It is common for people who are dissatisfied with their relationship to ascribe their discomfort to their partner’s faults, failures, personality demerits or displeasing conduct. Though these factors may certainly contribute to relationship disharmony, could the core of this displeasure rest elsewhere?

The initial intoxicating elixir of romantic love is born out of the mutual attraction, fascination, admiration and adulation of new lovers. New pairs lavish each other with mesmerizing, adoring gazes, affirming statements and enthusiastic responsiveness that reflects their adulation and fascination for each other and boosts their individual sense of self-esteem, desirability and uniqueness.

Regrettably, for most pairs, these initial intoxicating, flattering and ego-boosting exchanges only last during the early stages of courtship. They are facilitated by hormonal support and intense emotional and physical pleasure about being affirmed and desired.

These states of high emotional and physical attention are unsustainable for more than a relatively short duration. When these feelings and actions become modulated with time, many pairs assume that something went afoul in their union.

A common presenting complaint of mates during their first couple therapy session is, “The relationship is not what it used to be.” They often proceed with finding fault with their mate for having changed his /her ways or personality and not being the person he/she had originally presented.

In “Through the Looking Glass Darkly? When Self-Doubts Turn Into Relationship Insecurities” Researchers Sandra Murray, John Holmes, Jeff McDonald and Phoebe Ellsworth wrote, “The experience of romantic love seems to tempt individuals with the hope of unconditional acceptance and the expectation of having found that one person who will always love them despite their faults. This state of felt security or confidence in a partner’s continued affections seems critical for relationship satisfaction and stability.” They added, “Our results revealed that low self-esteem individuals reacted to self-doubts with heightened disbelief about their partners’ regard, which then tarnished their impressions of their partners. In contrast, high self-esteem individuals reacted to self-doubts by becoming more convinced of their partners’ continued acceptance, using their relationships as a source for self-affirmation.”

Researchers S. L. Murray and colleagues similarly discovered that “Dating and married intimates used their own self-images as templates for constructing impressions of their partners’ perceptions of them. Accordingly, high self-esteem individuals believed that their partners saw them relatively positively, whereas low self-esteem individuals

Incorrectly believed that their partners saw them relatively negatively.”

These findings support the need for all of us to achieve and sustain a healthy self-regard that will enable us to be more successful in our endeavors, validate ourselves for our accomplishments, increase our personal comfort and enable us to attain a healthier state of love and intimacy with our mates.

When you feel disappointed in love,

  • Assess the core of your negative self-judgment.
  • Amend your ways to improve your self-regard.
  • Validate yourself daily for your positive thoughts, feelings and actions.
  • Remind yourself to delight in your mate’s being and accomplishments. He/she is the same treasure you originally found!


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About Author

Offra Gerstein, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist in clinical practice in Santa Cruz, California for over 25 years, and specializes in relationship issues for couples and individuals for improved quality of life. Her work includes: mate selection, marriage, long term relationships, gay and lesbian couples, work relationships, parenting issues, family interactions, friendships, and conflict resolutions. Offra has lectured extensively to various groups, conducted support groups for several organizations, and has been writing a weekly column "Relationship Matters" for the Santa Cruz Sentinel since 2001.

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