For a child, attention is survival. If a child doesn’t have the attention of their parent, they are unable to meet their vital needs. So children often learn that attention is important by any means necessary. A child will even take negative attention, if they can’t get positive affirmation or love. Bad behavior on the part of the child draws the attention of the parent by creating worry, anger and an energy exchange.
As the child grows older, this behavior may continue but it takes on a different form as society requires some form of sophistication with age. The former child has learned that any type of attention is good even when the exchanges are negative. It has been reinforced that misbehavior is the only way to get attention from the person that you love. This can often creep into relationships.
Negative self-image can wreak havoc in relationships. If you are using bad behavior, you are testing the limits of unconditional love. Instead of creating a bond that nourishes and inspires, the relationship is constantly tested by mistakes, misunderstandings and disrespect. One will continually create situations where they must be forgiven so they can recognize that they are being loved. The subconscious question at play in the relationship is: how bad do I need to be before you will give up?
“The truest form of love is how you behave toward someone, not how you feel about them.” ― Steve Hall
The bad thing about testing boundaries is that eventually you will reach the boundary. Once you reach it, you may not have an opportunity to repair the relationship. You may have pushed the relationship to its breaking point. A loving partner is not the same as a parent. While they may try to give unconditional love, constant testing can break the love bond and leave the partner feeling depressed and forgotten in the relationship. The focus is always on the needs of the misbehaving partner which leaves the other partner neglected.
The important thing is to recognize that you are in this pattern. The people in the relationship have two options: either walk away or heal. If you want to heal, the misbehaving partner has to learn how to recognize the love that their partner is already providing. They need to curb their bad behavior and focus instead on the needs of their partner. They have to learn how to earn love through good behavior rather than to continue to test love.
The other partner must create boundaries and let the misbehaving partner know that all past behavior is now unacceptable. The couple must create a new relationship that focuses on fulfilling the need of both partners. Bad behavior should not be the focus of the relationship and it shouldn’t be rewarded with attention. Instead, the couple should work on identifying ways to reinforce the good behavior.
When you get into a relationship, you have a great opportunity to heal yourself and the incredible power to heal someone else through your loving actions. Instead of going to a relationship and looking at it as a place to test or play games, you can view yourself as a healer and a student. You should delight in learning everything about yourself and your partner. The person that has chosen to be with you is giving you a gift. They are allowing you to see all the parts of themselves that they hide from the world. You are supposed to handle that information with sincerity and sensitivity. In the moments where both of you feel raw, vulnerable and judged are the moments when you have an opportunity to learn about yourself and the other person.
You don’t have to produce tears to know that someone loves you. You don’t have to push someone to walking away to prove that they will stay. It’s important to recognize the positive ways that the person is showing you that they love you. It’s important to redefine the relationship so both people in the relationship are feeling and appreciating love. A relationship is not where you go to die or to be the star, you go there to grow and learn. Your partner is a mirror of you and is reflecting to you the actions of your bad behavior, issues and inability to accept and recognize love. They are also reflecting to you the good aspects about you. That person loves things about you that you may or may not appreciate about yourself. You don’t have to test love. Life comes with its own tests. Love is what you are given so you don’t have to face the tests of life alone.
“If we commit ourselves to one person for life, this is not, as many people think, a rejection of freedom; rather, it demands the courage to move into all the risks of freedom, and the risk of love which is permanent; into that love which is not possession but participation.”
― Madeleine L’Engle
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