The Power of Extraordinary Moments
Is love an addiction? Are all relationships addictive? This article explores how all healthy relationships include at least one addictive moment and how, in unhealthy relationships, this one moment is often the basis for the whole relationship.
Is It Love?
People often ask me what many consider to be "the" relationship question; "So is it love?" And you know the truth. This is not the question they should be asking. They should be asking, "should I stay?"
"Should I stay?"
Yes. "Should I stay?"
Unfortunately, whenever I tell this to people, the stuff usually hits the fan.
"But I love him. He's so good to me. Except for when we fight, of course. But I want to stay and work it out. I know we both really love each other. If only we could just ... "
"So when your relationship is good, it's very, very good. But when he's bad, he's horrid?"
"Yes! That's him! How did you know?"
"Because that's everybody, including me!"
So how do you know if it's love?
Simple. Can you picture the moment?
Yes, the "moment." If you've been in love, you've fallen. And if you've fallen, you can still picture this moment, even if it was forty years ago and even if the relationship only lasted a week or two. If you fell in love, you will still be able to picture the moment even forty years later.
You see love is a "discovery," not a craft project. It is an amazing moment, not a fine wine nor a hand crafted cigar. Of course, you can fall in love with all these things and so much more. Regardless, when you love someone, you fell, even if you think you never had this moment.
What I'm saying is, all genuine "love" begins with some kind of "eureka" moment, an "aha" experience, an "emergence" of something beautiful. In fact, all famous artists and scientists say this very same thing about their discoveries. And they're right. These moments are the same experience. Of course, in their cases, it's about falling in love with the beauty in something about how our world works, while with us, it's about falling in love with how another person works.
Either way though, falling in love is an instantaneous moment, a splice in your life events which no logic in the world has or will ever explain. One minute, you don't even see this person; the next, you feel pain if you don't see them.
In fact, the poet Rumi describes this best, when he says;
"When I am with you, we stay up all night.
When you're not here, I can't go to sleep.
Praise God for these two insomnias!
And the difference between them."
You don't grow into insomnias like these. You get hit over the head with them.
So what if you can't ever remember feeling this moment? Good question. And no one, certainly me, has a right to tell you, you do or do not love someone. Even so, there are truths about love. One of them is, even if the moment came and went in a flash, which is how it usually happens, you ended up with this person somehow and it's not because you are sick or wounded or simply need something they have. This is hog wash. If you ended up with someone in any way other than through an arranged marriage, you had one of these "aha" moments.
So how could this be true if you have no memory of this moment?
I can not really say, as there are far too many variables. All these "no memory" events do have one thing in common though. You missed the moment. How? You were in shock.
Yes. And by this, I mean, this moment came at you at such an unexpected time and place that when it hit you, you went into shock and never consciously witnessed it.
Can such a thing really happen?
All the time. In fact, there is never a time when someone falls in love wherein this going into shock does not occur to some degree.
How can you tell?
The disbelief. Thus, the universal evidence that you went into shock is that you can't believe the event even happened.
Of course. In fact, how many times has one of your friends said to you, "I can't believe I like him or her so much" or "I still can't believe we even met." Some people even say these things thirty years later, in words like, "I just knew when I met your father he was the one I'd marry."
So why doesn't this happen more nowadays?
Hard to say really. But I'd bet a part of this not happening more nowadays is that we tend to analyze too darn much. In fact, when I was in my twenties and fancied myself a poet (which I am definitely NOT! <grin>), I wrote something about this very condition. I wrote,
"Love is not something to reason out.
In reasoning lies the seeds of doubt."
Certainly, I'm no Rumi. Even so, these two lines may have hit the heart of the matter even back then. Nothing kills a new love, or any love for that matter, like trying to reason it out. And my point is still the same; that whether you remember the moment or not, all "love" happens to us in an instant, a magical moment, and this is true whether this love be about our children, our partners, our callings, or our cars.
Obvious differences aside, then, love emerges like a sudden beautiful dreamlike realization. More over, you better get used to it being this way if you ever want your relationship to work.
