“My negativity was as destructive to me as alcohol is to the alcoholic. I was an artist finding my own jugular. It was as though I was addicted to my own pain.”
-Marianne Williamson, A Return to Love p. 9
Coming from a divorced home, it is not uncommon to have problems with intimate relationships. If there are challenges such as mental illness, addiction, workaholics, chronic pain, relationship issues, and/or financial struggles, whether a family is together or not, it can still contribute to problems with intimacy. No matter what the situation is, when there is trust and connection issues from childhood it tends to spill over to adulthood.
It is common to work our past issues out through our current relationships. I learned to effectively communicate with my mom in my teen years. My mom and I learned the language of speaking to each other in “I feel________ because_______” terms. We went to group therapy, which was a powerful tool. It helped me break the blaming cycle early on. after I was able to step back and heal some of the old damage, I was able to heal, repair, and develop many positive female relationships without any added drama. I’m surrounded by those relationships today.
I tend to see the majority issues in two areas, with my kids and with men. My kids offer me so many tools in self exploration. They tend to show me the best and we will say “works in progress” on a daily basis. Before having kids, I promised myself I would get my act together before they became teenagers. My mom’s transformation had a giant impact on my life, but it was very hard in the early years because she had to put most the focus on her in order to be better for my sister and I in the long run. Her transformation began when I was around 13, so it left a lot of doors open for learning the hard way. I wanted to get a head start, I’m definitely a work in progress. Staying present is one of my biggest challenges in parenting. All I know is if I am present, I can hear their needs clearly.
As for men, when I was young, I would cling to the attention of them. I wanted to be loved so bad, but I had no concept of what love really was. My definition was warped and twisted. I thought boys wanting me sexually was healthy attention. I thought I needed to chase them and that sex equaled intimacy. I made a lot of unhealthy decisions in my quest for love. I even hurt other girls and women because I truly had no self-worth to think about how my behaviors would affect them. I would get jealous of what other girls/women had. I acted out accordingly. I made a lot of amends in my late teens and early twenties.
I used to obsess about the romantic movies wanting that kind of Hollywood love story. I loved words, if a guy could say the right things, I would fall to his feet. I had a string of short-lived relationships because I found that after the 6-month mark things changed and the story ended. The romantic words became less frequent and there was little to go on. I used to joke that the first person I lasted over 6-months with: I would marry. Guess what, I did. The problem was, I still didn’t know what love truly was. I didn’t know the effects of emotional abuse and how it masked itself as love. Before I became a mom, I went to a seminar about parenting. I learned the importance of language when communicating with children, and how saying things like, “You’re crazy”, “You’re stupid”, and “You’re lazy” labels them as a person and has lasting psychological effects. Changing the language and making a point not to label and make a comment such as, “You are acting silly” changes a lot. Now, take that to intimate relationships, how is it any different?
As important as words can be in this way, I had to learn that words mean nothing if there is no loving action behind them. Sweet words followed by fearful actions are a pathway to abuse, whether it is emotional or physical. It is not just abuse given or received to another person, it is the abuse we do to ourselves. Understanding my fears keeps me from acting them out on the people I love. Ignoring them and/or denying them is a time bomb waiting to go off.
When I was ready for a lesson in love, the door opened and I read a verse that I have seen and heard a million times:
(4) Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant (5) or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; (6) it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. (7) It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(8) Love never ends. But as for prophecies, they will come to an end; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will com to an end. (9) For we know only in part, and we prophecy only in part; (10) but when the complete comes, the partial will com to and end.
-Corinthians 13.4-13.10, Harper Collins Study Bible (Student Edition) p. 1950
My house built on a foundation of fear crumbled to the ground. This was so much bigger than my problems with intimate relationships. It was a wake up call to how I treated myself, children, life, community, and world. When I started to believe in these words and concepts my life had a new purpose. They were not just words on paper anymore, they had life. They were everything that was right and wrong in the world. I started seeing oneness and becoming a lot more aware of ideas and groups that used separation as a tool to judge others. I found my judgements were all personal reflections and that love truly wasn’t about being right. That included the old concepts I believed about myself.
Am I going to always have the presence to act out of loving place? No! I’m human and far from perfect. I will be challenged time and time again. Will I do my best? Yes! Will I stop beating myself up when I fail? Yes, because that is an act of love. I only continue the cycle of fear when I keep the hate, fear, and self-loathing going. I choose to stop the cycle. Louise Hay has great table calendars, which help change the way we talk to ourselves. I have multiple days posted on my bathroom mirror, and I have made lots of gifts for friends with the past days (I just can’t imagine throwing them out). I find working with them in creative ways helps to keep their messages present within myself.
I knew, I wasn’t going to find this kind of love in another person until I could start to be this for myself. This wasn’t a small task, it took a lot of unlearning. This is not an overnight project, the more walls we hold onto the longer the process takes. I already had a head start with the work I had been doing. The journey and discovery is well worth the time I put in.
“Live in a good place. Keep your mind deep. Treat others well. Stand by your word. Make fair rules. Do the right thing. Work when it’s time.”
-Lao-Tzu, Tao Te Ching, Translation: Stephen Addiss and Stanley Lombardo, #8
Leave room for mistakes, because they leave us with more opportunities to grow from a loving place. Peace to ALL!
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With Love and Gratitude,