As another professional appreciating the work of Linda Levin, MA, who wrote a superb article explaining different elements of love, attraction, and close relationships, one topic especially caught my eye:
What happens when you fall out of love?
It may feel tragic, when a close relationship comes to an end and that person is no longer in your life. It can lead to depression, inability to work, obsessive thoughts, sexual dysfunction, self-condemnation and problems in making new friends. Often times a person may feel relieved to move on after they experience a painful breakup/divorce and new opportunities may arise through this growing process.
This passage from Ms. Levin is absolutely true… knowing the end of a relationship can bring great pain. However, this pain can also bring a focused and undeterred strength to overcome the personal challenges associated with the loss.
I am reminded of a client, whom I’ll call Martha, who was in such pain. She felt deeply afraid no one would ever really love her; that if she allowed men to get close to her, she would become devastated, hurt, and saddened, and of course rejected. Martha’s history was filled with men who cheated on her or wouldn’t commit to her. Each time, she layered new scars on top of the deeper ones from previous relationships, becoming more afraid to allow herself to be vulnerable and fall in love… believing she’d get abandoned again. This last time was the final straw, because Martha knew that the common denominator was herself – and her pattern of attracting less desirable men who kept hurting her.
Martha began to recognize the limiting beliefs that she carried, essentially sabotaging her attempts to have intimacy and a committed partner. Unconsciously, Martha was attracted to men who would betray her or keep reinforcing the feelings she held inside that she was “damaged goods,” unworthy, and unlovable. Martha learned that it wasn’t those instantaneous thoughts she had about herself and men that kept quality men away from her. Instead it was the deeper family beliefs that she adopted from her family growing up. She was playing the messages over and over. Her father, a workaholic, rarely engaged in activities with Martha and had been unfaithful to her mother. Her mother pretended that this infidelity wasn’t happening and simply took care of the family as if this is basically how a man and a woman lived together. Not surprisingly, Martha’s mother carried the same messages inside her – feeling trapped that she, too, would never be capable of having an attentive, devoted man in her life.
Martha was finally able to let go of those old harmful beliefs that kept her stuck; settling and taking scraps of affection and attention from men. She courageously formulated new rules and ways of thinking that were healthier and more functional for empowering herself. She was also able to learn how to accept and love herself for the first time. She didn’t need to repeat the patterns of past generations. Instead as she believed and felt self-love, she naturally changed her behaviors. Martha found the capacity to be gentle and nurturing of herself and others; she was able to compliment, to have direct eye contact, and to start conversations as well as opening up more about herself.
Martha’s story has a happy ending and sends the strong message that no matter your past, you can have the life and soul mate that you desire. She soon met a “different type of man,” who treats her with attention, respect, honesty and openness in conversations.
Stop and consider: Are you like Martha, who went from the depths of personal despair to triumph, using her pain to motivate her to growth, to be the best version of herself… or are you stuck in your pain – bitter and feeling hopeless that you can ever find and keep true love?
We do not love in a vacuum! When life becomes difficult, we can give up and play the victim… giving up our efforts and relying on fate. We can also view these challenges as opportunities – as Ms. Levin aptly stated – so we can learn new ways of thinking, acting, and feeling. The possibilities are limitless. Which will you choose?
May you flourish in loving yourself and others!