Oh and one more thing. "Going slow." Forget it, inside you at least. Outside, yes, use brakes and steering as much as you can. Inside though, once you fall in love, any hope of not being in love is lost. So be brave and don't even try.
So What is Love?
For me to even try to answer this question is total arrogance. Even so, we can't even begin to talk about love if we don't first at least find a starting point from which to talk.
So what is love? My starting point answer is, "Love is seeing the beauty in anything and in anyone."
"But can't you love someone who is ugly?," people ask.
No. No one you love will ever be ugly. This is just not possible. Although your friends might not see what you see in her or him. So perhaps, this person whom you see so much beauty in is not the typical beauty queen type or the movie star leading man. Even so, to you, this person will be beautiful. Why? Because this is what falling in love allows us to see. We get to see what I imagine the Creator of Life sees in each of us; the beauty in every one of us, even in the worst of us.
Why can't we all see this beauty?
Well, we're just not capable of this much love. Perhaps people like the Dalai Lama are. In fact, I imagine he is. But I'm not. And you're not.
What we are capable of though is seeing the beauty in a few people at a time, mostly in one person at a time. Which is why we artificially divide "love" into categories of love, like the "romantic" kind and the "love your child" kind.
Are there differences?
Obviously. Still, the one thing all love has in common is, we suddenly realize the beauty in something or in someone, and once realized, we can picture this beautiful moment forever.
What about when you have no feeling for someone though. Haven't you fallen out of love?
In a sense, yes, and I'll talk more about this loss later. What does not go away, though, is the original beautiful exciting event. This experience stays in us forever, at least as long as we're alive. The romantic in me says even longer. Whatever the case, once love comes, it's in you.
Many would now ask me to prove this. Rightfully so.
You can, to yourself at least. Simply picture the first time you saw this person where you saw the person in a good light and couldn't believe what you saw. If you do this, what you'll see is, you can still see this falling in love moment.
What if you still can't?
Then I'd ask you how it feels to be asked to do this. If you're open and consciously trying, you will be able to do it. If you're angry and hate this person, then your hate will block your view. Likewise, if you think back to your first love, no matter how many years have passed, you will still be able to see, and feel, the original moment. However, if this person really let you down or mistreated you or wounded you, then you may not be able to bring the original moment to mind. None the less, this does not mean it is not there. It means simply that something in you is blocking your view.
The point still is, love is a single moment of clarity which never ceases to amaze, given you can picture this moment. And if you can't, then it's simply a matter of this moment being inaccessible, not missing.
As for this being a definition, I told you at the beginning I couldn't really define love. Beyond this defining moment, that is.
So do you choose the person?
The answer. No, you don't. Love chooses you.
But don't you ever choose love?
No. Never. Ever. And yes, I can hear the crowd murmuring angry rhubarbs against me and against this idea right now.
How can I be so sure we don't choose?
Because I do not believe in "unconscious choices." I simply do not believe they exist. And I am not alone. Many well known personality theorists also believe this. For instance, Alfred Adler, one of the founding therapists of our current therapies, believed, as I do, in "unconsciousness" rather than in "unconscious choice."
What's the difference?
The difference is, saying you can "choose" someone means you believe you can choose to fall in love. Wow, is this idea a beauty! You know how many people punish themselves because they believe they don't fall in love because they just can't choose to let go? Most of the people suffering in relationships. And most of the people who suffer from not having a relationship.
No matter what people think though, the truth is, falling in love is a moment, nothing more. Granted, it's a magical, instantaneous, infectious, addicting moment to be sure. One minute, you are feeling one way about your life. The next, you feel totally different. Still, this moment is one life chose for us, not a moment we chose. So even if we believe we allow it to happen, no one "allows" it to happen. We simply allow it to unfold once it has already happened.
So what about all the people who say they've never fallen in love, those who say they've just kind of grown to like a person?
