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There’s a lot of talk these days about what someone brings to the table in a relationship.
Unfortunately, most of the discussion surrounding this topic focuses on things like money, material possessions, or sex.
If you don’t have one or do not desire to take part in the other, it’s easy to think you have nothing to offer in a relationship.
Perhaps an ex-partner has even said as much to you. Or maybe you’ve had bad luck with dating.
Either way, you’re convinced you have nothing to offer another person in a relationship and you don’t know what to do about it.
The good news is that while these aspects of a relationship (that is, money, material possessions, and sex) are important, they are not enough to sustain one. All the money, material possessions, and sex in the world are not enough to keep someone in an unhappy relationship.
So, if you seemingly have nothing to offer in a relationship, what can you do?
The answer is simple: focus on the areas that will sustain a healthy relationship in the long run.
Below, you’ll find steps to take to build yourself up in those critical areas to help you forge a happy and long-lasting relationship.
But first things first, you need to…
Identify Why You Feel You Have Nothing To Offer
Why do you feel you have nothing to offer another person in a relationship? Were you told you had nothing to offer by an ex-partner? Did you grow up in an emotionally abusive environment? Perhaps deep inside, you don’t feel you deserve to be loved.
It’s important to figure out where this belief sprang up from because it will help you identify what your triggers are and point you in the right direction to eliminate them.
If deep inside you don’t believe you are worthy of love because the love you received from your parents while growing up was conditional or based on your behavior, this belief will probably require the intervention of a licensed therapist to overcome. This belief has been your reality for so long that you don’t recognize it for what it is, nor realize how it’s affecting your self-confidence.
If you believe you have nothing to offer based on legitimate feedback from an ex-partner, then you can take steps to change that narrative. But if the relationship was toxic, you should identify what put you into that situation and create a plan to avoid doing so in the future.
Address Your Insecurities
The next step for you to take is to identify and address your insecurities. We all have them, even the most confident person amongst us. Pretending or ignoring yours will only cause them to grow bigger in your mind.
So, with romantic relationships, what are your biggest insecurities? Are they things that you can work on improving? Or are they insecurities that you need to learn to accept?
Maybe you’re insecure about your looks. While beauty is in the eye of the beholder, are there things you can do to improve how you feel about your physical appearance? Perhaps you could pay more attention to how you dress or clean up your diet.
Or are you insecure about your looks because of a physical characteristic that you have no control over? Then you need to learn to love yourself, bumps and all. Because it’s only when you love yourself that others will, too.
Address your insecurities by either working on them or learning to embrace them.
Focus On Your ‘Self’
There are two ways to approach your mindset and the thoughts you have about your worthiness in relationships. The first is to focus on you and yourself, or rather your ‘self.’
It might seem a little odd for you to focus on yourself when you’re wondering what you can offer another person. But when it comes to being in a relationship, you can’t offer another person what you don’t have. If you aren’t confident, you can’t help your partner be more confident. When you don’t love yourself, you can’t truly love your partner.
Focusing on yourself is critical in helping you develop into someone who has the emotional maturity and necessary skills to have a fulfilling and healthy relationship.
Here are some tips to put into practice:
1. Practice self-love.
Self-love refers to having a high regard for your happiness and well-being. It is about valuing yourself as a human being who is worthy of love and respect.
If you love yourself, you know you are enough without all the titles or accolades.
Loving yourself influences how you handle challenges in your life, your overall happiness, and your mental and physical health. Even the way you dress reflects whether you love yourself.
If you don’t love yourself, not only can you not expect others to love you, but you can’t truly love someone else. On the off chance someone does love you, you are unable to fully trust or accept that love.
One way to practice self-love is to understand that your value doesn’t come from what you do or look like. If you didn’t do what you do for a living or look like you do, you’d still be worthy of love. So don’t let the opinions of society or the people around you color your opinion of yourself.
Also, don’t compare yourself to other people. Everyone is on their own journey in life. With all the billions of people on this earth, there’s only one you. Focus on living a life that reflects your unique talents and gifts.
Lastly, forgive your past mistakes. You’re only human and are bound to mess up occasionally. Everyone messes up sometimes. So, cut yourself some slack.
You can’t make it through life without falling flat on your face at least once if you’re lucky, and multiple times, if you’re not.
Mistakes help you learn and grow. They are a normal part of life.
2. Practice self-compassion.
Self-compassion might seem like a synonym for self-love, but it actually refers to how you treat yourself when you mess up.
Kristin Neff, a leading expert on self-compassion, defines it as “the ability to notice our own suffering and be moved by it, making us want to actively do something to alleviate our own suffering.“
When you make a mistake, are you hard on yourself or do you treat yourself with the same kindness and understanding you would a friend? Do you underestimate or overlook the amount of trauma you’ve experienced in life? Are you so in tune with your inner critic that you don’t even notice how negatively you speak to yourself?
