Our love relationships are among our most intense human connections. Unlike those we share with family and friends, they reach into every part of our lives, intellectual, emotional and physical. And when they end, whether that ending results from a death or irreconcilable differences, the pain can be unbearable.
Recovery however, just like any grieving process, does have a beginning a middle and an end. Yet the end, will most likely not return you neatly back to where you started before the relationship began… you and your life will be inexorably altered by the experience.
And perhaps that is the take-away message here: that we grow more from our painful losses and failures than we do from our triumphs.
The imperative to grow, when we truly examine the choices and actions we've made, seems to lead us into challenging situations, where the likelihood of a successful outcome is low and yet we continue to follow the same counter-productive patterns. Then one day, usually after several major relationships are resigned to the rear view mirror, we decide to reduce our vulnerability by either making the decision to live alone or finding partners based on practical considerations rather than just emotional ones.
This is what we decide that our failures are trying to tell us, that to follow our heart is to court disaster. But this seemingly rational response to a series of heartaches signifies a loss of innocence, a hardening of our hearts: as though we could avoid future emotional pain by just becoming determined to feel less.
If you look hard enough, you can see these refugees of love's losses all around you.
Like the walking wounded, they remain insulated in their little bubbles, unwilling and eventually unable to create meaningful connections, because they have lost the ability to trust anyone, including themselves.
If you allow life's less-than-happy twists and turns to make you bitter, you may one day find yourself among these refugees: living on the periphery of everything, unable to dedicate passion to any pursuit, as you have come to perceive the development of passion as the slippery slope, which always leads to pain.
So how can you recover from these relationship pitfalls while keeping your heart open to new, healthier possibilities? Well, first of all, just know that all relationships are a gamble and that by entering into one, you agree to potentially expose yourself to pain and loss. This however should not deter you.
Life is all about experiences and growth and while you may suffer the loss of something meaningful if and when it ends, the experiences you will share with another human being will become woven into the poignant tapestry of your life. We become richer, more seasoned, compassionate and hopefully wiser human beings when we allow ourselves to leap into the unknown once in a while. The key is in how you engage in your relationships and as with many of life's challenges, the operative word is balance.
I have learned that to be in love does not necessitate losing yourself in the process, though many do.
And in so doing, they become fearful that if their love is not returned to the degree they expect or if their partner begins to drift away that they themselves, will also drift away and eventually disappear. When you love deeply, for those of you who are intensely emotional, the tendency is to invest yourself totally in the relationship, tying your own personal destiny to the ebb and flow of capricious love. But I warn you: though you believe this demonstrates to your partner how deeply in love you are, it tempts almost certain disaster.
Now you are no longer the confident, happy, spontaneous, fun person you once were, you slowly become fearful, apprehensive, untrusting, paranoid and cynical. Why? Because you have invested everything into something you know is risky, so you find yourself hyper-vigilant to any sign of weakness in the bonds that connect you.
Your fears are actually negative thoughts that yearn to be vindicated, so you begin seeking evidence to defend your position that your partner is being unfair, has fallen out of love, or has even become unfaithful.
And like a self fulfilling prophesy your constant focus on and expectation of calamity drives your partner away and potentially creates the very scenario you fear.
If you're young, I say, first learn about what it is to live alone. Learn to enjoy your own company and how to be self-sufficient. This will help you recognize that you don't need someone else to be functional or happy. There are many sources of joy and passion in this world, from which you can choose. Revealing a hidden talent or exposing yourself to areas of learning that excite you can bring tremendous satisfaction. Your continued personal development relies on you engaging in these activities before and after you decide to create a lasting partnership.
Someday though, love will come calling and you will feel helpless to resist it's pull. That's okay, it's normal and natural, go with it. But always maintain that awareness of self that you established earlier.
Continue to develop and maintain your inner core, to nurture your own passions and talents. Embrace an attitude of sharing yourself with another rather than just becoming one half of a relationship. In this way, you are likely to recover faster if love takes an unfortunate turn. You will still have the full life you had before your relationship started and that will form the impenetrable base, below which you will not fall.
If you're more mature, and love's dagger has struck you down in midlife, it may feel more difficult to recover. As we get older, we are naturally likely to have more intense feelings and even visions of living out our lives with one special person. When those hopes are dashed, we may fear being alone forever more, forgotten and invisible.
And as our social network has probably been pruned back, we may find less of a safety net underneath us to cushion our fall. This is why it becomes more important to carefully consider the people we bring into our lives. We no longer have the luxury of time to make costly mistakes. Now the stakes are much higher and the crowd of likely candidates has diminished. Those that remain likely have suffered their own emotional setbacks, causing them to also be apprehensive of any future commitments.
The key here is to choose carefully and not to bet the farm on every new connection.
And even though you're older and less active, it's still important, maybe even more so, to stay engaged in activities that you enjoy, that fulfill you. This is a good plan whether in preparation for a future with someone new, or as a strategy for healing from a recent loss.
Stay positive, resist the temptation to become bitter and insulated, examine your own mistakes and thereby find forgiveness for those who caused you pain. Realize that they are on their own path of discovery and most likely suffering in their own way.
Smile a lot, take care of your health, read, write, exercise or just rest, whatever seems to bring relief or distraction. But take care not to begin habits like repetitive drug use or drinking to excess. These seemingly temporary coping mechanisms can actually develop into pernicious addictions that will drive down your chances of a full recovery.
Instead, put one foot in front of the other, take care of yourself as well as all the people, things and details of your life and day by day, the pain will give way to insight and growth.
This is what it is to be human. Be grateful for what you have and for that day, waiting for you at some point in the unknowable future, when you’ll be ready for love to once again find you worthy.
All preceding content is copyrighted and excerpted from
“The Happiness Tree”
by Shane Eric Mathias
ISBN: 9 781504 343343