Perhaps what they're saying is the literal truth. Perhaps they're in "like" with this person, and not in "love." Either way, though, my point is, if you're in love, you fell, no matter whether you know the moment or not. More over, no one chooses these moments. Life chooses them for us.
So how do we end up with the people we end up with if we don't choose?
Here, I'm going to tread lightly. This question is simply too complex and loaded a question for me or anyone else to answer comprehensively. In fact, I see being asked this question as analogous to being asked to predict weather. So while you can get some clues by looking at the sky and at weather instruments, at least in the days right before and after the time you want to predict, the experts know, there is no way to accurately predict either weather or falling in love.
Now, would those addicted to knowing tomorrow's weather please stand up. Now go to your local weather predictions and strike out all instances of the words "partly" and "chance of." Tomorrow, look again to see how accurate those stricken out predictions were.
My experience is, the correct-prediction averages fall to pretty much the same level as what you and I could do on our own. Perhaps less accurate. In fact, the best predictor for rain, snow or clear skies is still someone's arthritic joints. If they know how to find the good in these afflictions.
So is these any reason to learn to recognize the weather-predicting signs? Yes, there is, if only to be better connected to your world and your life.
As for predicting "love," I believe this same idea holds true in that, there is some good in learning to recognize the falling in love signs. For instance, people who fall in love always fall in love with a person who has an opposite "character type."
Opposite "character type?"
Yes, opposite "character type." And for those unfamiliar with Emergence "character types," let me just describe them briefly.
All people in situations wherein they and someone else simultaneously have needs have a default position with regard to who gets their needs met first. For example, say two people arrive at the entrance to the book store at the very same time. Each person will have an automatic, internally scripted response to either go first or go second.
Now before you start thinking this has anything to do with self worth or self confidence or gender or culture or anything like that, please hear, I am only referring to peoples' initial, default internal reactions in these situation. Thus, every person has programmed into them one of these default internal reactions, and there are actually only two basic reactions.
I call these two basic reactions, our "character states," and I call them, being in a "me" state, and being in a "you" state.
As to what these two titles means, being in a "me" state is kind of like being in a "me first" state, while being in a "you" state is like being in a "you first" state."
Either way, my point is, we each have programmed into our characters one of these default responses. Either we're a "me first" person or a "you first" person. Thus, every time we share a mutual need situation with someone else, we enter one of these two states. Further, entering one of these two states is a normal and healthy response.
Being a "me" means simply that people who start in a "me" state feel it is normal and natural for them to go first. In fact, they feel they should be allowed to go first and that it is their right.
Remember, I'm talking about peoples' internal natures, not their mental or emotional training or wounded responses.
And the "you" state people?
People who start in a "you" state feel the other person should go first. In fact, they feel uncomfortable when someone wants to let them go first, just as "me's" feel uncomfortable when someone doesn't want to let then go first.
Please know, these two states are neither selfishness nor injury no matter what my descriptions sound like. And if you're really interested, you can read about "character types" in depth elsewhere on the site. For now though, I am making but one point: all romantic relationships occur between people of opposite character types. One starts in a "me" place, the other, in a "you" place.
How much of this helps in the predictive stuff?
A lot actually. For instance, I can pretty much understand now how at times, I can mentally find a woman extremely attractive, on paper at least, but still have no chemistry. Why? Well I start in a "you" place and so must she. This is simply a case of two wall sockets trying to fit into each other. Definitely a no go situation.
"Plugs" only fit into "sockets." And "me's" only fit into "you's."
Is knowing this a predictive thing though?
Not really, although it does help me to understand some of how people do and do not fit with each other. In fact, in the thousands of cases in which I've looked at peoples' character types, I've not seen one exception as far as romantic attraction. Even so, knowing about character types is more like being able to tell storm clouds from puffy summer clouds. You know something about what may happen. But you still can't predict what will absolutely happen. Not even close.
The Quick and only accurate answer. In a New York minute. And being from New York, I know this amount of time all too well. No joke.
"But can't people grow in love?"
