It’s easy to point the finger at other people when relationships don’t work out. And if blaming someone else isn’t convenient, we can always blame a situation or even “timing”.
Sometimes divorce or letting go of a toxic relationship is necessary, and breaking up or ending a friendship is the healthiest choice. But what does it mean when a truly loving person with everything going for them finds themselves in one bad relationship after another, sometimes punctuated by drama-filled or toxic friendships?
Patterns of behavior in relationships can teach valuable lessons, and sometimes the past is needed to shed light on what’s really going on.
There may be a painful episode of your life, a major mistake you made, or an unkind or even abusive event in your past that has lingered and become a “shame story”. And sometimes shame stories act like saboteurs to our happiness. These moments can feel like they poison our chances at finding the kind of love that lasts.
Because we know that shame is so prevalent, and that people want and need to know how to deal with their shame, we asked our YT Experts what is it about these shame stories that make them so powerful, and how they affect our relationships.
They gave us 9 pieces of advice on how to address the power shame stories have on relationships, and how addressing and healing our shame can help us find real love and healthy relationships:
1. Redefine what you think is “real love”.
“Most of us are more invested in protecting our stories of shame because we really don’t feel worthy of love.
If you have fears and judgments about your body and yourself, you will attract love relationships that reflect those feelings. Until you see how you are not those stories of shame, it will be difficult to create a completely new story of the guilt-free love that you want and can be.
To open your heart to love, it takes courage, commitment, and compassion. Be your vulnerable true self to begin to experience what love is. Then you will be able to create the same compassion for that special someone you want to build a loving relationship with.”
To learn more about how to conquer shame and open to love, you can experience Angela’s webinar Love Again after Heartbreak here. Angela Ambrosia is a relationship coach who teaches women how to develop the shame-free love they desire. Her book the Body of Love shows how to change your connection to your body. Follow her on YourTango and her website TransformedRelationships.rocks.
2. Honor your feelings.
“In your head, shame is real. Hiding it, and burying it, will sabotage every relationship you have.
The only thing worse than you knowing it’s there is the person you love NOT knowing it.”
3. Give yourself permission to grieve.
“Remorse can be more productive [than shame] because it encourages communication about what you wish you’d done and how you wish to show up better next time.
But shame is silencing. It just condemns us without any direction for repair.”
4. Be transparent and authentic, even when afraid.
“Shame is that heavy, winter coat we wear when we feel in any way badly about who we are as a person – unlovable, inadequate, unworthy– all stories we’ve told ourselves which keep us from being seen, from being loved.
Shame allows us to push people away and out of our lives because why would anyone want to be with someone like me? Removing our coat feels vulnerable at first, but then the healing process begins and love finds us —love of ourselves and love from others.”
5. Let go of relationships that aren’t healthy.
“Shame is a toxic emotion, especially for young children, who are vulnerable to having their self-esteem devalued by their parents. Many early childhood experiences create shame: feeling unwanted, unloved, neglected, or abused; being criticized, attacked, or humiliated; or needing to hide something about yourself or your family.
Shame is the belief, ‘There is something so deeply wrong with me that I am unworthy of love.’ This belief isn’t true, and it never was true.
The problem was with your parents, who didn’t know how to empower you with positive reflections.
When you change this core belief that you are not enough, or that there’s something bad about you, you can experience the beauty of who you are: a unique, lovable human being who gets to make mistakes and learn from them.
Childhood shame can affect your choice of partners, reproducing the conditions of your childhood. Instead, find a partner who sees the real you, and makes you feel cherished for who you are.”
Carista Luminare, Ph.D and Lion Goodman, P.C.C., are the creators of love-enhancing programs such as “Confused About Love?” and “Healing Narcissism and Codependency.” They offer Skype sessions and in-person relationship intensives to couples who are seeking deep healing and transformation. Follow them on their YourTango blog, or visit their website: www.ConfusedAboutLove.com.
6. Learn from your experiences.
“You cannot have gone through life without feelings of shame. If you are like most of us, these memories are hidden within us, especially from our childhood.
If you do not acknowledge the pain from your past, you will find it hard to find long and lasting relationships of love.”
7. Create a new narrative.
“With shame-filled memories about past relationships, like ‘the last one broke up with me in a text’ comes a sneaky the voice that asks: ‘What’s wrong with me?’ That shaming voice that often wins, replaying one story after another about relationship failures and makes you turn away, and in the turning away creates yet another story about something not being right with you./safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
Face that ‘What’s wrong with me’ shame voice and respond with: ‘The question is not what’s wrong with me, but what’s right with me.’ When you start answering that question, you can begin in small steps to counter the overwhelming shame and fear of failure and can step into the future with some hope and a little vulnerability, and more of your true self.”
Sheila Rubin, MA, LMFT, RDT/BCT is a leading authority on Healing Shame. She offers therapy and consultation through her private practice in the San Francisco Bay Area and teaches Healing Shame Workshops for Therapists in Berkley Ca, and internationally. Download the FREE “Strengths, Resilience and Hidden Shame Home Study Kit” at SheilaRubin.com.
8. Practice self-love.
“Shame steals your self-esteem and keeps you in a state of fear and anxiety that nobody will ever accept you for who you are. We can never expect anybody to accept us if we don’t first accept ourselves. Learning to love ourselves is a lot harder as we are our own worst critics.
The first step to learning to love yourself is to start affirming that which is good about you. Starting with one small affirmation a day is one step closer to learning to love yourself, and when you love yourself, you become loveable.”
Venessa Cuthbert is a life skills and weight loss coach and the owner of The Happy Tree. Her passion lies in helping woman overcome abusive relationships and poor self-esteem and teaching them how to value themselves. She firmly believes that confidence and self-respect manifests itself in our relationship with food and seeks to help people, especially women, develop a healthy relationship with food and themselves. You can follow her on YourTango or visit her website.
9. Let your guards down when necessary.
“We make up stories around our shame and wear it like armor when trying to find love, because we assume they will judge us the same way we judge ourselves.
Unfortunately, that keeps us from fully connecting with a potential partner. Real love is accepting of our flaws and embraces our shame. We can’t find that love if we hide ourselves behind the shame.”
Vicky Cook is a transition coach for Gen X women looking to find more purpose, connection, and adventure outside the corporate walls. You can join her free Facebook group, Gex X Connects, or follow her blog for empowering inspiration for defining your life on your own terms.