Is growing up thinking love is conditional affecting your relationship?

I don’t think I know a single client that has felt as if all love and connection are unconditional. Why would we if we grew up feeling as if we needed to behave a certain way, look a certain way, perform a certain way to get a little bit of love and acceptance, or simply avoid punishment? On some level, many of us give of ourselves to try and receive or maintain love and intimacy or we avoid letting ourselves be fully known and mold ourselves to fit what we think someone else wants us to be.

Many of my clients, like me have done things like:

· Hold back from telling a partner they aren’t enjoying something in bed or have never had an orgasm from them.

· Avoid telling their partner what they would like to experience in bed or when they need a hug or some other form of intimacy.

· Offer up sex as a way to connect even if they aren’t in the mood or avoid letting the sex be vulnerable and emotionally intimate.

· Use food and other things to receive comfort because that feels safer than getting vulnerable and asking for support.

· Avoid showing their partner the real them or avoid a relationship they desire altogether because they don’t trust that it’s safe and that someone will love and see them for who they are.

· Pretending to want or desire certain things to seem likable or avoiding speaking up when they feel hurt or disrespected and setting boundaries because they don’t want the partner to leave.

All of that comes down to a fear of not being accepted, loved, seen, or valued which all comes down to at some point learning being loved was conditional.

Now I’m not saying every single relationship romantic or not is gonna be one full of unconditional love and acceptance. That’s not realistic! But too often we learned that even the slightest “misstep” meant love was taken away and we turn that into an us thing without even questioning if that other person, including our parents, is emotionally immature and unavailable! The relationship between a parent and child is meant to be one of unconditional love and too many of us didn’t experience that or fully experience it so we learn to see love as something minimally available if at all.

We can and deserve to experience unconditional love within ourselves and with others and yes, it’s possible to experience that outside of parent/child relationships. Does that mean someone is gonna continue loving you and want to be with you if let’s say you try to unalive them or commit some other heinous act? Probably not but I am talking extremes because that’s a very different story than what we often believe. We often believe telling someone we’re not in the mood, we wanna try some bondage, or it made us feel disrespected when they flaked on plans again and you deserve a text, we don’t really like football and that band they love, or any other thing is immediate grounds for terminating all love!

That’s bullshit but we believe it to be true and it holds us back from opening up and the crazy part about that is it denies us from experiencing real love in the first place! That’s either due to denying your partner the privilege of knowing the real you and understanding how you truly wanna be loved in all the ways (orgasms are love people) or you don’t put yourself out there to receive love from people worthy of giving it to you that would really like to!

We all deserve love, and it feels amazing to receive so how do we start receiving that unconditional love?

Ok first, we gotta work on loving all parts of ourselves…even the ones we don’t feel so hot about. I’m talking about your little self-sabotagy subconscious parts. Mine wounded be my inner wounded boss who thinks she sucks ass at everything and deserves to be punished. I love her ass and I do either parts work or mirror work to make sure she knows I love her. I will stand in front of the mirror or put down a pillow and say I love you to all the parts of me such as I love the part of myself that loves to go silent on my friends and hideaway because she believes she’s a burden, I love the part of me that thrives on chaos because I grew up in it so I have routinely gotten myself into financial hardship in the past to maintain chaos as homeostasis. I go in on all the parts and aspects of me that are so easy to hate or shame and show them, love, over and over until they/I believe it. It works too so I encourage my clients to do it as well.

Now how can you work on trusting and receiving unconditional love from a partner or anyone in your life?

Two things I do that are in my Sacred Intimacy mini-course:

1. Micro dose opening up to love: if you have been holding back for a while, chances are reading this isn’t going to suddenly make you feel brave enough to talk about or do the thing you’ve been dreading. If it does hell yeah, I’m so happy for you! But if you’re like me you need baby steps. So, for instance, if the issue is telling your partner, you never orgasm in bed maybe, for now, you start by saying “hey it would be really helpful if we could spend more time making out before sex”. Start small with whatever it is and as they embrace what’s being told bank that as evidence that it’s safe to continue opening up more. Note: they may feel hurt that you haven’t been open and honest and that’s ok, they get to have their feelings, but it doesn’t mean you aren’t loved.

2. Practice eye gazing and noticing: When we are terrified to speak up and share our hearts, we have to work on trusting that we can be seen. So do some eye gazing with your partner, a friend, or anyone you are close to as a way just to see one another, and as you do name the emotions and physical sensations coming up as you stare at one another. This can feel awkward, but give it some time, and you’ll be surprised at how much this practice can teach you. Sit face to face and start with like 10 minutes or even just 5 if it feels really awkward and builds up from there. Note: if one or both of you has ADHD or like me CPTSD, give each other permission to do something with your hands while trying this. Those of us with neurodivergence or trauma that struggle with sitting still and exercises like this often need something to do to maintain focus so don’t take it personally if we get fidgety because it may not be solely from the intimacy happening.

These are just a few tools and many others to work with, but the bottom line is you deserve unconditional love from yourself and others!

by Valerie Schrader

I’m your resident generational trauma coach, sex educator, and earth witch!

For over 2 decades I’ve been doing Somatic Experiencing, Childhood Trauma Integration through practices like IFS Parts Work, Somatic Movement & Embodiment Work, EFT, Meditation, Breath Work, and Intuitive Guidance.

I’ve supported thousands of Women, AFAB, and Couples in that time and I’ve spoken at dozens of events about healing mother wounds, generational trauma, sacred sexuality, and my own experiences growing up with a narcissistic mom, being a former sex worker, business baddie that’s owned and run 3 businesses and I’ve led dozens of group programs. As a practicing witch for nearly 3 decades that works with ancestral, elemental, and herbalism I bring a special edge to my practice because I believe we can hold the dualities of science and mystical practices while working with the mind, body, and spirit.

I’ve gone from food stamps to building a 6-figure business as a single mom. I’ve gone from being hospitalized for a suicide attempt, losing my fiancé, and friends, nearly losing my business and feeling worthless to turning it all around by developing radical self-love and worth as I released the old wounds, toxic patterns, and people and welcomed in success, abundance, and joy in all areas of my life along with wildly fulfilling relationships. I’ve seen many clients do the same inner work to drastically change themselves and their outer world, so I know it’s possible for all of us.

A few other fun facts about me: I’m a mama of one amazing non-binary daughter who's in college, I’m a huge animal lover with 2 dogs and a crazy cat, I’ve experienced housing and food insecurity and building my business to 7 and 6 figures each and started both with under $1,000 because I’m resourceful AF, I was a professional aerialist for 17 years and trained jazz & blues singer. Social justice work is hella important to me and I come from a long line of activists (my German Jewish grandma legit stood up to Nazis like the badass she was)!


More From Relationships

Dear Single Girl on Valentine’s Day

by Genesis Gutierrez

Dating with CPTSD

by Louise Erskine

Swiping Inward

by Christina Vo

Your Relationship to Money & Your Parent(s)

by Valerie Schrader

Catch My Breath

by Shawna Astley