No they can't. They can, however, heal what prevents them from seeing beauty in each other and in this way, see more beauty in someone they already love.
When this happens, you do feel more love.
Sometimes, too, when people want to have a relationship really badly, this powerful wanting drives them to put in a lot of work to make an existing relationship better. Sometimes, this works in that sometimes they do fall in love along the way. Even here though, this "falling in love" moment takes an instant and not the time it took to do the whole long period of hard work.
What I'm saying is, "love" is simply not something which comes on slowly. It's always a discovery thing, never a getting used to or working it out thing.
So what about all the people who say things like, "real love takes time."
They're right. Being healthy enough to be open when love comes calling can take a life time in fact. And sadly, some people will miss out no matter how hard they try.
In truth, though, even very damaged people fall in love. They do it all the time. They just don't get to enjoy this love in the mature, grown up sense of enjoying it, meaning, they don't find a partner with whom they can heal and grow.
This, then, is what takes time, what I call, the "deepening process." No coincidence this is what hypnotists call it when they help someone to go further into a hypnotic state. In fact, the hypnotist's "deepening" is very similar to what we do when we "deepen" our love for someone. Still, this "deepening" is neither the beginning nor the cause nor the source of love. It is simply the expanding of a love we already feel.
Does love grow then?
The surprise answer. No. Never. However, we can work at making the places in which we do connect more solid. For instance, every couple I know struggles in some way with the "two biggies"; "sex" and "money." I find this true even when couples deny they have any problems in these two areas.
What's the truth there? Hard to say. But know, the hallmark of a good relationship is that the two people continue to grow and explore even where things are comfortable.
So am I saying we should overlook the old advice that says, "if it works, don't fix it."?
In a way, yes. However, please know I do see the good in this advice and do not believe you should spend endless hours analyzing a relationship. In fact, this kind of analyzing is a sure way to lose access to whatever love did exist.
So how do you explore without analyzing?
Huge topic. My single word answer is, "emergence." However, for most people, this is as good as me giving no answer as learning to use emergence to heal takes time. Even so, given you have a partner willing to do this hard work, it can be wonderful.
What makes this work?
I'd say it is the "blamelessness." In fact, "blamelessness" is actually the primary ingredient in this type of exploring and it's based almost entirely on an idea I've already alluded to; that if we hurt someone, we have not chosen to do it but rather have responded to already existing, "flawed" programming.
Does this kind of "blamelessness" actually exist in the real world though?
As an ideal, yes, and there are many ways in which you can do emergence with each other to expand your abilities to embrace this idea. This, actually, is a lot of what makes this effort worth it; that you not only find better ways to get along, you also get to discover more and more beauty in each other and in the world.
Notice my words, "discover more beauty." This is me saying you get to fall in love with each other more and more.
So here we are again at this section's question. Does love grow?
Again, here's the answer.
Nope. Never. But you can grow more able to access an already existing love almost indefinitely. In fact, your access can grow indefinitely, right up to the moment of death and beyond. For instance, I have come to love both my mother and my father more and more as life goes on. From time passing and healing my wounds? Never. Won't happen anyway.
No, I've worked my butt off to get this to happen. Still, my mother has been dead now close to forty years and every year, I find I love her more, this with a woman who was a violent, scary, schizophrenic anorexic. She was also the woman who provoked in me the unending love of learning and the courage to speak this learning out even when others tell me I'm wrong.
Discovering this beauty in her has taken me most of my life. And it has been worth every pain and step I've taken.
So does love grow? No. But in the case of my mother, the "falling in love" moment had been buried in fear, in the shock I felt toward her behaviors, and in the distance that existed between us.
The truth is though, this love was there all along. I just couldn't access it. Until I had done the work to emerge from my fear of her and my blame.
All I can say is, it has been well worth it.
Can this happen to you, for instance, with your spouse or parents?
Yes. But gaining access to this love can take a lot of hard work and a long time. But you knew this already. At least, your heart knew.
Does love die?
So where do the feelings go then?
