Love. Romance. I’m definitely not an expert in either, and I have definitely spent far too much of my life hiding behind idealism and romantic fantasy.
It could never be as good as it is in my head so why bother, right? Wrong!
I am choosey, but not in a shallow way. I only want people who light me up, who fascinate me, who expand my experience of the world. These are all good things and are excellent standards to have. The trouble is, I was also so intent on what I needed from them that I confused attachment with real attraction. I bet you can relate!
My pattern has been to feel attracted to someone and then immediately form an idea of who they are based not on them, but on how I would like them to behave towards me. Through a series of imagined scenarios that may have started out innocently and sweetly enough (who doesn’t daydream, right?), I would concoct a persona and envision how our interaction would play out. Maybe this was sometimes close to the truth, but I image more often than not it wasn’t. And most of the time it left me feeling disappointed and lonely.
You see, these imaginings were just a reflection of me: what I needed, what I wanted. I filled in the blanks of someone as I saw fit. And all too often, these imaginings would revolve around what they could offer me (reassurance, emotional healing, great declarations of love and undying loyalty, the resolution of some drama) to soften the pain of past hurts, rather than what I would give to them.
When I realised that this was attachment, that it was pure neediness, I was shocked. Me, Little Miss Independent, needy? Never! And yet it is so. Of course, this neediness is a well that needs filling – but it cannot be filled by another. I became acutely aware of how much I needed to up my self-love game and deepen my practice. Self-love isn’t just surface stuff like bubble baths and new crystals; it also requires deep, scary inner work too.
Despite my commitment to my own authenticity, I wasn’t meeting others (men) as they actually are, only what I wanted them to be (a.k.a. an absolutely flawless, honourable hero who ticked all my boxes!). I was approaching them out of a place of fear, expecting them to immediately prove to me that they weren’t assholes (like it was the new guy’s responsibility to make up for the hurts caused by other men!). And these men that I imagined were one-dimensional: I didn’t take into account their own needs, insecurities, fears and emotions. They were a bit Disney Prince-esqe, existing only in relation to the princess.
Thomas Merton said: “The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image.” I wasn’t so much twisting men to be more like me, but I was trying to make them be what I thought I needed. The irony is, even if they had been Mr Perfect Honourable Hero Man, it still wouldn’t have been all wondrous and life-changing because the only person who can truly give me what I need (reassurance, acceptance, unconditional love) is me. Or, even if Mr Perfect Honourable Hero Man did offer me acceptance and unconditional love, I likely wouldn’t accept or believe it because I haven’t given it to myself first.
I wonder what potential relationships I may have missed as I unwittingly imprisoned myself within my tower of self-protective expectation when someone didn’t immediately “fit the bill”, or when I was too busy off in make-believe land and not being present?
One of the scariest things can be to meet someone authentic self to authentic self, with no expectations. Maybe they will spark you and light you up, maybe they won’t. Maybe someone you never expected is the person who can be your true partner. Note: not your saviour, your partner.
When so few people spark your soul, and when you’re not willing to share your life with just anyone, it is very easy to become overeager and over zealous when someone does come along who intrigues you. You mentally race ahead, full of anticipation, trying to find the pitfalls, trying to figure out who they are before you get hurt. You aren’t present. You aren’t open. You aren’t honouring who they really are.
So, it seems to me that openness is the only way clear forward. No preconceptions, no trying to work it all out before it happens, no trying to make him be something he might not be, just openness and an attunement to how he makes you feel. It’s exciting really, to explore something new and different. Who knows what wondrous things could happen?
But, I think THE most important thing of all is this: recognise that expectations are fear-based and stem from something within yourself that YOU need to work on. When you’re secure in your own self-love, you’re more willing to go with the flow and see what happens. When you fully accept yourself, you fully accept others. When you aren’t seeking a partner to satiate or heal a deep need, you aren’t attached or forcing anything. When your heart is full of your own self-love, you won’t feel the need to build walls around yourself and run off to live in make-believe land. You’ll just be present, and open, and happy, have more faith in people, and be willing to meet someone in their Truth and see what happens.
Easier said than done, I know. I am still working on this, big time. But, it’s some food for thought that I wanted to share with my fellow singletons.
How have you found a healthy approach to relationships? I’d love to know!
“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”