Relationships, love and belonging. We all want them, especially now that spring has sprung. But sometimes our patterns in relating don’t work for us. We’re creatures of habit so we go along not knowing how we affect people.
Frank and I stumbled along. We went skiing, camping and read the same books. We ended up living together. We had a lot of fun and great conversations and even the sex was ok. But, suddenly he started shutting down for days. He watched TV for hours and ignored me.
What was life without love, I wondered? I repeated similar habits with other men, who were always too busy, didn’t want to talk much, forgot to show up for dates or didn’t have time for the relationship. Then, I came across Pia Mellody, a brilliant woman who wrote Facing Love Addiction. I learned how to end my cycle of “falling in love” with unavailable men. She said, “just say ‘stop’ to yourself when you think about him.” I missed him so much when he left, but she guided me. My pattern of having fantasy love, when the other person of choice was really not reliable, ended.
Finally I went to Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, a really helpful 12-step program. I realized I had made up stories in my head that my partners were emotionally available and wanted a commitment. But, really, they weren’t. And neither of us were prepared for a good marriage. We had few tools for a working relationship. But we were “in love,” (which probably meant we had good sex and he brought me flowers.)
We all do our best. But love isn’t enough. Relationships need feeding, friendship, safety, work, communication, eventual commitment and reliability. Who woulda’ thunk?
My idea of a great husband was a man like Dad. My imprint, the deep branding inside me, came from the way my dad (or mom) cared for me. My father was a nice man. He paid the rent and quietly did what mom asked him to do. But he was passive-aggressive and silent. Men in his generation weren’t supposed to do much but bring home the bacon and sit behind the newspaper or watch ball games. The sad fact is that Intimacy, wasn’t taught to most of us. Good modeling about connection – the sharing of feelings and needs without blame – is still something that humans are learning. And no matter what our dysfunctional patterns, we are required to unlearn them if we want satisfying relationships.
Dad never spent much time with me. So, I carried on unhelpful behaviors, sometimes being too needy. The repetition in mating tendencies destroyed a chunk of my life.
Whatever our patterns, change is a piece of work, don’t we all know it? In an age of high divorce rates, love has lessons to teach us. But, I have my own life now. I call people when I’m sad, I write, I enjoy socializing. I hike, meditate, read and do sports. I relish a sense of a higher power.
These days, I’d like to cuddle and giggle with someone and loneliness arrives, but I also rejoice in my alone time. I find meaning in my work and pastimes. Learning about myself and therapy taught me independence and the value of friendships with men and women.
Nowadays, I love being with myself. It’s like a good cup of coffee.