We lose our access to them.
Through painful life experiences.
How can I explain people who say they've "fallen out of love" then?
They haven't. They simply have lost access to the connection though which they once saw the beauty in that person. No connection. No ability to see the beauty.
Oh, on paper, you might be able to remain aware mentally that this beauty exists, such as when a prospective romantic partner sounds good on paper. But this "good on paper" love stuff never creates the connection. Only being vulnerable and real with each other creates it. And if you, or the other person, isn't being vulnerable and real, then you can be sure you will not see whatever beauty is there. Why? There simply won't be a path on which to travel to see this beauty.
When this connection gets lost, and when it stays lost for a long, long time, people assume their love has died. Logical, yes it has. Even so, if love ever existed, this love is still there, albeit mostly buried beneath this logic. How can I be so sure?
Again, I've sat with hundreds of couples, some whom have arrived at my door ready to kill each other. Sometimes, too, the two people have reached the point of no return and eventually do split up.
In every case, though, no matter how distant or angry the two people are, if they fell in love, they will have the "falling in love" moment still in them. And if I get them each to picture this moment, even if only briefly, then often, their love gets rekindled similarly to how stoking embers in a recently grayed out fireplace rekindles a fire.
Love does not die. We simply lose our access to it.
Can you get addicted to a person?
Absolutely. In fact, the truth is, no one falls in love without getting addicted to the person.
The thing is, in good relationships, this addiction is only the discovery moment and not the whole foundation. Thus, in a healthy relationship, there is a lot more than a falling in love moment or even love itself.
What else is there in a healthy relationship?
Friendship. Equality. Respect. Admiration. Loyalty. Kindness. Support. Concern. Encouragement. Separateness. Connection. And on and on. And when you love someone, this list is literally endless; the "let me count the ways" endless.
What, then, about the unhealthy, addictive part of love?
Again, the "falling in love" moment is very addictive. We all know this.
What few people realize though is that this powerfully addictive moment is, in and of itself, very healthy.
What is not healthy is if this is all there is. For instance, years ago I knew a woman who was pining away for a lost love. I asked her what she missed. She told me he and she had once, in the beginning of their relationship, had a special moment. In this moment, her fellah saw someone in a car ahead of them throw garbage from their car into the street. This man then stopped and picked this garbage up.
OK. So what he did was admirable. I, in fact, do see much beauty in what he did. Even so, the truth is, this is the only moment this woman had access to, the only falling in love event. Thus, when asked what else she loved about him, she could not find a single additional thing and so, kept referring back to this one event.
Is this possible? Could she really have been basing all her feelings on this one event?
Yes. And this kind of thing happens more times than not in fact. What I mean is, most falling in love events are just like this woman's event. They are all simply a moment in which we saw something beautiful in someone else.
In and of themselves, this is all fine and good. And if this motivates two people to help each other to grow and heal, then this moment has done its job. But if we base a whole relationship on this one moment, we are missing the whole point of falling in love. Worse yet, we might as well be dead, in that we are living almost entirely in the past; in that one passed moment.
So what keeps these one-moment relationships alive?
Reliving the "extraordinary" moment. In fact, the story I've just told you is probably one of the more significant life events in my life, in that it left me with a lasting view of how powerfully addictive these moment actually are. They literally can be felt as one long addictive event, similar to the way drug addicts "chase" the high.
What then about the good in these moments?
As I've said, these moments are the sparks which can ignite a loving relationship. Focus on them for more than this though and this spark becomes an empty passion, more a promise of love than a realization of it.
Isn't passion a normal part of being in love though?
Yes. At times, such as in those moments in which you discover more beauty in someone, or reconnect to beauty you already knew to be there but had somehow lost sight of.
All too often, though, people mistake this kind of "passion" for "being in love." When this happens, people feel the down side of an addiction.
Know this. Healthy love is never static. Over time, it never stops becoming more visible. This growth, then; the ability to see more deeply into an existing love; is what identifies love as "healthy love." Conversely, the fixed view of a single moment is what identifies love as unhealthy and addictive, no matter how wonderful that moment may have been.
