After only two and a half years of marriage, Jonathan’s wife left him, taking with her considerable cash, their car and all the furniture. He took all the debt. She really didn’t have to fight for anything. Jonathan offered it to her, in the hopes she’d reconcile after seeing him for the good guy he perceived himself to be.
Almost eleven years later, his second wife essentially did the same thing. She claimed there wasn’t anybody else but, six months later, she and their three year old child were in a new home, with a new man. She left with far more than his first wife.
You might have thought that Jonathan would have learned, but that isn’t the way it works. Jonathan is an extremely bright, successful oil and gas trader, who is on the verge of becoming independently wealthy; so much so that, at age thirty-nine, he will never have to work again. But, intellectual intelligence and business acumen have little relation to emotional smarts. They’re the property of the adult in you, the one who uses sound judgement, good logic and analytical thinking to determine and control your behavior. Emotions, conversely, are the property of the little child inside you, who learned all he/she will ever feel about love by age four or five.
I could go on at length regarding Jonathan’s early life; his mother, who was totally materialistic and his father, who never earned more than $46,000 a year. But, suffice to say, she constantly criticized him and compared him to her sister’s husband, who was extremely successful financially. It’s no wonder Jonathan learned that the way to a woman’s heart was paved with material things and that the bigger the better, and the more expensive, the more desirable. But, there’s a problem with going down that road. It gets you nowhere. No matter how much you give, it’s never sufficient. As a result, the child inside you concludes that what you gifted wasn’t enough. If it had been, the love you desperately desired would have been returned, so you have to give more. Only rarely do you realize that there’s no gift sufficient enough to get the love you want from the kind of parent Jonathan had or any partner you later choose, because you always choose someone with whom you can replicate the early relationship you had with your mother. But that’s a topic to be covered at a later date.
It’s noteworthy, however, that the gift I’m speaking of isn’t always a material one. More often than not, it consists of giving up your own desires, wishes, hopes and dreams to please someone else. It’s evidenced in as simple an interaction as asking someone, “Where do you want to go to eat?”, who always answers, “I don’t care. Anywhere you want.” No matter where you go, you both lose, because of two factors. One, you eventually lose respect for yourself for not acting proactively. Two, because you can’t give up enough of you to ever make your partner or spouse feel sufficient about themself. As I noted in a previous article, You’re Not Crazy, individuals who play that game have one thing in common. Deep inside, they don’t feel they have anything of worth to give. You both lack a sense of self worth. Neither of you realize that your love, involvement and emotions are inherently worthy in their own right. Having no sense of worth, you both fail to comprehend that someone would love you solely for who you are. If you are the giver, you have to learn that the only price you need to pay for love is your own love. If you’re the taker, you need to know that real love comes freely. You needn’t buy, demand, or demean someone to get it.
Once you believe that your feelings and actions deserve to be reciprocated, the neurotic game called “buying love” is over. At least for you. At that point, however, your relationship can’t continue unless your partner recognizes that their equally poor sense of self esteem contributed to their need for tangible and/or sacrificial evidence of love in order for them to feel adequate. Both of you need to ask yourselves, what denotes true love? A new car? A new house? A ten carat diamond ring? How much does a person have to sacrifice for someone to believe they’re loved? How acquiescent or self-sacrificing does someone have to be to garner affection? I could go on and on, but the answer to each of the questions would be the same. There is no set amount, because real love can’t be purchased. Nevertheless, countless people attempt to do so and, in the process, their sense of self worth diminishes and their resentment toward their partners increase.
If you can relate to these examples, please, write on your wrist in indelible ink, “You cannot buy love”. When you can, it isn’t love that you receive in return. At best, it’s appreciation. At worse, it says a great deal more about you and your partner’s sense of worth than it does about love. If you are either of these persons, the solution doesn’t lie with your partner, your boyfriend/girlfriend, or your spouse. No matter how much they change, you still have to deal with yourself. The axiom is, “you have to go inside to get out.” You must look at you, see where you learned that you have to buy love, then own it, recognize that it doesn’t work and, step by step, develop a new way to obtain love that will override the habituated behavior you’ve demonstrated in the past.
Some of you may have recognized this behavior in yourselves earlier and attempted to compensate for it by becoming too hard-nosed and negativistic. In fact, you may even have attempted to demand the love you want through intimidation, control and emotional or physical abuse. But, don’t fool yourself. You aren’t strong, even though your behavior is. Underneath, you’re still acting on the basis of your feelings of insufficiency. There is only one real solution. Own your feelings and recognize that you cannot buy or demand love. You must have something to exchange for it. That something is you, your emotions and your involvement. But, it stands to reason that, until you learn to value yourself, you will never believe that you deserve the love you desire. In some instances, you won’t be able to learn this lesson without the aid of a professional. If that’s the case, don’t hesitate because, long-term, it’s worth far more than the time, effort and emotional and financial cost it requires.