Did you enjoy Toni Morrison’s no-nonsense advice about love in on this post? Did you come away feeling ready to make some changes in your own life but uncertain how to begin? Read on!
Let’s extend the discussion of self-judgment into the realm of relationships and examine its connections to vulnerability and trust.
As Toni Morrison implied, those who seek happy, healthy romantic relationships must first love themselves. It causes them to take a look at their dreams. Here’s why:
Fairytale stories often have an unintended side-effect. Storybooks shape expectations of reality and warp our personal narratives.
An inability to see yourself or your partner clearly poses a very real threat to your personal lives.
Fairytale logic leaves you suspended in a state of anticipation. There, your only job is to construct elaborate fantasies of romantic resolution, redemption, and bliss. This bliss arrives as soon as you finally come into contact with another who judges you worthy.
As long as you see yourself in this way—in need of universal and unconditional approval by others, in need of perfection, in need of “another half”—your relationship with yourself and anyone else will suffer.
Luckily, awareness of this phenomenon gives you the power to avoid it!
Belong to yourself first
Understanding that neither happiness nor strong relationships are built through seeking others’ approval, you can make a different choice.
You can make a commitment to belong to yourself first. Take back agency and follow your own dreams. Commit to treating yourself with compassion and acceptance despite human imperfections. After all, we are consistency-loving creatures, and the way we see ourselves roughly translates into the way we perceive others and their judgments. You can even get to know yourself and answer the questions in the Love Maps exercise!
Having done this, you can trust yourself to do the same for others. You can commit to treating your partner with compassion, learning about their vulnerabilities, their values, and their dreams, building strong Relationship Houses, and enjoying the consequences of acting with purpose and integrity.
Vulnerability and trust
By making these choices, confronting misconceptions, and getting to know each other more deeply, you are better equipped to build strong, healthy bonds. As Dr. John Gottman explains, the presence or absence of trust in your relationships may have a greater literal impact on your life than you ever imagined:
For everybody, a stable, trusting relationship is linked to relatively high survival rates from cardiovascular disease, cancer, surgery, and other illnesses. Love increases the odds of living a long life and having good health… [High trust] partners benefit each other by ‘co-regulating’ their physiologies. Put simply, they calm each other when they are unable to calm themselves.
Their willingness to share vulnerabilities with each other strengthens the couple’s bond and enhances their physical health. Pretty ideal, huh? And it’s better than any fairytale.