So is all unhealthy love an addiction?
How does a person know when it's time to leave?
This is a hard question, not so much because there are not spiritual and logical signs to be seen but rather because we humans are so capable of rising to the occasion at times. In fact, this "at times" part is what makes it so hard to know when to leave.
The point then is, we're courageous sometimes. At other times, we're not. And courageous people do amazing things. Sometimes.
Here, then, is what makes this question so difficult to answer.
People do change. Sometimes.
So should you wait for a person to change?
The answer. You shouldn't. And if you are currently in a holding pattern waiting for someone you love to get their act together, then again, you might as well be dead. In truth, then, you are simply living life as if you were already dead or at very least, you're living life as if your relationship is already dead.
So what "should" you be doing?
You "should" be looking into how you got into this holding pattern in the first place. In fact, I can give you a generic but often true answer here. You got into this holding pattern because you have been reliving the extraordinary moment over and over and over.
See what I mean? If you're feeling this "stuckness," you're stuck in a holding pattern; meaning, you've been holding on for dear life to the extraordinary moment which began your relationship.
This is the classic "he or she was the love of my life" stance.
Can this be true? Can someone be the love of your life?
Yes. If you died in the instant right after that relationship began.
So what could you be doing?
You could be rediscovering the beauty in yourself and in your life. And you can be exploring all the places in which you cannot connect to your partner.
Finding these disconnects is in fact probably the best thing you can be doing, as you will find yourself right back in them in the next relationship if you don't heal them.
But what if you've exhausted your work-on-the-relationship energy? Do you now leave?
The advice I usually offer which has served me well for many years is, if both of you are genuinely working on the relationship, then stay. But if only one of you is still working on the relationship, and if you've tried for a while to get this person to do the work with you and he or she hasn't come around, then you are doing too much work. In fact, if this is you, then you are carrying the relationship.
In this regard, I can say, I've personally made this mistake so many times I still feel shame about it. Less than I used to feel. But some.
My reference moment?
I am sitting at my kitchen table, head in my hands and feeling desperately sad.
My live-in girlfriend is standing to my right and saying to me, "you know, if it wasn't for all you've been doing to keep this relationship alive, I would have left a long time ago." Then she left. For good.
Even today, her sentence still rings in my head, especially when people ask if they should leave someone. In my case, she was right. I had been carrying our relationship for a long painful time and yet, I never saw that I had been alone in this work.
Again, if you and your partner are both, in any fashion whatsoever, still actively invested in working on what blocks your own abilities to love each other, then stay. If not, then consider leaving as soon as is practically possible. And if what you just heard me say was about what blocks the "other" person's abilities to see the beauty in you, then immediately run, don't walk, to your nearest caring and kind therapist or spiritual guide. You need and deserve one very important thing. You need and deserve help.
Now just so I know I've been clear with this, please see that the work you both need to do is the work necessary to unblock your own abilities to see love, not the other person's abilities. In fact, in a moment, I'll mention this again, when I talk about how some couples designate one of them as the "identified patient."
No one should tolerate this crap. Not even from a therapist. Not even from yourself.
What about in extreme cases wherein one person in the relationship has what appear to be significantly more problems?
How'd the second person get there? Loving kindness?
No way. In fact, a therapist I saw years ago set me straight about this very thing. She told me we always fall in love with someone at our same general level of mental health, no matter what it looks like on the outside. For instance, I've fallen in love with active alcoholics, but only when I needed to be giving someone enormous amounts of care.
I've also fallen in love with a few severely mentally ill people. But only when I myself was pretty far gone too.
Did I look like the healthy one in these relationships?
On the surface. Yes. Very much so.
Even so, I know all too well today that as I've grown, the people whom I fall in love with have been through similar growth.
Once more then, the current question: "How do you know if it's time to leave?"
The answer: "When only one of you is working on themselves and when this has been the case for a fair amount of time."
