How do I handle being wanted in a relationship when I'm used to feeling unwanted?

I've always thought that there wasn't much good out there for me. Now that things are actually going well, it kind of scares me. I spent most of my life feeling unwanted and figured I would be alone. I recently met a great woman who seems to really like me, and I don't know how to process this. It's bothering both of us.

Karen Keys, LMHC, CASAC, NCC
Karen Keys, LMHC, CASAC, NCC
Recovery and Wellness Expertise

You're in a lot of good company and it's great that you're in a positive relationship. Congratulations!

I often hear people talk about loving yourself and self esteem. We often seem to blame ourselves for not "loving ourselves" enough or put ourselves down for having low self esteem. It seems to me that since we are essentially socially beings and in fact, need each other for our survival, we really know who we are through our many interactions with others and with our environment. In other words, you can't just snap your fingers and voila! now I love myself, where there was an empty space or self-doubt before. We grow that warm coal inside ourselves through the friction of contact with others who value and validate us.  

Allow yourself to be patient with yourself as you experience this new relationship. You are learning a new model of who you are and how you fit into the world. What a marvelous gift for you! 

You may also have fears that the current joys may be temporary or unreliable. These fears of loss may get in your way, however understandable. If you are truly close to your companion, you can share with her that you are loving your relationship but sometimes fear it will go away and sometimes have trouble really trusting it. Such a conversation may bring you both closer. 

Hang in there. You're working on co-creating a new normal with a great woman. 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Viktoria Ivanova
Viktoria Ivanova
You are a warrior! Every day you wake and face the excitement and challenges of the world. At times, we all need a guide to get us through the tough times on our life journey. Together, we will decipher mysteries of life.

Hi! Thank you for your question. It's tough to be in a healthy and loving relationship when we believe we are not worth it. Quite often being in such a relationship is very uncomfortable as it goes against everything we believe about ourselves. 

First, I want to say you are very brave to open up yourself to the relationship with this wonderful woman you met. 

Second, I would like to invite you to treat yourself with compassion as you are entering this unknown territory for yourself. Doing something new and totally unfamiliar can be scary, so it's vital that you are kind and gentle with yourself. Acknowledge that what you are doing is scary and uncomfortable and that it will take some time to get used to it. 

Don't judge yourself and force yourself to feel a certain way. It's important that you are patient with yourself and tolerant of your discomfort. With time, space, kindness, and tolerance your discomfort and fear will start to dissolve. Invite your new partner to also relate to your feelings in the open and compassionate way. 

The worst thing that you or your partner can do is to rush your feelings, pressure you to feel in a different way or to say that there is something wrong with you cause you feel a certain way. Please be gentle with yourself and celebrate and acknowledge every small victory. Every time you do something little, like holding hands or receive a compliment and it no longer scares you as it did a week ago - celebrate that progress! 

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal or are in crisis, call 911 or proceed to your local emergency room.
Lauren Ostrowski, MA, LPC, NCC, DCC, CCTP
Lauren Ostrowski, MA, LPC, NCC, DCC, CCTP
I tailor my therapeutic approach to each client's strengths and goals

This can be really anxiety-producing when you have not felt it before. It may be helpful to work through some of this with a local therapist so you can get more specific ideas.

Some other things that come to my mind are maybe talking about spending about 10 minutes or so discussing how you are feeling and seeing if your partner is willing to listen. Then you could ask questions about how she would react if you were doing something she did not like. This allows you to react to information she is actually giving you rather than your perceptions that sound like they are different than what she is trying to tell you. This gives you the power to receive the messages that she is sending to you.

I would also wonder where you have learned that there wasn't much good out there for you and how you can stay present in the moment when you are with your girlfriend and see that she wants to be there with you. Perhaps you could look at what makes you feel emotionally safe and trusting with her and focus on that. You could even remind yourself "okay, I'm here with [name of girlfriend] and this is okay when I'm with her."

We all have different levels of defenses in situations in which different people. It's common for people to see these things as black and white (either totally open or very self-protective. In reality, it's much more like a rainbow and the different shades of color that are available in the rainbow spectrum of white light (it's not really Just red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, violet that we all know, but an infinite spectrum of shades of colors that fade from one into the next). You can change your level of defensiveness with your girlfriend depending upon the location you are in, the mood you are both in, the subject, etc. There are infinite numbers of choices and you can experiment.

Another thing that could help is to communicate about communication. If one of you uses a phrase that triggers something from earlier in your life or is really uncomfortable, you could discuss that. If she says certain things that make you feel really comfortable, you could discuss that as well.

Hopefully you can learn more about yourselves and each other at the same time.

The information above is intended as general information...  (more)The information above is intended as general information based on minimal information, and does not constitute health care advice. This information does not constitute communication with a counselor/therapist nor does it create a therapist-client relationship nor any of the privileges that relationship may provide. If you are currently feeling suicidal, as if you want to hurt or kill yourself or someone else, or are in crisis, call 800-273-8255 (24 hours a day, 7 days a week), call 911, or proceed to your local emergency room.

Submit your own question

More Answers