As human beings, one of our primary needs is to cultivate healthy self-love. But at the same time, we have a strong drive to connect with others. Relating and loving are innate.

The more people we have who love us, the more secure we feel, and the sweeter our lives are. The pleasures we experience in life are deeper and richer when we share them with our loved ones.

In our relationships, we’re driven by the desire to feel loved, understood and accepted for who we are. And nowhere else in life does the fear of rejection shake us to our very core than in the arena of romantic love.

Fear is a factor because loving others isn’t straightforward. We often forget that all of us have different ideas about how we want to express and receive love. And on top of that, most of us aren’t skillful in communicating clearly what we need, or creatively negotiating our differences.

So to avoid all that messy, difficult communicating and the heartache that can go with it, we look for a soul mate. Someone we’re perfectly compatible with. Someone who can read our minds.

Without having to tell this sweet lover what we want, they’ll instinctively know what it is and give it to us. This fantasy is perpetuated by romance novels and perfume commercials.

But perfect compatibility in a mate isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

Searching for perfect compatibility in a partner simply leads to frustration and despair. Since we’re humans and not clones, any two people who get together will eventually have differences of opinion.

So being in a loving relationship that lasts a lifetime is less about finding your soul mate and more about deepening your capacities for loving and communicating skillfully in the midst of differing viewpoints.

Indeed, how compatible the two of you are, is less relevant than how well you can deal with incompatibility.

Cultivating a thriving relationship hinges on how respectfully you speak, how open-heartedly you listen and how willing you are to deepen your trust in yourself and your beloved.

When you get involved with someone, you incrementally build trust that your beloved will stick around and will always respect you. But since no human being can be respectful 100 per cent of the time and most relationships don’t last, how you handle disrespect and rejection will dictate the depth of intimacy you’re capable of.

When you’re rejected, you feel humiliated. You lose your sense of self and your sense of belonging. Human beings will go to great lengths to avoid humiliation.

So in your drive to avoid humiliation, your fear has spawned dozens of deep-rooted fears that are effectively limiting your ability to be intimate with any lover. These same fears can also drive you to all manner of desperate acts to avoid losing the relationship.

If your self-confidence is shaky, your insecurity will limit your tolerance of and skills for dealing with another’s human frailty. Intentional or not, big or small, every breach of trust is a hill you’re prepared to die on. You’ll overreact to small offenses, find it difficult (or be unable) to mend broken trust, and be incapable of resolving issues completely. Instead, you’ll hold a grudge. Or you’ll develop the habit of bailing out of the relationship when you hit a bump.

Chain, Chain Of Love

Part of the shift from just dating to having a committed monogamous relationship includes building a shared dream for a very specific lifestyle. It contains element of working, parenting, playing and even retirement. Building the dream creates a sense of ownership of both the dream and the person sharing it with you.

Many people treat commitment like a form of ownership. In a sense, they feel that they searched for and found love, they bought it with their commitment, so now they own love. Thus, it’s theirs to do with as they please.

But love isn’t a thing you can shop for, buy and sell, like a car. Love is an evolving state of being that you create inside yourself and share with others.

Accordingly, it’s impossible to guarantee that you’ll feel the same way and want the same things next week, next year, or 10 years from now. In the course of human events, the one constant is evolution.

We don’t stop evolving until we die. But couples hope that they won’t change. The starry eyes of passion blur their vision. They don’t want to acknowledge that, sooner or later, change will happen to them. They also think that any change will threaten their relationship.

Hence, when the inevitable evolution occurs, they aren’t equipped to deal with it. Their egos are invested in maintaining the status quo, so they feel abandoned and betrayed.

Unwilling to re-negotiate the lifestyle their ego is so tied to, they reject their partner’s evolving truth. A common reason couples give for breaking up is that they want different (incompatible) things that they aren’t willing to negotiate. They’d rather lose the relationship than the lifestyle.

Couples don’t go splitsville because they stop loving each other. Love never dies, but it can get buried so deeply under hurt and anger that it seems to be nonexistent.

The Voodoo That You Do

Part of your self-growth is developing the skills and resilience to thrive in any situation. One way to do this is to honor what you’re learning, instead of putting hexes on your exes.

Or do you believe that letting go of past hurts just excuses your ex’s behavior, effectively letting them off the hook for being a jerk?

Well, consider this: every affront you don’t let go of now will show up in spades in your next relationship. Both you and the kind, sweet person you love next will have to pay for your ex’s transgressions. And the cost of your resentments is steep. When you hold a grudge, you forfeit future fulfillment. The first step in setting yourself free to love is dropping those 50-pound Samsonites—permanently.

