Worth and Long-Term Relationships-Part II
In my capacity as an outpatient psychologist, I have worked
with people for almost twenty-five years. By far, the single
most central element, the one thing that pervades almost every
other issue is self-esteem. It touches everything-sex and
relationships, work problems, anxiety, depression, addictions;
you name it. There are four primary elements of self-esteem.
I call them "Powers" because when we develop any one of them,
we become more personally powerful. The Four Powers of Self-Esteem
are: Worth, Competence, Ego-Strength and Self-Acceptance. This
article is Part II, so please read Part I before reading this one. It deals with the first Power of self-esteem and its expression in Negative Loops, which is a cyclical expression of basic behavior patterns learned from one's family-of-origin (explained in Part I).
Here is an example of a Negative Loop that expresses deeply learned behavioral tendencies between two people in a long-term relationship. The following is quoted from this author's ebook on Why Relationships Fail.
Assertiveness vs. Avoidant Styles.
"He's assertive, she's not. He speaks up and wants
their communication to be direct. She avoids clear
communication and is not assertive. She may ask for
something for the kids, really wanting something for
herself. He busts her, telling her it would be a lot
better if she just stated what she wanted, leaving the
kids out of it. In response, she feels criticized and
further shrinks. She may withdraw, play solitaire or
just leave the house to go for a workout at the gym.
He enjoys the separation until his frustration surfaces
at not having help with chores, or just having a
compatible mate. He becomes even more determined and
"comes down" on her with more force--greater insistence
that she "speak up." This drives her more deeply into
her hole. Her compensations are even less direct,
"driving him up the wall."
The early patterns go something like this: He is articulate and
a hard worker. He may be impatient, but sooner or later needs to
speak up. He does not handle stresses well and might be compromised
by physical ailments, disturbed father-son relationships, poor results communicating with older female siblings, etc. He may be very dynamic.
He may be used to getting what he wants more or less immediately.
He could have trouble dealing with impulses and want immediate
gratification. He may have a higher sex drive. Many of these values
evolved from his family-of-origin experiences. They now are default experiences that seep into his daily interactions without him having
much awareness of them. Were these adaptive, they would not be giving
him trouble. They would automatically function in a more positive way. However, he is paired with a partner, who in this case also has default tendencies to behave in certain ways. Unfortunately, her behaviors
contradict or undermine his, again outside of either's awareness.
In this case...
She is more likely to have come from a family of avoiders.
She probably does not like and often runs from conflict. She tends to
mask her real wants in general terms, which drives the more
specific/direct types crazy. She may do very well in non-personal
relationship environments, such as work, where she may perform very well
because of the lack of deeper personal dynamics. But at home, her
personal side is exposed and she runs from intimacy, including sex.
She may have social avoidance tendencies or just the opposite with a
twist. I have seen such individuals be very social, even though they
may be very socially superficial.
The basic assumptions of each are at odds and this couple goes
round and round, until frustration emerges. Sooner or later, such a
couple goes to neutral corners, or worse. Their values of Worth are
expressed in ways that are mutually incompatible, hence the rising
The point of this article is that each probably learned such
behavior patterns early on, and unconsciously acts them out in their
behavior styles towards each other. The behavior styles reflect each
partner's sense of worth, albeit in different, and in this case
incompatible ways. In a future article, compatible behavioral styles
will be addressed in relation to basic feelings of Worth.