There’s something undeniably beautiful about the idea of finding a love, an intimate partnership, that “feels like home.”
It always make me think of that song by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes where the chorus says “Home is wherever I'm with you.”
Many of us long to find a relationship that embodies those qualities of an ideal, loving home… a place where we feel safe, where we feel free to be our real self, where we can both give and receive unconditional love.
But obviously, many of us have experienced relationships in the past that left us feeling unsafe, unaccepted, and unloved… not like the feeling of home at all, right? Well, maybe not so fast. Perhaps there are parts of us that, unfortunately, feel “at home” with people who aren’t actually good for us at all.
I think it’s worth taking a look at how our partnership choices can reveal some truths - perhaps some uncomfortable truths - about old patterns we’re still carrying that associate “home” with dynamics that aren’t actually healthy for us, despite how “familiar” they might feel.
Let’s say, for example, that you’ve often found yourself falling in love with people that were unavailable for one reason or another.
Perhaps they were very emotionally unavailable and never seemed to acknowledge your needs in the relationship.
Maybe they always prioritized their job, their friends, or a hobby over your partnership, making you feel like you were always far down the list of what was important to them.
Perhaps they flat out told you at the beginning that they weren’t really looking for a relationship right now, but you made yourself believe that if you could just show them how amazing of a partner you would be, they would ultimately choose to be with you.
Any of these scenarios sound familiar?
Now, desperately seeking unavailable love “shouldn’t” feel like home.. and yet, for many of us, it may actually replicate emotional experiences from our childhood homes.
Did a parent’s love always feel unavailable to you?
Was a parent very emotionally distant, or so emotionally immature that they couldn’t really meet your needs?
Did a parent always prioritize work, friends, or a hobby over spending time with you, so that you always felt low on their list of what is most important?
Did you try everything you could to somehow prove to them that you were worthy of their love?
Did you go to great lengths, like trying to bring home straight A’s from school, or being the star player on your team, or being perfectly behaved at home, to show how worthy you were, in the hopes that they would ultimately see you & choose you?
No child ever deserves to feel this way, and yet, this is precisely the feeling we may unconsciously associate with “home”.
So then, when we meet a romantic partner who makes us feel that exact same way, that has us running in those familiar cycles - it can be strangely comforting. Not because it’s healthy or what we truly deserve, but because it’s so damn familiar.
So, how can we begin to unlearn this? How can we nurture a love that feels like home in the best sense of the word… safe, accepting, and unconditionally loving?
I’d start with tending to your most immediate physical home… your body. If your body is the primary home you live in, what do you want that home environment to feel like? I’m sure many of would say peaceful, well-nourished, well-cared-for. By tending to our nervous system and our physical well-being, we can slowly retune our inner experience to feel familiar with ease, safety, and acceptance. Looking up resources on nervous system regulation, breath work, relaxation techniques, and self-love practices would be a phenomenal idea.
In short, we do the inner work of finding home sweet home within - cultivating self-love, self-acceptance, and inner worthiness as our baseline experience. That’s the true homecoming.
So then, when a new person steps into our lives, we learn to ask ourselves: How well does this person align with the feeling of home I’ve found within myself?
If they deepen your sense of ease, if they soothe your nervous system with consistently loving words and actions, if they remind you that you are worthy just as you are, and if your dog really, really likes them.. congratulations! You may have just found a love that truly feels like home.
But if this new person revs up your nervous system with anxiety, who leaves you guessing about their availability and interest level, who doesn’t make you feel like a priority, who actives one or more of those 4 trauma responses of Fight, Flight, Freeze, or Fawn… then this person may feel like “home” in the negative sense of a familiar pattern that you were unfortunately taught to accept.
But now you know better. That’s not a true home. And that’s not what true love looks like.
And you are no longer going to beg to sit at a table where true love is not being served.
I hope you will find the courage to say “No” to any relationship that feels “familiar” for all the wrong reasons and to keep looking instead for a love that does, in fact, feel like home sweet home.
- Matthew Robertson