Finding Your Worth
As you may know, the usual subject of this blog is how to avoid ending up in the office of your trusty divorce attorney (namely, me). I don't know that this post is really specific to preventing divorce or not, but what I'm seeing a lot of lately is clients - female clients, mostly - coming into my office and regurgitating whatever bad things their spouses say about them, as though it's automatically true. This is a mostly, but not exclusively, female problem. Although I'm primarily addressing the fairer sex in this post, the principle applies equally to everyone.
Ladies, your husband does not define who you are. If he calls you names, that's because he's a jerk, not because you deserve it. If he tells you you're fat or ugly or stupid, he's abusing his emotional power in your life.
A lot of the relationships that wind up in "Lori, he will tell you that I'm not a good mother because when my 10 year old was born, I had postpartum depression, and I'm weak" (Lady, are you kidding me? That was 10 years ago and if you survived it, you are strong!) are relationships that started unhealthy - for instance, in codependency.
To have a healthy relationship, you need to be a healthy person yourself. You have to have found your own worth within yourself and outside of what others (including your spouse) say about you.
Look, I'm not saying it's wrong to enjoy it when your partner says good things about you. That's human nature. What I *am* saying is that you shouldn't be dependent on another person's feelings or opinions about you as the sole or primary source of your self-esteem. It creates an untenable power imbalance even when your partner *isn't* manipulative or abusive. Healthy marriages happen between equal partners.
The best way to prevent a relational power imbalance is learning to love yourself before you commit. We've all had friends who jump from partner to partner in a constant state of rebound. They can't stand to be single because they have a bottomless need for external validation. If you can find a way to be happy with single-you or you-as-an-independent-unit, then you-in-a-relationship will be happier, healthier, and more likely to stay committed to your partner.
"Love your neighbor as yourself" is a two-way street. Some struggle with loving their neighbors, while others struggle with loving themselves. How do you start to make a change?
Well, there's no shame in working on YOU - through a counselor or otherwise - to create a more successful US. I'm a mom and I often find it hard to do things for me, but like the whole "apply your own oxygen mask first" thing, sometimes a little self-concern is in order for everyone's sake. But aside from "us," "you" deserve that degree of wellness all on your own. Everyone does.
Step out and work on loving yourself. I'm sure you're wonderful and beautiful and smart and loving. Go discover that for yourself. I wish you the best on the journey! You're worth it!