Just because you love someone doesn't mean you have to be involved with them.
Love is not a bandage to cover wounds.
~ Hugh Elliott, Standing Room Only
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t’s Throwback Thursday.
Which usually means posting pictures that highlight what a bad idea that mullet and blue eye shadow were back in 1985.
It’s also Hunger Awareness Day, and since emotional hunger is a very real problem in our society today, I thought, why not revisit an old post about relationships?
Also, I’m lazy, ADDish, and tired.
Six years ago, I had a discussion with a couple of bloggers about whether a person should work on their psychological and emotional wounds before entering a new relationship and whether that relationship could itself be a source of healing.
I had forgotten all about this discussion and the post it inspired, and upon reading it, I quickly realized this couldn’t be just a lazy re-blog. Because six years ago, I was a different person.
A Broken Vase Holds No Water
Six years ago, I was four years out of a manipulative and co-dependent relationship. Six years ago, I wasn’t in therapy with the incredible shrink I have now. Six years ago, I thought I was fine and okay.
But six years ago, I was depressed and didn’t know it.
Six years later, I’m more self-aware, more confident, more don’t-give-a-flying-truck-what-anyone-thinks. More in touch with my wounds, my past. And more in touch with my anger and disappointment. You could say, I’m a little more hard and cynical. Still, my six-years-ago self was pretty much dead on.
Read the original post: The Power of Love
Let’s get one thing straight right from the start: a relationship, whether it’s romantic or platonic, is never a cure for loneliness. People are people, not objects to be bought, sold, or used. A relationship built on hating eating frozen dinners in front of the boob tube by yourself is going to last as long as my coffee pot. Actually, my coffee pot will probably last longer.
Not to mention it makes things exceedingly tiresome and boring for the other person.
And quite frankly, I’ve met people who still felt alone in their relationship. And that is worse than literally being alone.
Since that post was written, I’ve had several friends date, break up, and get married. And as I began learning more and more about child development, and family wounds, and inter generational healing, I began to talk more and more about the need to tend to our wounds before entering into a life-changing commitment. But time and again I was told: not all take the same path, not all journeys are the same; some people are healed by the relationship itself.
While I agree that we all have different paths to take, they all overlooked one thing in their reasoning: they had already been in therapy and done work on themselves or were in therapy when they met their future spouse.
Prior to that, they were dating and getting nothing but heartache in return.
I Want a Girl (Just Like the Girl That Married Dear Old Dad)
Many of us had (or have) troubled relationships with one or both parents. And many of us either ignore that, or try to compensate with their significant other. But we learn all too soon that the other person is just as flawed as we are, as our parents are, and in fact, may even be flawed in the same way our parents were!
When you enter a relationship without addressing the fact that your father always promised he would do X, Y or Z but never did it, you may have a tendency to expect all men to promise but not deliver.
If your mother was manipulative and domineering, you may have the tendency to view your girlfriend’s ability to handle herself well and take charge of a situation with distrust or you may simply retreat when faced with taking responsibility.
And still the pain continues and the need to address past wounds remains.
Do all relationships work this way? Of course not. Things like mentors, the moderately functional friends we had growing up, and even grace need to be factored in.
But enough have problems that books have been written about the parent-child connection and influence over current relationships.
The Journey So Far
Six years ago, I said that I believed “perfect love drives out all fear” and I sort of still believe that. The issue I have now is, in order to experience love in a healthy, integrated way you first have to know what it looks like. Otherwise, you’ll keep getting your heart stomped on. (Think of abused women who won’t leave their abusers).
How do we do that?
I don’t know how you do it, but I read books. And talked with friends. And joined a support group. And talked with friends some more. And read more books.
Until finally one day, a romantic interest said to me: “You know, you’ve told me about X, Y, Z in your past and I think you should join a support group or talk to a spiritual advisor ~ because the reason you’re attracted to me is because I remind you of your father…and you really shouldn’t date me.”
So (heartbroken), I joined another support group. And I read some more books. And talked to a priest or two. But I didn’t find a competent therapist.
And would you believe, I went back to thinking I was working on things and everything was fine. Denial ain’t just a river…oh, you’ve heard that one already.
It would take me two whole years ~ and one last majorly dysfunctional and painful relationship in 2009 ~ to finally hit rock bottom in January of 2010. Suddenly, everything was not fine ~ in spades. I was not okay. As smart as I was, and as many supportive friends as I had, I realized (finally!!) that I needed more help than I was getting.
And even then, I was stubborn and didn’t meet my shrink until six months later. (Gee, it’s been four years?! Happy Anniversary, Siggy*!)
Bottom line: no one human being can “fix” or "fill" you by themselves. Would you expect your spouse to set your leg if you broke it? Or do open heart surgery on you if you had a blocked artery? No, that would be stupid! They aren’t trained to heal those kinds of wounds/illnesses.
And yet, many of us expect our spouse to heal our emotional and psychological wounds.
The Power of (Unconditional) Love
We were not created to be alone, to work out our problems in isolation. We are social beings, made for self-gift and with an incredible capacity to love and forgive and grow.
Pride says you do not need anyone or anything to help you heal. That is not only false, it’s unwise. But neither are we meant to just expect things to magically get better without putting forth any effort at all and letting our spouses, children, friends, confessors, shrinks do it all for us.
The answer lies in between: take the time to become self-aware; work on your issues; talk to a therapist (consider them your psych surgeon). Healing those wounds enables you to feed that emotional hunger yourself.
Only then can you feed others.
Oremus pro invicem,
Agree, disagree, hate me? ;) Do tell!
*Siggy - oh come on. Siggy - Sigmund. Yeah, you got it.