This week I learned that I have become adept at sabotaging my relationships.
This is, needless to say, not good news.
Apparently, in my quest to be ever-vigilant for the tell-tale signs that a relationship or person is bad or unhealthy for me, I have become mired in my fears. Certainly, it’s useful and good to be grounded and aware of potential problems as you move into and through a new relationship, but when that vigilance creates the kind of stress on a relationship that births a self-fulfilling prophecy… well, then it’s not serving a useful purpose anymore. I haven’t allowed myself to absorb and appreciate and savor my relationship happiness. I haven’t been able to just enjoy what I have, without waiting for the proverbial house of cards to come tumbling down around me. No, apparently, I have reached a place in my life in which I can talk myself out of even the best relationship.
What can I say? I was always an over-achiever….
I suspect that this is not uncommon, but — common or not — it’s standing between me and the happiness and contentment that I so dearly want . So it has to go. My friend Marcus recently informed me that he thinks I’ve been doing this for as long as he’s known me. Ummm…. that would be nearly 20 years, people. Ouch. Square on the heels of that conversation, I received a firm scolding from my therapist on this topic, and specifically on how it has effected my relationship with James. These scoldings are rare… and, in hindsight, always deserved. So, clearly I have some work to do.
At first glance, re-ordering this behavior of mine doesn’t sound so easy to me. After all, apparently I’ve been doing this for a long time. Hmmm…
But, hang on a minute. Really, how hard is it to just let yourself be happy? Happiness is like a magnet… pulling you toward its warmth and softness and bliss. If I sit with the truth, I know in my soul that I am resisting the happiness. I am so afraid of being duped or misled or just plain mistaken, that I am fighting that pull, countering every good thing with an example of a bad thing or a possible pitfall or a failing on his part. So fearful of being a naive Pollyanna that I am turning myself into a Negative Nelly. Yes, it really is that simple: I don’t want to be one of those women again who walks around telling everyone how fabulous her relationship is, seemingly oblivious to the harsh truth that is apparent to everyone else. So, instead, I qualify everything and diminish everything and constantly focus on the “what ifs”. Gee, when I put it that way, it’s curious any of these men stick around….
But back to the happiness magnet. What would happen if I just sunk into it? If I surrendered to the bliss and the butterflies and the blind faith that this person I am kissing is just like me — here for the right reasons and trying his best to make something amazing happen between us. What if I employed just a little bit of the same blind faith I afford my other relationships? I don’t go around wondering if my friends really care about me or mean what they say or are about to pull the rug from under my life. What is the worst that would happen if I celebrated, just a little, all the awesome things that a man does for me, instead of looking for or waiting for that ridiculous shoe to drop? Yes, maybe he would turn out to be a cad or worse, but will I cry less or feel better just because I suspected it all along? Actually, I can answer this one unequivocally — No. My vigilance has not saved me from any tears, and moral vindication is cold comfort, especially when it’s tinged with the very real possibility that the outcome was influenced by that same vigilance.
When we’ve been hurt — really, brutally hurt — it’s easy to hide behind our newfound “wisdom” and employ every means at our disposal to insure that we are never, ever hurt again. With enough intelligent reconnaissance and due diligence we can surely guarantee that we’ll accurately read the situation and only invest further in those that present the greatest return for the smallest risk. Right?
But is that any way to live? Maybe initially, when we’re still stinging from the new wound, that approach has some validity and serves some protective purpose. But I’m three years on from my divorce and nearly two years away from Mike. It’s time to allow myself to enjoy it. To stop being so guarded and careful and deliberate about everything. Time to stop using my brain to read extra messages into every action and word, and let it just enjoy the yummy hormonal cocktail that is created when he’s in the room. Time to be as uninhibited with my feelings as I am with my body. Time to — as my therapist chided me — really see what is happening right before me, accepting it without overanalyzing it, enjoying it without feeling that I don’t deserve it or that it can’t be real.
So a few days ago, I decided to do just that: surrender to the bliss. Embrace all the good stuff and let the other stuff fall where it may. Trust that my heart (not my brain) will signal the best path to take. Just allow the butterflies and the tingles and the smiles to carry me as far as the relationship can really go.
Because, really, isn’t that what love actually is?