But it’s hard to let go of your self-righteous anger, isn’t it? The difficulty in releasing resentments cuts to the very core of what it means to be human.

Your resentments stem from the times you were humiliated. For a human being, humiliation is the most painful and unforgivable experience you can have, because you lose the power to protect yourself. You also lose your pride, your sense of belonging and even your sense of identity.

So to avoid future humiliation, logic dictates not letting anyone get close enough to hurt you. But that’s just throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Self-protection goes too far when you create a globalized fear of intimacy. You shrink your emotional scale to the point that you only allow yourself to feel a little bit of joy and a little bit of pain.

When you build your capacity to deal powerfully with rejection, your response to a minor breach of trust will be proportionate (not bailing out). And you’ll discover how to adapt your responses to fit new situations. You’ll quickly repair trust, then you’ll let it go.

All the while, you’ll be building your confidence in your ability to choose partners wisely, build trust steadily, and love deeply. Confidence also helps you maintain your perspective through the breakups. You will survive and love is always worth going for.

The Wisdom of the Heart

Each relationship you have is an opportunity to enhance your skills and learn more about yourself. You can make smarter choices of partners when you’ve made an effort to learn as much as you can from what you’ve already done.

Let’s sift through your past experiences, panning for nuggets of golden wisdom. What did you learn from your romantic relationships that will serve you in the future? Your learnings will fall into two basic categories: honing your relationship skills and seeing yourself more clearly.

The relationship skills you’ll develop could include how to:

• Spot untrustworthy behavior quickly
• Confront unacceptable behavior immediately
• Set a boundary clearly and respectfully
• Disagree without becoming defensive or verbally abusive
• Design a strong support system so you don’t get desperate for company
• Bounce back from rejection with a stronger appreciation for who you are
• Use your alone time to your highest benefit.

Your self-discoveries could be that you:

• Will trust your gut feelings about people
• Value firm boundaries about respect and honesty
• Understand how much power you lose when you ignore or rationalize others’ inappropriate and unacceptable behavior
• Will never allow yourself to become so desperate that you’ll lower your standards to avoid loneliness
• Absolutely will not settle for less than the relationship you desire.

All of these learnings point to the most challenging aspect of romantic relationships: developing the willingness to be ever more vulnerable as intimacy deepens. However, because the fear that accompanies deep intimacy is so strong, most people would rather start over with someone new than risk being rejected.

So if your deepest motivation is avoiding rejection, you’ll settle for superficial relationships. But you’re not stuck with just two choices: avoid rejection or go all-in and experience the joy of being deeply known and profoundly loved.

You can develop the confidence that comes from making your passion your highest priority. Avoiding rejection takes a back seat when you focus on your desire to experience as much love as you can during your lifetime. And the more relationships you have, the more you learn, the better you get at loving.

I’m In Love With My Best Friend

The drive to avoid the fear of intimacy, change and rejection causes many couples to break up because they lose respect for and trust in each other. They stop treating each other as friends. It’s ultimately the loss of friendship that spells the end of the relationship.

At the heart of friendship is trust and respect. You can’t be in a healthy intimate relationship with someone who doesn’t trust and respect you as a friend. Nietzsche and I agree that friendship is the basis of a lasting relationship.

So when the friendship is gone, the relationship has lost its base. At that point, you’re faced with a choice: rebuild the foundation or walk away. Many people immediately bail on what could be a potentially fabulous relationship. But because they walked away, they’ll never know what they could have had.

Instead of leaving, pause to consider how much time and energy you’ve invested in this relationship. Rather than giving up on it because you believe your partner isn’t loving you enough, hang in there. Talk to each other. Pinpoint what’s good about how you love each other and use it as a basis for building a better relationship.

Start by asking each other this fundamental question: What would make this relationship even better for you? Ask lots of questions about what your beloved wants and openly share what you want, too.

Give up the fantasy that if your partner really loved you, they should be able to read your mind. Clearly ask for what you want and how you want to receive it.

Opening your heart and your mind to creating new possibilities is the first step toward having richer, more satisfying relationships. It’s so worth it!

Author's Bio: 

Judy Widener is a Certified Life Coach and author of Power For A Lifetime: Tools You Customize to Build Your Personal Power Every Day Of Your Life. You can download two chapters of her book at no cost at Her passion is assisting her clients to discover what is most important to them, then to create more balance and satisfaction in their lives. Empowerment Life Coaching is a comprehensive program that teaches clients simple ways to build their personal power and overcome obstacles to achieving their dreams. Judy has coached more than 600 people over the past 12 years. Her website is