Have you ever asked yourself whether love is always good for you? As a life coach, I know all too well how, love, relationships and and meaningful connection are really super fuel for our happiness and wellbeing. As a species, one of our core human needs, is to be loved.

Love also comes with some solid health benefits, according to a growing body of scientific research.

  • Love makes you happy. When you first fall in love, dopamine, the feel-good brain chemical associated with reward, is especially active.
  • Love busts stress. After the honeymoon period, dopamine starts to share real estate with another brain chemical called oxytocin, or the bonding hormone. Thats the one which gives you that “warm and fuzzy” feelings for your partner. Oxytocin can also be good for your health.
  • Love eases anxiety. Being in love and feeling close to another person can mitigate anxiety. When we are alone cortisol and adrenaline levels rise when people feel insecure and threatened,” which triggers your body’s stress response.
  • Love helps you take better care of yourself. Sometimes, partners will notice signs of melanoma earlier, notice abnormal bruising, which can be a sign of serious conditions such as leukemia or signs of allergies and other persistent health problems before the sufferer does.
  • Love helps you live longer. Research has shown that married couples enjoy greater longevity than singles — making “’til death do us part” more poignant for our shared future together.

Love actually became problematic for my happiness and wellbeing.

Knowing the above, it may come as a surprise that the main topic of this blog is actually going to be about a time when love actually became problematic for my happiness and wellbeing.

The day I got married was the day I gave away something subconsciously that would become as debilitating for me as kryptonite is for Super Man.

Retrospectively perhaps I can say I fell in love too young, but at 18 years old, I was certain I had found my soul mate. We were really happy and life was great.

I believed I'd only get married if I was 100% convinced it was going to be forever.

The years rolled by and at 24 I got married. As a side note, marriage for me was a commitment I did not take lightly, I had come from a divorced family and had grown up not seeing my father for the ‘formative years’. I had grown up believing I would only get married if I was 100% convinced it was going to be forever. The reason being I would not want any child to grow up feeling abandoned and unloved by a parent.

On the day of my marriage, people were asking about my speech and I’ll not lie, I got a few raised eyebrows when I said I hadn’t written one! The thing is, that’s me, I never have written a speech in my life when it was for something important, I have only ever spoken from the heart in that moment. The words flow better and it feels more authentic than if I was reading it off a sheet of paper.

When I was giving my speech, in part of it, I told my new wife and all of our friends and family who were sharing the day with us, how I was grateful for having her in my life and how she filled a gap that was missing in me, with her in my life, she completed me.

I remember when I said this, it got a nice reaction from everyone. You could literally feel the love in the room as people knew I was talking from the heart.

Looking back, forgetting the rings and what not, my real wedding gift to my wife, was I gave her part of my heart and at the same time part of my identity. I was emotionally tied to her, this was nothing that was demanded of me nor coaxed out of me, I gave it willingly. It was however a gift that would in years to come become a source of sadness, unhappiness and lead to my self-worth sinking to the darkest depths.

The years rolled by, I was over the moon, life was great! We started a family and had a home that was full of love. Becoming a father was the best thing for me, it really gave me a sense of purpose and it was a role which I wanted to be the best I could be at. Having not always had my own father around in my life, it felt so beautiful to be able to share the magical moments with my kids growing up.

Of course we had our share of worries and concerns, but as a couple nothing felt unsurmountable. We even decided to move abroad and start a new life in the sun. This move was a bold one but it felt right and everything fell into place to make the transition between countries as seamless as possible.

With the move, looking back, I’d say even from early on, the family dynamics changed, life in general became more complicated in a foreign country and our relationship changed. Fundamentally as individuals we changed. As the years rolled by the marriage was clearly breaking down, we were no longer aligned. I could feel us moving further apart week on week, month by month for a couple of years.

It was in this two year period that the piece of my heart which was also intrinsically tied to my identity became a source of immense pain and sadness and lead to a low sense of self-worth.

In her book Know Your Worth, Anna Mathur describes perfectly how I felt.

‘When you give others the power to tell you who you are – you put your heart in their hands. They could massage it, or throw it against the wall. Displeasing others taps into feelings of shame and a sense of worthlessness.’

As the marriage started to unravel, the part of my identity which I believed at the time completed me as a person was under threat, my immediate reaction was to try and ‘fix’ the situation. I spent what felt like an eternity analysing every conversation, argument and harsh word trying to figure out what I was doing wrong.

I would look for any opportunity to demonstrate my love.

This ranged from buying gifts, doing anything within my grasp to alleviate any pressure I perceived she had, staying at home with the kids so she could go out for lunch or girls nights out. It got the point I just said yes to anything that was asked of me to not rock the boat!

I was so desperate to cling on to some semblance of family life, we’d head out for a dinner party or get together at friend’s houses, in the hope that we could pass some quality time together. However these moments became increasingly painful, instead of spending time together as a couple or family, I would watch her get increasingly drunk and flirtatious with other guys. We would not spend any time together, she’d be off partying and I would count the hours down until it was time to drive us home at the end of the night.

As time moved on, I became a shell of the person I was, in fact, I no longer knew who I was, I just felt lost and so, so worthless. What’s more I was so ashamed that the marriage was going bad, I didn’t talk to anyone about it. I just carried it all around inside trying to ‘put on a brave face’. It was so tiring and it certainly left its mark on me both physically and mentally.

That said, I remember the day where I got total clarity of the situation and reached the point of no return. I knew I had to stop the suffering. It was when I was sat on a sofa with two of my sons next to me and I was trying to keep it together as I was watching their mum flirt with another chap right in front of us.

I felt like such a looser! I was a complete wet lettuce, a sap, a mug, a fool and goodness knows what else I was calling myself. But then I looked at my kids and it hit me like a thunderbolt. They are going to grow up thinking that this is acceptable behaviour. They could believe it is ok for the person they love to disrespect them and hurt them. Or the flip side, be the one disrespecting and hurting their partner.

It was that thought which kickstarted the change. I had to show my children how important it is to have self respect and self worth.

To demonstrate it’s ok to have boundaries and have the confidence to enforce them should they require. More than anything I wanted to show them, everyone is beautiful as they are, there is no need to change who they are, to suit another person’s expectations. I had to show them how to LOVE themselves!

Since that day I have been on a new path, where I have gone from being my own worse enemy to my biggest friend. Not in a narcissistic way, I am by no means perfect, in fact I would say I am a perfectly imperfect human being. I accept myself, the good, the bad and the ugly. There is nothing within in my control, I can’t change if I decide to do so. I have learnt over the years that it is ok to treat myself with the same respect, compassion and love as I give to others, unconditionally. As I have learnt to do this, I no longer feel incomplete, I have come to realise, that I, and I alone, complete myself. I am enough.

A little caveat

Please note that I am in no way suggesting that anyone should not give themselves to another, love like that is special and should be honoured as long as it is coming from the right place and is not open to abuse. I had not just given myself metaphorically, I was emotionally involved, I believed that the other person actually formed part of who I was. I now know this not to be true, and it is this I am hoping to highlight for others.

If anything I have mentioned in this blog resonates with you, please know that you are not alone. There are experts who can help you. As a qualified life coach I have discovered a wealth of tools and techniques which you can use to help reframe how you see yourself and recognise your true value.

If you would like to learn a little more about my services you can book a free no commitment discovery call to see if maybe coaching could be a good fit for you.