No one can tell you. But please, do be honest with yourself. And don't wait for someone to tell you, "you know, if it wasn't for all you've been doing, I would have left a long time ago."
OK. So you are certain it's time to leave. You're calm and sad and peaceful inside and your confusion has melted into resolve.
I know these signs to mean you are ready. Still, our heads need reinforcement.
What has helped me is, if I'm blaming the other person, then my decision will be cloudy. Or too abrupt in cases where I'm really leaving out of anger.
Then too, people sometimes leave hoping the other person will "wake up." In truth, sometimes this does happen. Even so, it's not a very good way to work on a relationship, using this ultimatum-force-the-other-person-into-health leaving thing. It's not really leaving anyway. It's just taking a punish-the-other-person-into-doing-what-you-want vacation.
And if you are feeling the clear, calm sense of that it's time to leave? How do you do it?
My single answer? With help. Never alone.
So what if you don't have someone you trust to help you?
Then it might be better if you took some time in the relationship to get your plan together. In fact, I'm currently helping a woman in my practice to plan this very thing, this despite my obvious and stated-out-loud to her admission that I'm biased toward saving her relationship.
How can I be helping her plan to leave then?
Because it is never a bad thing for people to build support around them. In fact, sometimes, this very support is sometimes what enables the relationship to come back to life. In this same case this has happened several times.
Whatever the story though, leaving should be done with non judgmental support, no matter where and how you come to find this support.
So does "using an affair" fall into this category?
Yes. Sometimes. Although this is probably one of the poorest ways to leave. It is also sometimes the only way a person can leave, especially in cases where there is physical abuse. Given the choice, though, I would advice against taking this route as you always end up with two messes to clean up when you started out with only one.
Finally, do not overlook the power of spiritual help and support. I cannot say this enough. Thus, if you are someone who believes in a personal God, or in guides or angels, or in talking to the dead, then please do use these connections for all they are worth. No one really knows the truth about this stuff anyway and I always say, if the results are real, who cares?
My point is, if you do have these beliefs then now is the time to use them for all they're worth. And if you don't believe, then maybe this is the time to try healing whatever blocks your ability to believe.
And don't get too hung up on the specifics. Love is love no matter what the source, human or otherwise. In fact, there have been times wherein I, as a grown man, have felt loved by a teddy bear and have spent a sleepless night holding on for dear life.
Think this is weird? Maybe. But it worked for me and that's all that counts.
You've finally done it. You've left. So now what?
Now what? Now you grieve.
"But he didn't love me anymore. He treated me terribly too."
Yes, maybe these things are accurate to some degree. But if he never loved you, you wouldn't be grieving.
Too early to be open to this possibility? Then don't sweat it. Grief takes time, sometimes years.
What can you do?
Me, I tell people to make lists. And to write unsendable letters. Again though, doing this work takes being connected to another being, some kind of non judgmental guide who can help you to sort out what is real and what is illusion.
As for lists, what kinds of lists do I suggest?
For starters, if you are angry, try making a "crimes" list, a list of everything the other person did or didn't do to you.
Another list is the "what I loved about him or her" list. Here, it's important that you have not thrown away the artifacts of love from your relationship, the cards and gifts and such. You will need them to "guide the guide"; meaning, obviously, the therapist, the therapist, friend, or sponsor doing this work with you will need factual stuff like cards and mementos to help you to sort out the truth.
As for writing unsendable letters, in my personal work, one of the most important letters I ever wrote was to my mother. In this case though, after writing it, and after sitting with it for some weeks, I took it to her grave one morning and read it to her out loud.
Please know, despite my having done this out of anger, this event was the beginning of my seeing the beauty in her. And in women in general.
So should you ever send these "unsendable" letters?
Mostly, no. They are for getting your insides right sized. Sometimes though, they are the precursors to a real and genuinely healing letter, a letter in which you do your best to make amends for what you've done; for your part.
Is there always a "your part?"
