When Love Doesn’t Fit the Facts: Part I

Originally posted February 5, 2019 on www.jamieschmidtlpc.com/blog
I started doing some website maintenance today & realized I wrote this exactly a year ago. Whoo life sure is cyclical!

February is upon us. With Valentine’s Day just a little more than a week a way, I thought I would do a short series of posts about love from a DBT standpoint. Starting with the idea of justified/unjustified love.

This concept comes from our Emotion Regulation module, which I like to refer to as “Emotions 101.” This module covers all the basics of emotions – why we have them, how they interact with thoughts & urges, how to determine if they are justified & then how to change them if they are not.

In DBT we often talk about the validity of emotions. Basically we are looking to answer the question – Does it make sense to feel this way in this situation? When we grow up in chaotic or unpredictable homes, often times we develop conditioned responses to feel emotions under certain situations, even though it is not necessarily an effective or helpful response. 

This can be especially true in regards to love. As a child, we are dependent upon our primary caregivers to meet our survival needs. We also develop many of lifelong attachment patterns before the age of four. This means if you had parents who struggled with mental health issues, substance abuse, financial insecurities, homelessness, health concerns or incarceration, just to name a few, your schema of love was impacted by this.   Many of your deepest beliefs about love are likely still centered around the events and feelings that were occurring in your family at that time. 

You may notice, that no matter how far you are removed from your childhood you find that your engagement in close and intimate relationships still mirrors the relationships in your family during your early developmental years. The details may not all be the same, but the feelings are. You recognize the same patterns of chaos or unexpressed needs or even abuse. But you continue to reengage in these relationships because they are what feels comfortable. This is what love has always meant to you!

This is where the skill comes in. This simple 2-sentence description will give you a framework to check the facts for any situation regarding love. If you cannot answer yes to either of these questions in regards to any relationship, then it is not justified love. Aka it’s not Healthy!! Knowing this is the first step in making changes to your love patterns. 

In DBT we say love is justified when loving a person, animal or object:

1) Enhances quality of life for you or for those you care about.

2) Increases your chances of attaining your own personal goals. 

Now take a second to think about the healthiest relationship in your life. I bet you can think of concrete examples of how that relationship fits both of these categories. On the other hand, do you have relationships you have been unsure of? What happens when you check it against these? 

The goal of this exercise is to provide clarity. Once you determine an emotion does not fit the facts, you are then ready to move on to problem solving. What is the most effective step to take moving forward? Of course the answer to this is specific to your situation. For some it means, ending the relationship and letting go. For others it may mean asking your partner to participate in couples therapy together. 

For those who are ready to cut ties completely, check in later this week for a post on opposite action for unjustified love. 

Happy February,
Jamie

For the full list of unjustified / justified emotions see Examples of Emotions that Fit the Facts ER Handout 8A (p 229 in DBT Blue Book)

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Published by Jamie Schmidt, LPC

Just a human being on a journey of self discovery. Psychology + Spirit + Healing

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