Limiting Beliefs in Relationships

Your limiting beliefs, or mine?

It’s no secret that relationships take a lot of work; sometimes they work sometimes they don’t. But here’s the thing: many of the frustrations we have with our partners come from our own limiting beliefs. Being aware of our own limiting beliefs will help us determine whether the relationship is the problem, or we are (or both).

Couples therapy vs. individual counselling

Think of the state of your relationship as a bank account. And just like in a typical bank account, there are deposits and withdrawals. Anything that brings you closer together is a deposit while anything that drifts you further apart is a withdrawal.

Couples therapy is one of the most effective deposits, in our bank analogy. Since it works on building deposits, reducing withdrawals, and unpacking baggage. The last bit is particularly essential because the biggest sources of conflict in most relationships are baggage and individual limiting beliefs.

However, people rarely take time to reflect on their contribution to the problem and instead blame their partners. Such reflection is what leads to self-awareness, hence taking responsibility for our actions and beliefs; rather than always playing the blame game with our spouses.

Unfortunately, we rarely embrace our differences in a relationship. Most people will blame their problems on their partners having a different mindset or not thinking like them. However, the truth is that being different from your partner is what brings balance to the relationships and makes things interesting.

We must be willing to look at things from our partner’s perspective; especially during conflict. Once you can put your ego aside, it will surprise you to learn that most of the things you thought of as flaws in your partner are lessons. Also, recognize your own limiting beliefs and how they were triggered, thus contributing to the conflict.

Individual counseling helps us unpack and address our own limiting beliefs, and it is recommended that we do the individual work first before doing couples therapy. Most couples that have taken the time to go through individual counseling often realize that they do not couples therapy, because they are already equipped with the essential tools for a better relationship.

Your limiters don’t just show up in your relationships but across the board. Individual counseling affects all aspects of your life.

Couples therapy may feel safer since you won’t be alone and might not have to take responsibility for your limiting beliefs right away; you can even blame your partner for your mistakes. When you are in a relationship that is not serving you, anger will often build up.

Common limiting beliefs

I am not enough

Most of us have felt like we are not enough at one point or another. It is manifested by needing to be perfect, and getting very defensive when your partner gives you constructive feedback. Most people with this limiting belief do not think that they can make mistakes or say hurtful things. And will often feel fear, shame, and anger.

Most people with this limiting belief are terrified that if their partner sees the real them, it will not be enough. They also project their beliefs on their partners, idealize them, and hold them to unrealistic standards. Such people tend to avoid relationships and become workaholics because it is easy to attain perfection and recognition at work.

It’s my fault and I am inferior

People who feel inferior in relationships will often take responsibility even for other people’s mistakes or will take more blame than they need to. It is also impossible to feel happy for your partner’s accomplishments. Hence resulting in a one-sided relationship, emotional distancing and even affairs.

I am worthless/unworthy

You will see such people hustling for a seat at a table, no matter what the table is. They will therefore be more inclined to choosing partners who need saving and thus constantly play a caregiver role. Depending on other people to make them feel worthy and whole.

They will also provide value to their partners and without asking; the guilt of saying no to their partners is just too great. The only problem is that they give and give while keeping a tally. Eventually, such people will snap at their partners for not reciprocating their efforts. Unfortunately, by the time they snap; an entire relationship has been built based on unrealistic goals.

Individual therapy shifts our values that get intertwined with our limiting beliefs. After counseling, you may continue to serve your partner as you did before, but this time with a different mindset, and you will feel better about it (same behavior, different drive).

I am unimportant/ I don’t matter

For such people, every little behavior is a statement of the state of the relationship and how important they are to the person. They blame themselves for every single thing in the relationship and internalize infidelity as a sentiment of how their partners value them.

A relationship should be good enough to feel good staying, where your partner is sensitive and understanding of your flaws. Realizing that imperfections and flaws make things interesting. It does not have to be perfect, just whole. They tend to have limiting beliefs around control and powerlessness.

I am unwanted (I will eventually be rejected)

These individuals often feel unwanted; they aim to hurt their partners before they get hurt. They will set their partners out for testing behavior just to prove that they are unwanted. This limiting belief often stems from a rejection earlier in life such as being abandoned by a parent, not being invited to a party, or experiencing rejection from a partner.

What needs to be done?

Understanding your partner’s limiting beliefs will go a long way into helping you understand why they are sensitive to certain things. Sometimes we don’t even react to our partner but to something that happened in the past. Step back and evaluate your reaction, are you being irrational? Does the situation call for your kind of reaction?

The goal is to be on the same page and be able to work on things together. The longer that limiting beliefs go unchecked, the more you are enabling them. When limiting beliefs are in play, we fail to pick what is good for us; for instance, we will go for people who are way out of our league just to prove our worth.

Ensure you check yourself before you sabotage yourself, work on yourself before you let your limiting beliefs interfere with your relationship.

Sarah O'Brien
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