Relationship Connection: How do I let myself feel love from others?

Question

Following a series of incredibly difficult betrayals, challenges and losses, I often feel emotionally numb. I believe that is a protective response to the pain and hurts I have endured – like a callus or scar. 

I have worked very hard to forgive and to feel and show love to those who have hurt me. 

But it is difficult for me to feel love from others – my husband, children and siblings. Most disheartening to me is that I don’t feel loved by God. I miss feeling that love. How can I allow myself to feel the love others have for me? 

Answer

It’s true that relational betrayals close us off in a self-protective cocoon. The internal work of forgiving others for their hurtful behaviors is an important part of opening up to love again. As you’ve seen, though, it still requires more than internally releasing someone from the hurt they’ve caused you.

If you want to re-engage in a meaningful relationship with the individual who hurt you, trust in the relationship has to be re-established. The person who injured the relationship has the primary responsibility to create conditions where trust can be restored. Their willingness to repair the damage they’ve done opens up the way to reconnect with them.

Forgiving them won’t fix an unsafe relationship if they’re unwilling to take personal accountability and responsibility for how they’ve harmed you and the relationship.

If conditions are repaired and safe, but you still feel yourself hesitating to get close, here are some ways you can open yourself to their love. I recommend you tell them exactly what you asked in your question above. Take the risk to be vulnerable with them and let them know how scary it is to open up to love. Let them know you want this, but you’re cautious. If they’re a safe person, they’ll understand and show support.

Next, look for ways that they are turning to you. For example, are they making more time for you? Are they trying to be more sensitive and aware? Notice those things and see how they affect your heart and mind. Don’t dismiss them, no matter how small. Opening up to love happens in stages and takes time. Be gentle with them and with yourself as you let them affect you again.

Find ways to turn to them and give yourself permission to take a break when you feel overwhelmed. I believe that you can’t truly say “yes” to someone until you know it’s OK to say “no.” Give yourself permission to move toward, then move away. Keep moving like this until you find yourself receiving more and spending more time in relationship with them. This works for friends, family, and God. It’s not an all-or-nothing process of either being with them or away from them.

There will come a time when it doesn’t make sense to your body and emotions to stay as distant. Your desire to feel love can draw you toward the people who want to love you. Let them know you want to feel their love, but need their reassurance and support.

Those who truly want to repair the broken bond with you will give you the time and space you need to feel their love. They will hold it out for you as long as it takes to reconnect with them.

Stay connected!

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.

Have a relationship question for Geoff to answer? Submit to:

Email: geoff@lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Instagram: @geoffsteurer  

Facebook: facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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4 Comments

  • 42214 July 20, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    A few shots of tequila is a good start.

  • .... July 20, 2016 at 2:12 pm

    You won’t find any love on this site LMAO !

  • ladybugavenger July 20, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    First, you gotta feel hate and get rid of the garbage then all you will be left with is love

    Just start commenting on here.

  • Brian July 21, 2016 at 1:12 pm

    I’m sorry for what you are experiencing, and appreciate the courage it takes to try to find answers.

    I would highly recommend looking into “tapping”, formally known as “EFT”. In three 1 hour sessions it helped me overcome 20 years of depression and self-doubt. The difference was immediate, permanent, and for me it was miraculous.

    Here is a video specifically for what you are seeking:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IBhEHI-E4kM

    Here is an overview video:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JiD72cZ5mcU

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