Practicing self-compassion involves treating yourself the way you would a good friend. If your friend was going through a traumatic experience, you would probably look for ways to help them through the difficult period.
You would not kick them while they are down. Nor would you talk to them the way you talk to yourself when in a challenging time of your life.
Speak to yourself with the same respect, honesty, and kindness as you would a close friend when you want to support them.
In other words…
3. Change your self-dialogue.
Our inner critic is often verbally abusive. But because we’ve lived with it for so long, we don’t recognize it as abuse. The negative self-dialogue has become our reality or our twisted way of keeping us “humble.”
Have you ever mistakenly voiced a negative thought about yourself, only for the person who overheard you to look at you as if you were completely insane?
Perhaps you rolled your eyes and said something like “gosh, I’m so stupid,” after making a minor mistake. From the shock on the other person’s face, you probably learned that either you’re not as stupid as you think or that you should be more careful when letting the inner critic speak out.
Sadly, for many of us in this scenario, we learned to be more careful about letting our inner critic voice its opinions out loud.
To change your negative self-dialogue, you need to first become aware of it. What is the little voice in your head saying? Once you are aware of self-dialogue, you work on changing it.
A tool you can use to do this is Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP).
NLP teaches practical lessons on how to change the way you think, view past events, and approach your life. The theory behind NLP is that while you may not control many aspects of your life, you can control what happens in your head.
For example, it teaches you to challenge limiting beliefs by asking yourself questions like:
- How do I know I can’t do that?
- Who said that to me?
- Could they have been wrong?
A simple NLP exercise you can use to fight against negative self-dialogue is seen below:
Next time you hear the inner critic, imagine it sounding silly, maybe like Donald Duck or Tweety Bird. Notice how this changes the way you view the wisdom of that voice. If the voice does not sound like someone real, it’s easier to ignore and silence it.
4. Work on your self-esteem.
Self-esteem is our overall sense of value or worth, how we feel about our abilities and limitations.
Studies have shown that our self-esteem affects not only the satisfaction we feel in our relationship but also our partner’s satisfaction. In fact, our level of self-esteem impacts our partner’s self-esteem.
This has to do with the value you put on your opinions and ideas. Do you have a good opinion about your abilities, or do you fear failure to the point where it holds you back from succeeding at work and home?
When you have a healthy level of self-esteem, you are:
- Able to express your needs and opinions
- Confident in your decision-making abilities
- Able to form secure and healthy relationships (and less likely to stay in unhealthy ones)
- Realistic in your expectations of yourself
- Less likely to criticize yourself and others
- More resilient and better able to cope with stress and setbacks
If you recognize that you have low self-esteem, try the following:
- Negative thoughts: Identify your negative thoughts and try to figure out when you started to have them. This will help you spot toxic relationships or situations that you have gotten used to and think are “normal.” Challenge these negative thoughts by either finding evidence that refutes them or with positive thoughts.
- Skills: What are you good at? Everyone has a skill that they enjoy and are great at. These skills are usually things that we find very easy to do. When you are caught up in negative thoughts, remind yourself of your skills. Spend some time putting these skills to use.
- Relationships: Unfortunately, some relationships are not good for our self-esteem. Some people in our lives have made it their mission to tear us down. If possible, remove them from your life or reduce the time you spend with them. Build healthy relationships with people who don’t weaponize their words against you.
Learn How To Be A Better Companion
After working on building yourself up, the next area to focus on is your relationship skills.
The need to love and be loved is a fundamental need for all human beings. Because the battlefield of love is filled with broken people, it’s difficult to find the person who makes the struggle worth it.
Below are the skills you will need to develop to help you find the right person and build a healthy relationship.
1. Learn how to recognize red flags.
Every dating guru, coach, and YouTube video talks regularly about red flags and the importance of recognizing them early. The annoying thing about red flags is that when you’re in the throes of love or attraction, they are easy to miss. Learn how to recognize red flags before your emotions or hormones get the better of you.
Some common red flags to be on the lookout for are:
- Love bombing – Love bombing refers to grand gestures or displays of affection, that typically happen early in a new relationship. While it may sound romantic, they are sometimes used as a tactic to gain control over the relationship.
- Jealousy – Jealousy is not a sign that your partner really cares about you. When your partner is constantly jealous, it’s a sign that they harbor feelings of inadequacy or inferiority and have a tendency to compare themselves to others.
- Gaslighting – A common manipulation ploy in which the manipulator will make you question your sanity or judgments. You are manipulated into feeling guilty whether or not you did anything wrong.