Yes. There is always a "your part." As I've said though, sometime, one person is clearly the more outwardly troubled one, such as in cases wherein people love active alcoholics. Even here, though, no one falls in love with an alcoholic, active or otherwise, or even with a person who later becomes an alcoholic, without having been blind to these qualities in the other person.
This blindness is your part. This blindness is also what you need to heal most.
How do you keep from doing the same thing again with a new person?
To some degree, you can't. To some degree, you simply won't. And to the degree you work hard and emerge from your blindnesses, to this degree, you won't even be tempted to do this anymore.
I still love Portia Nelson's poem about "walking down a different street." With work, you no longer walk down the same street with but more tools. You walk down a different street.
The questions is, how different?
The answer. You will at best get the "new improved model." This is to say, you will always be connected to who you were, no matte how much hard work you do.
So how do you know if you're ready, in other words, how do you know when you've healed enough?
Simple. When you can genuinely and sincerely see the beauty in the last person. Not just mentally, but with every fiber of your body. And this is where I set the bar high. You see, I see my best qualifications for writing this article as my having been in a lot of failed relationships AND my now having the ability to see beauty in each and every person with whom I've ever fallen in love. This includes an x wife of nineteen years who spent nineteen of those years telling everyone who would listen that I physically beat her all the time. And that she was justified in having affair after affair, the last one with a seventeen year old.
Did I beat her?
No. Not with fists anyway. I did, however, beat her with words a lot. And for this, I am truly sorry.
So can I now see beauty in her?
Yes, although this is neither the time nor the place to digress into the details. What I will say is this. The most prominent thing I feel for her now is compassion. In fact, I feel compassion for both of us. We tried hard. For a long time.
Have I ever been in another relationship like this one?
Yes. Healing wounds this big take a lifetime. Even so, I can say I've never again been as lost in a relationship. Nor as willing to accept blame. Nor as mean to my partner.
In the end, the only result most people want to see is that they are romantically attracted to healthier people now. About this I can say, I've seen this improvement happen many, many times. I've even been asked to conduct marriage ceremonies for a few folks whom I've helped to have this happen.
I've also seen a few folks end up pretty much back where they started, sometimes with the same type of person, and sometimes with the same type of person but a healthier version, something I've just referred to a moment ago as getting "a new improved model."
Bottom line is, there are no guarantees. Except this. If you keep doing what you've always done, you will keep getting what you've always got.
Have faith. Miracles do happen. No coincidence, I consider all healing to be a miracle.
Will you ever get the love you want?
Always. And you always have. And this is where the truth hurts the most. First the good news though.
The good news is, we fall in love with the people with whom we fit, meaning, we fall in love with people who fit both our good qualities and our not so good qualities.
So is it "us," meaning, is it "us" who have the problems?
Well, if by "us" you mean "all of us" then the answer is "yes." But if your "us" means "just you" then the answer is definitely no. No chance. Never. In fact, I mentioned a moment ago that one of my pet peeves in doing couples therapy is when one person has been designated the "identified patient." First off, I don't even call people I work with, "patients." I find this word degrading. My point here is though that there is no couple wherein the "holes in one person's head don't fit the rocks in the other person." And by holes, I mean literal blank spots, life situations wherein the person goes into shock.
So how can you ever feel safe enough to risk the hurt loving someone involves?
The answer. You can't feel safe. Now rather than try to expand on this very important idea myself, let me once again defer to Rumi and to another of his poems. Rumi says,
"Gamble everything for love,
if you're a true human being.
leave this gathering.
Half-heartedness doesn't reach
into majesty. You set out
to find God, but then you keep
stopping for long periods
at mean-spirited roadhouses."
I love this poem. And I take it to mean, "risk your very soul for love," and stop beating yourself up for having less than perfect outcomes, no matter how flawed the outcomes. You are a human being and it is your nature, and mine, to love imperfectly.
Do your best and ask no more of yourself and I believe you will discover the beauty you seek, perhaps in the one place you least expect to find it. In yourself.