If I told you I was going to tell you a love story, would you feel a champagne bubble of hope rise in your chest? Or would you hear a voice, husky w/ cigarette smoke (cue 40’s movie actress) saying: “Great, just what I need….more fairy tales…” Maybe you’d experience both – the expectation and the cynicism.
There’s a Yes and there’s a No in most of us about love.
We want the understanding, mutual support and cherishing, the belonging and sense of purpose. We want someone to split the burrito with.
But there’s also the stuff we don’t want that’s come along with love before, the stuff we’ve had more than our share of. We tell ourselves: Never again! I’m done with that!
If this sounds familiar, I have a question for you: What do you tell yourself you’re done with?
What don’t you want any more of this time around?
In workshops I’ve taken polls – here’s some of the things women swore to:
No more liars.
No more guys who’re afraid to commit.
I don’t want any more fights that go nowhere.
I won’t stand for cheating.
I won’t stand for being put down again – subtle or in my face.
I’ve had my last relationship with a Narcissist.
I’ll only be with a man who let’s me know he loves me.
I’m not going to live with anybody’s addictions.
He’ll have to be able to listen. Really listen.
I’m not going to be controlled by anybody’s insecurity again.
No more compromising on physical affection – I give it, and I want it returned.
There’s more, but you get the picture. There’s a lot at stake in avoiding the problems that pushed us out of past relationships. (Our happiness, our health, sometimes even our safety.)
But, Do you have some surefire way to make sure those problems don’t crop up again? Usually that’s harder. Sometimes, not knowing how to protect yourself from the misery of a bad relationship, or a devastating breakup, keeps you from trying again.
It might get you experimenting with halfway measures that don’t satisfy you in the end, like:
– “keeping it casual”
– the perpetual long-distance affair
– dating people who are already attached
– spending time with people you know you’ll never really love
– being with someone you love, but who you know you cannot build a life with
The world may judge, friends might worry, but you’re conducting a stealth experiment with the universe. This is what I think is being tested: Is there a way to get enough of the good parts of love, without the risks? This is a key question we’ll be exploring over time in this blog. But for now, let’s just notice that, even though you long for your own “happy ever after” story, you might have some well-earned doubt about it too.
Stuck between hope and fear.
The problem is, you can end up doubting that there’s any way to get unstuck.
Well, I’m here to tell you that there absolutely are ways to have a different and better relationship than you’ve ever had before. But it can be hard to know what and how to change your romantic “fate” on your own, whether that’s changing the kind of partners you choose, or changing yourself as a partner, or (usually) both.
In my clinical work over the past three decades, I’ve noticed one of the first things that gets in the way of change is telling yourself you shouldn’t get or don’t need any help.
If you’ve been trying on your own, or trying with help that hasn’t given you the results you want, I invite you to stay tuned for the next blog.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comment section. What won’t you stand for anymore in relationships? What halfway measures have you seen or tried to protect yourself in love?
© 2017 Gail Weiner
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