- Anger management issues – Too many people have been the victim of domestic violence for us not to be on high alert when a partner displays difficulty managing their anger.
- Need for control – If your partner tries to control your movements, decisions, or beliefs, they are more concerned about what they want than what is best for you.
There are many more red flags that you should look out for in a potential partner. If you can spot them early in a relationship, it’ll be easier to remove yourself from a toxic relationship.
2. Be clear on what you want in a relationship.
Have you ever considered what you are looking for in a relationship? Well, how do you expect to find what you need from another person when you don’t know?
Hollywood has us believing that the person we will spend the rest of our lives with will fall magically into our laps with no deliberate action or intention on our part. Experience, on the other hand, shows us something completely different.
Figure out what you need and want in a future partner. This will help you to be deliberate with who you date and spend time with. By being deliberate and knowing what you want, you will save yourself and the other person from wasted time and heartache.
3. Learn how to set boundaries.
Setting boundaries is a natural part of any healthy relationship. Just because you are in love does not mean there should be no boundaries between both of you. Nor does it mean you should not respect each other’s boundaries.
Even in a relationship, you need to advocate for your wants and needs. Setting boundaries is a step towards doing that.
It’s easier to set clear boundaries at the beginning of a relationship than in the middle of one. Be clear on what your boundaries are and set them early.
4. Improve your communication skills.
Learn how to be an effective communicator. This means knowing how to actively listen and respond or communicate your thoughts and/or feelings.
To improve your ability to listen, try the following communication tips (courtesy of University of Colorado Boulder):
- Start with a Distancing Phrase: Using phrases like “It sounds like…” or “I think I’m hearing you say…” lets the speaker know you are trying to understand what they are saying.
- Affirm and Reflect: Acknowledge the emotions and intensity of the speaker. Then summarize the key points and details that you heard them share.
- Check-in: To make sure you’ve accurately captured and understood what the other person has said, say something like “Is that right?” or “Is there anything I missed?”
- Ask Open-Ended Questions: Ask open-ended questions about the issues and interests shared by the other person. Open-ended questions are questions that cannot be answered in one word. This calls upon the speaker to reflect on their views and helps the listener to better understand the perspective of the speaker.
When communicating your thoughts and feelings, use I-statements. Below are some tips to do that:
- Feelings – Articulate the emotions tied to a specific context. This helps the listener to recognize the impact that a situation is having on you. Ex: “I feel disrespected…” or “I feel scared…” or “I feel hurt that…”
- Topics – Be specific about the situation that triggered your feelings instead of speaking in broad or general terms. Ex: “When I am not included in family decisions…” or “When there isn’t enough money to cover the bills…”
- Values – Explain the “why” behind your emotions in that specific context. This also provides an opportunity to suggest an action you would like to see instead. Ex: “Because I value having a say in issues that affect me. In the future, it would mean a lot if we could discuss family matters together,” or “It’s really important to me we stay ahead of our bills and also have money to save. I would really appreciate it if we could create and stick to the family budget.”
Better communication helps ensure both parties are heard and feel respected when conveying their thoughts and emotions.
5. Learn how to deal with conflict.
Many adults do not know how to deal with conflict in a constructive or healthy manner. A lot of people shy away from conflict, believing it to be harmful to the relationship. Others avoid conflict out of a misplaced fear of rejection.
Fearing confrontation is normal, particularly for people who have social anxiety. However, running away from it will do more harm to your relationship than good.
Unresolved conflicts lead to pent-up feelings of resentment, which we all know is poison in any relationship. Open communication and empathy are critical tools for conflict resolution that contribute to healthy, high-functioning, and satisfying relationships in every area of your life.
Addressing and resolving conflicts help bring people closer together once the issues have been put to rest.
6. Learn how to give and receive respect.
Love and respect go hand in hand. Can you love someone you don’t respect? Possibly. But in such a scenario, the emotions involved are more likely a desire to manipulate or control than actual “love.”
How can you claim to love someone when you don’t care about their feelings, trust them, or have any regard for their needs or wants?
Besides, a relationship is so much better if there is freedom for both parties to be themselves and be loved for who they are. Respect in a relationship means:
- Trusting your partner
- Being mindful of how you communicate with your partner
- Appreciating and celebrating your differences
- Treating your partner the way you would like to be treated
- Staying true to your word
And above all, respect yourself. Because, once again, you cannot give what you don’t have.
There are many things you can offer in a romantic relationship. The most important thing that you have to offer is a healthy (that is physically, mentally, emotionally) you. A healthy you is the best chance you have at developing a healthy, long-term relationship.
Still not sure what you have to offer in a relationship? Speak to a therapist today who can help you work to overcome these negative thoughts and improve your mindset. Simply click here to connect with one of the experienced therapists on BetterHelp.com.
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