Falling in love with love
I realised at the age of forty, at the end of a sixteen year marriage and three children that I was in mourning. Not only for the end of my marriage, and feeling like a failure as both a wife and a mother, but also for the loss of my fantasies. Like Cinderella, I was waiting for Prince Charming to come and sweep me off my feet, transform my life and complete me.
I was brought up in the fifties, where I was led to believe that the man waiting at the end of the aisle had all the answers. An unrealistic expectation of romance and the loss of a family unit.
So here I was, hitting forty with three children, a low-self esteem and struggling to be really seen in a close-knit community, where my true self was obscured by what others thought of me.
I felt trapped in a marriage that didn’t live up to my expectations; I was seeking love and excitement outside of myself, blaming everything and everyone for my lack of a successful marriage. I was a ‘loveaholic’, a shopaholic and a ‘beautyaholic’. In my naivety, I was trying everything outside of myself to fill the void of true love. But what I really needed was to first love myself unconditionally.
The next ten years were spent trying a variety of part-time jobs, part-time relationships, try to reach unrealistic goals and the impossible dreams of perfection.
But finally, with the help of therapy, I was at last getting the picture of how I had set myself up for disappointment and how I was looking for those fixes externally to feel good. Although at times I was still looking for that quick fix, through my own search for internal and emotional growth I have altered my ideals to be more realistic. This supports to allow all those people I love, to be perfectly imperfect with strengths and weaknesses like us all.
The attraction of opposites
Now as a counsellor, I’m constantly working with clients who keep falling into the same unsuitable relationships, having the same kind of reactions or encountering the same kind of employers. These feelings encompass helplessness and powerlessness in each individual relationship, stemming from deeply rooted conflicts. A scenario as such usually boils down to feelings of low self-esteem and unworthiness.
The distressed person encountering these feelings often feels so insecure and fearful of being alone, they take back the protagonist, or choose another equally unsuitable relationship, leading to an emotional catastrophe.
We often ask ourselves, each time why we end up here without settling on a solution. The unconscious fit here is the attraction of opposites. It is like an unconscious fit that can get physically and mentally very uncomfortable.
So many couples admire in their partner a trait that is lacking in themselves. Especially in the first exciting and exhilarating months of a new relationship; but that opposite often becomes the biggest challenge in the partnership.
It’s common that women would allow their partner to be more important than themselves, that she’d hold her relationship first and herself second. By giving over your power to someone else, you may encounter feelings of distress in expressing needs, feelings and desires. The moment you entrust your happiness to another person, you endanger the very possibility of happiness. Because you remove your own personal responsibility from the equation.
The father figure
My clients come into therapy wanting to change their partner, but quickly realise that it isn’t possible to change someone else.
We are attracted to men that remind us of our fathers; sometimes unconscious of this other unsuitable fit (even if the experience of your father was a negative one) you tend to attract that familiar persona back into your lives in the guise of a good Father.
Like addicts, we will draw toward us experiences that give us a fix.
Judith Viorst in her book Necessary Losses says, “that no two adults can do each other more damage than a husband and wife".
And her poem from the same book seems to say it all, for me.
“We hate him because he hasn’t ended our separateness
We hate him because he hasn’t filled our emptiness
We hate him because he hasn’t filled our save-me, complete me mirror me, mother me yearnings
And we hate him because we waited all these years to marry daddy
And he isn’t daddy.”
That is the challenge in romantic and sexual love. That is the work we have to undertake in order to claim our power, let go of our unreasonable expectations and alter our ideals to something more realistic and to allow those people we love to be imperfectly perfect with strengths and weaknesses like us all.
The journey to self-love
My motivation as a counsellor comes from my personal growth and my passion to put my clients on a path of self-love, self- empowerment and self-awareness. The unique aspect of my work is my ‘falling in love with love’ relationship counselling. This focuses on relationship issues and communication skills in order for couples to find a way to achieve realistic goals before commitment, and to form honest relationships so they can develop and blossom autonomously.
In today’s climate of internet dating there is no guidance as to how to continue moving forward with the relationship after the initial meeting.
In order to prosper, we have to be able to help ourselves to claim our power and to have a sense of self-awareness. Whether someone wants to learn new skills, to look at family dynamics, step away from unhelpful habits or increase self-esteem, seeking therapy leaves no doubt that you can get more out of life by working with a therapist you connect with.
It takes action to create change. You are never free to do as you please when you stay with the familiar. Be brave and take chances, let your inner strength take you somewhere else. Life is too short to stay clinging on so try and practise gratitude for the strength to change. Inner strength and a strong belief system are our only life-lines.
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