I have said many times that one of the core secrets to good relationships is good partner selection. A huge number of relationship problems can be avoided up front simply by choosing good partners: partners with compatible ideas about relationships, with good communication and problem-solving skills, partners who are not abusive or controlling or entitled.
But there is a prerequisite to good partner selection. It’s one I don’t often think about, because it’s something I’ve always taken for granted. And I’ve become aware that I can’t take it for granted; indeed, it’s far from a given for many of us.
In order to choose good partners, you must first believe you are worthy of having good partners.
That can be tough. We don’t live in a world that equips us to feel worthy and empowered. Indeed, it sometimes seems to me that many of our social systems are predicated on, or even depend on, making us feel unworthy. When we feel worthy and empowered, what hook can advertisers use to market to us? How can politicians frighten us into voting for them? How can we be controlled?
Eve and I talk about worthiness in More Than Two. We argue that it’s a necessary part of good relationships, but I think it might go even deeper than we talk about in the book. We can not seek partners who are good for us if we do not feel worthy of partners who are good for us–if we do not believe that, intrinsically and for no reason other than the essential nature of our humanity, we deserve to be treated well.
Worthiness is hard. We offer resources in the book for helping to build a sense of worthiness. But I think it starts with faith. Even if we can’t explain why we’re worthy, we need to make the leap of faith that we are–not because we have done anything to earn it, but because being treated well is something we shouldn’t have to earn.
That faith doesn’t come easily. It means stepping off the edge of the cliff and believing there’s a net down there to catch you. I wish I knew what the magic roadmap toward feeling worthy was. I was fortunate; I had awesome parents who equipped me with fantastic tools to build self-worth, even when I was living in rural Nebraska and had no friends or peers.
It’s possible. I know it is. It starts, I think, with faith.
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