• The Core Foundations of Real Love and True Intimacy – Part 4: Self-Awareness

    self-awareness, love, relationships, intimacy, marriage, couples, therapy, couples therapy, marriage counseling, couples counseling
     
    Have you ever been in a relationship, but wanted something more? Your partner may have all the boxes checked when it came to height, looks, education, income, and all the other things that we initially may find important.

    But then at some point, you may start to get the sinking feeling that you’re settling or you begin to realize that you are sabotaging your partner. As a result of being self-aware, you are able to not only uncover your own blocks to love and the intimacy, but self-awareness can also help you discover the hidden potential for real connection and a depth of relationship (with yourself and others) that you might never have thought of.

    The ability to be self-aware is another vital and key pillar to creating, maintaining, and expanding intimacy in your life. Let’s take a deeper look to understand its tremendous value to you.
     

    What is self-awareness?

    Self-help author Debbie Ford said that self-awareness is, “The ability to take an honest look at your life without attachment to it being right or wrong.”

    Self-awareness is paying attention to your habits and tendencies, knowing your contributions and areas of weaknesses. It’s knowing your moods, your feelings, your reactions, your “stuff.” It’s you being honest with yourself. It’s not the idealized version of you, but the beautiful, messy, and confusing real version of you. And it’s not a requirement that you shame yourself in the process. Yes, you may feel embarrassed and ashamed at first, but that’s ok.

     self-awareness, love, relationships, intimacy, marriage, couples, therapy, couples therapy, marriage counseling, couples counseling
     
    People who are self-aware, tend to tell relationship stories that aren’t black or white and give context (not excuses) for how a relationship ended. They also tend to share what was learned or how it shaped their thoughts on love and relationships.

    I also want to dispel a myth. True self-awareness is often seen as something gloomy. “Oh, damn. I am not going to like what I see inside. Why bother? Am I only going to feel sad and depressed?” Ok. Maybe that will be part of your experience looking inward, but that is a very limited viewpoint.

    There is another reality to consider. Instead of being gloomy, you can embrace a different attitude towards all of this. You can choose to look inside in a way that is not condemning or judgmental of yourself, but honesty and sincerely look inside in a way that is friendly and loving to yourself – despite your faults. None of us is perfect. We all have our shadows inside. That’s ok. Love yourself for looking inward. It may very well be the key to feeling liberated.

    For example, when you tell your relationship story in the early days of dating or meeting someone new, are you the victim? Looking back, is there a lot of shame or blaming others for what happened? Or are you able to take responsibility for how and why things went the way that they did? And are you gentle and kind enough to not crucify yourself but, rather, love yourself anyway? I’m rooting for the later for you!
     

    Why is it important?

    As any relationship moves from falling in love to being in love, it’s important to feel safe and supported when the proverbial shit hits the fan in life. If you’re like most everyone else, you want to know that when the going gets tough, you have a partner that can help you solve problems together.

     self-awareness, love, relationships, intimacy, marriage, couples, therapy, couples therapy, marriage counseling, couples counseling
     
    If you want a successful long-term relationship then the more you understand how you behave and why in relationships, then the better partner you can be. But most importantly, be true to yourself along the journey.
     

    Ways self-awareness can have an impact on a relationship

    When you are self-aware in a relationship you are able to turn your attention inward and name what you are feeling, versus just acting out what you are feeling. Being self-aware means focusing more on what you are contributing to any situation – more than you focus on your partner. It turns out that most people are more content focusing on their partner. That rarely helps, and often hurts a relationship.

    It’s a common trap to fall into. You get triggered, have a knee-jerk reaction and blame the other person about what they are doing/not doing/saying/not saying. It’s easy to get stuck there.

     self-awareness, love, relationships, intimacy, marriage, couples, therapy, couples therapy, marriage counseling, couples counseling
     
    Helpful hint: It is a sure sign of lack of self-awareness if you find yourself pointing your finger at your partner.

    Instead, a more self-aware approach would:

    1. hopefully, catch yourself before the knee-jerk reaction hits and take a moment. (If that doesn’t happen, don’t stress. This takes practice.)
    2. alternatively, admit that you are triggered and take that moment or two, or even a few minutes for a self-check.
    3. take responsibility for how this situation came about. Typically, relationship challenges are a combination of “some stuff I did wrong” and “some stuff you did wrong.” Own up to your part and learn from it.

