Before the disappointments and heartbreaks that you’ve most likely faced, you were more willing to enter your partner’s internal world with reverence and unbounded curiosity, and you opened your heart and soul to that lover.
Whatever flaws or prior heartbreaks had occurred for either of you in the past, they were immaterial in the face of the intensity of your connection – until things fell apart.
You may have, by now, experienced many initially hopeful relationships that have not worked out. You are not alone. Many sincere and ardent relationship seekers suffer painful disappointment and disillusionment in their early experiences and are wary of risking their hearts again.
As people go through connecting and losing partners, they often have a harder time finding good prospects who are available when and where they are. Their lives are filled with rapidly shifting scenarios that require more time, energy, and motivation than they can muster.
If you’re like many of my patients who have been repeatedly wounded in intimate relationships, you may have taken the stand that it is better to risk less in order to preserve more.
You begin to separate your authentic and vulnerable self from the one you present to new prospects, and you develop a performance presentation that is not as vulnerable to discouragement if the relationship doesn’t work out. In short, you’re protecting yourself – safely behind emotional walls. “Nothing ventured, nothing gained,” has become “Nothing ventured, nothing lost.”
What you’ve done is created an “emotional crust.” And the outcome is frighteningly predictable. When people become less and less authentic, open, real, and vulnerable, they morph into rigid versions of their presented performers. They become more inflexible, suspicious, immovable, obstinate, and unadaptable to each new relationship.
If they do succeed in getting a relationship going as their “pseudo” person, they are eventually going to crack, and awkwardly pour forth what they’ve been stuffing. The partner on the other side may welcome that more authentic person or turn away depending on what they find.
There are some infallible truths that we have to accept before we can let go of our hard-earned emotional armoring and rediscover our ability to believe in love.
Having worked for over four decades with some of the most beloved people I’ve ever known, I’ve been in the middle of heartbreaking tragedies, none of which those people expected or were prepared for. I’ve suffered with them, and for them, watching the process of grief unfold as it must.
People actually get better at being sad if they are sad most of the time, and better at being optimistic if they look at what they are blessed about rather than the price they pay. If you really want to be different from you are, stay on the course of the direction and goals you’ve set and ardently practice who you want to become.
As they master that transformation, they strengthen their resolve every time they are most tempted to lose it. Look for your strengths and the ways that you become more valuable and stronger through your disappointments. Focus on those qualities in yourself that you are proud of and that are desirable for others to share.
Both are required for life to have promise. Though every one of us is continually balancing between security and risk, we can live precariously with an impassioned devotion to being safe at all costs, but we can’t live fully alive without a commitment to challenge and transformation.
Whirlpools of temporary deviation are part of life, but getting back on your path as soon as you are able will expedite that process.
You need people around you who support and model the changes you want to make and the goals you want to achieve. Look at the people you’ve known who turn fear into purpose, and loss into recommitment. They don’t waste time in the past, except for the lessons they must take with them, and they don’t pretend an illogical future.
Instead, they radiate a sense of practical idealism and a non-escapable love of the options they have. They’re good models to have internal conversations with when you feel defeat looming. Very few of us can meet the world after more than two decades in prison as Nelson Mandela did with the words, “If I am bitter, they have won.” But, we can get closer, knowing that people like him existed and still do.
Crust is a defensive coating that starts out as a protection and ends up as an emotional prison. As it filters out potential harm, it simultaneously stops love from coming in or out.
It is all about how open and deeply you are willing to risk to live your life fully. You can’t close off to potential heartbreak without also closing off to potential joy. Each of us must decide how open we want to be at different times in our life. Just be careful as you make those decisions. If you choose to keep your heart in an emotional castle surrounded by a moat of doubt, you could become locked into the sanctuary of loneliness you have inadvertently created.
In my 40+ years of working with singles and couples, I know what it takes to free yourself from the past so you can create a future abundant with profound, soul-satisfying love.
Your future can look very different from what you’ve endured in the past. I know this for a fact. But I also know that to get there, it takes a commitment to doing things differently – and a set of skills that will make the dream of a fulfilling relationship… a reality.
All of this can feel like a radical change to what you’ve been used to doing and feeling, but it’s change that’s necessary in order for you to have a chance at the kind of love your heart is aching for.
Are you willing to embark on this soul-satisfying adventure?
If so, I’d love to be your guide. That’s why I’ve partnered with Flourish, so I can offer you the advice, strategies and insights you need for this adventure through my articles and programs.
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The advice contained in the articles I’ve written for Flourish will help you be able to attain one of life’s sweetest rewards: a love that grows in joy, adoration and devotion year after year, all through life’s inevitable ups and downs.