep down from lacking self-love and feelings of unworthiness. Could it really be that someone truly, deeply and profoundly loves me for me? What do I have to offer? Doesn’t he deserve someone better? He can totally get someone better. I don’t deserve him… Are all legitimate thoughts I’ve had in the past. Sad right? Well, not anymore!!! Awareness is key to working with our shadow aspects (we all have them).
I know I’m not alone, in this. This is exactly why the cycle of violence persists in families and relationships, because PEOPLE BELIEVE THAT THEY DON’T DESERVE SOMETHING BETTER THAN WHAT THEY GREW UP WITH. Even though I am applying this to love and being loved romantically, this concept can be related to our friendships, family dynamics, and work life (eg. feeling underserving of a promotion, raise, etc.).
Guess what? We do. We all deserve to be loved, to receive the raise, to get the promotion, to live in our dream house. It’s about believing it and trusting it when it happens.
Let’s define unworthiness (adj): not deserving effort, attention or respect. Having little value or merit.
We could really go deep with this one. When and where did we decide that we weren’t worthy of love?
Here are some heathy mantras to help reprogram thoughts and feelings of unworthiness:
- “I am a perfect work in progress and am a magnet for all I desire.”
- “I deserve all that is coming my way.”
- “I am inspired to share all of the grace that I receive.”
- “I am a demonstration of love.”
- “My capacity to be loved is boundless.”
What are some mantras that you are currently using to manifest the love of your life? How about your dream career? Start with identifying some of the negative thought loops and begin to redefine the thought into something positive. Please reply with your thoughts & feelings! We’d love to hear.
Remember… it all starts with a thought.
If you feel as though you are in an unsafe relationship, click here.
Or call 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)