    Another way that self-awareness can play out in a relationship is around fight or flight. When you get triggered, do you engage or run away (either loudly or deathly quiet)? What do you do when you get feedback about yourself? Can you listen with an open heart and open heart? Most importantly are you aware of how you are reacting?

     self-awareness, love, relationships, intimacy, marriage, couples, therapy, couples therapy, marriage counseling, couples counseling
     
    Here are some tips to help you become more self-aware:

    • Know what your triggers are.
    • Notice what your first tendencies are when you get triggered. “Do I tend to run, hide, or fight?”
    • Learn what your body feels like when you get triggered: e.g. does your breathing become rapid, short, and shallow? Do you experience a rapid heart rate or headaches? Listen to your body. It will never lie to you.
    • Become more familiar with your own beliefs. If, for example, you secretly believe that you are not worth loving, then it would be good to know that there
      is this part of you that could make it a self-fulfilling prophecy if you don’t challenge your belief. And you can’t challenge your self-defeating belief if you
      aren’t aware of it.
    • Assume in any situation that it is part you and part the other. This is a good baseline to start with because it will raise your consciousness so that you won’t
      go down the rabbit hole of exclusively blaming your partner for everything that goes wrong.
    • Journaling is one of the very best and most effective ways of developing self-awareness. There is something about putting our thoughts and feelings on paper
      that can help us gain a deeper knowledge and perspective.

    journal, fighting, argument, relationships, love, dating, couples counseling
     

    • Contemplate any form of meditation that focuses more on an awareness of being in the moment as opposed to meditation that focuses on achieving a
      specific goal such as something you want.
    • Tap into your courage. Use positive self-talk to help you look inward, especially when you don’t really want to. Those are the times when we most often need
      our courage to look inside.
    • Create a space where your partner feels safe enough to give you honest feedback about how they are experiencing you in any given moment.
    • Be aware that there is tremendous joy and pain in each person’s life. Be even more aware of how you hide from the pain and how avoiding pain, ironically,
      tends to cause even more pain in the long run.
    • Understand that it is more mature to look inward at yourself than to blame your partner.
    • Ask a friend to sit with you for and help you sort things out. Sometimes – quite often actually – it helps us gain a trusted friend’s perspective that we might not
      be able to get on our own.

     self-awareness, love, relationships, intimacy, marriage, couples, therapy, couples therapy, marriage counseling, couples counseling
     

    Qualities of people who are devoted to self-awareness

    In general, people who are devoted to being self-aware are more mature, humble, courageous, and tend not to stay angry for very long. They have and continue to develop the ability to tune into their inner thoughts, feelings, and behaviors when they get triggered.
    Being aware, by definition, requires emotional honesty, courage, and humility.

    People that are self-aware are naturally curious, and want to know more and do better at life. They also tend to be more realistic and enter relationships knowing that everyone has baggage – including themselves – and commit to finding ways to deal with it.


     

    People who are self-aware tend to be much happier than those who are not. Inner wisdom puts them in a position where they are better able to both express and receive love because they are more aware of their core needs, and the needs of others.

    They live much richer and fuller lives because they are more aware of not only the parts of themselves that can sabotage love and intimacy but also know from their own pain how to better identify not only their own hopes, wishes, needs, and desires…but also their partner’s hopes, wishes, needs, and desires for a truly loving and intimate relationship. Everybody wins!

    There are very specific ways of thinking and behaving that couples need to learn in order to both express love and receive love. Knowing these tools is absolutely foundational to enjoying happy and healthy relationships. This article is the fifth in my new six-part series: The Core Foundations of Real Love and True Intimacy. You can find other posts here:

    Introduction
    Part 1: Vulnerability
    Part 2: Trust
    Part 3: Courage
    Part 4: Self-Awareness
    Part 5: Kindness
    Part 6: Gratitude (coming soon)

     

    I hope that this article on self-awareness is helpful to you in your life. If you would like some help to explore this in more depth as it relates to you and your current life circumstances, feel free and encouraged to contact me for a free 15-minute phone consultation to see if I am a good fit for deepening your self-awareness. I have many ways to help you get in touch with more…and to help you settle for more in your life!

    1. […] of love and intimacy, that I have outlined in this series: vulnerability, trust, courage, and self-awareness. These are certainly the cornerstones of a fulfilling relationship because they form the basis upon […]

    2. […] Part 1: Vulnerability Part 2: Trust Part 3: Courage Part 4: Self-Awareness Part 5: Kindness Part 6: Gratitude (coming […]

    3. […] is a great amount of research that clearly shows an increased emotional connection with ourselves and with others, can dramatically enhance our mental and physical well-being. A lack of personal […]

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