When you think about wanting to be in a relationship, why do you want it? When you give to someone, why are you giving?
When I ask my clients why they want to be in a relationship, the most common answers have to do with a desire to get something from someone else: "I want someone to love me," "I want to get love and to get someone to make me happy," "I want to feel special to someone," "I want someone to make me feel that I'm OK, that I'm worthy of love."
When I ask people why they volunteer or give to charities, answers often have to do with approval: "I want to be seen as a good person," "I want God to love me," "Because I should — it's the right thing to do."
When I ask my clients who are already in committed relationships why they give to their partners, answers often have to do with avoiding conflict, a sense of obligation and/or a desire to maintain the status quo. Responses range from, "To avoid conflict," "To get approval or avoid disapproval," to "This is what I'm supposed to do" and "I would feel guilty if I didn't."
Notice a pattern? Many people get in the habit of giving to get something, be it love or approval, or giving to avoid something — namely, conflict or disapproval.
If you are completely honest with yourself, you may find that you do not feel full and happy when you notice that you are giving as a way of trying to get love or approval, or to avoid disapproval. Love can be so much more than that.
The Problem: Giving to Get Love
When you are not prioritizing yourself and don't give yourself necessary self-care, you have not yet learned how to fill yourself with love. In this case, more often than not, you are more likely to feel needy for love, attention and approval from others. And often in order to get these things you are craving from others, you may try to give your love away to others, rather than to yourself.
But if you are giving to others from an empty place inside, you may be expecting someone else to fill you up with the love that you are not giving to yourself. Relationships don't work well when you are giving with the goal of getting in mind.
Others may pick up on your inner sense of emptiness, and this can lead to various unhealthy dynamics within the relationship. If your partner is also empty, he/she may give to you hoping that you will do the same. This can just create a negative cycle.
Even if your partner feels full inside, he/she may feel pressured by you, and disengage from the giving-to-get cycle as a result. It doesn't feel good to feel pulled on for love, attention and approval. When you put pressure on others to fill you with love, you are making them your higher power rather than turning to your own higher power for inner-strength.
Often, others will not take on the job of being your higher power unless they want to control you — which is a huge price to pay for attention and approval.
The Solution: Giving From Love
We can give from a place of fullness, from a place of love, only when we are full of love. We are full of love only when have been taking care of ourselves and connecting with our inner source of love, our "higher power."
Love is not something we can snap our fingers and immediately generate within ourselves; rather, it is something that fills us when our hearts are open.
When your intention is to be loving with yourself and others — rather than to get love, validation, approval and so on — then your heart is open to receiving love from within, from your higher power.
When your heart is filled with love (or even overflowing with love!), then you receive great joy in sharing your love with others. The more you give from love, the more joy you feel in your being, and the more love you have to give.
When you find yourself feeling empty inside and trying to get love, consciously shift your attention from the goal of getting love to loving yourself. By focusing on what is loving to you — what is in your own highest good — your heart opens and you automatically receive love.
Then you can share your love with others, which is truly the greatest joy in life. Trying to get love doesn't hold a candle to the deep joy of sharing love!