Recently, I was speaking to a woman, “Marge”, whose long-time relationship broke up, painfully. Asking her questions about the relationship, it turned out that the guy warned her that he wasn’t looking for a long-term relationship, and criticized her constantly while also telling her “don’t change.” And now he’s engaged to another woman, and it’s breaking her heart.
I pointed out to “Marge” that he was sending massive mixed messages: not interested in a relationship, but still having sex with her although he knew she was emotionally involved. Constantly complaining “but don’t change.” A “come closer/go away” game if ever I’ve seen one.
And she kept defending him. He was so wonderful, so honest, so vulnerable (and apparently seriously rang her chimes)…and so on and so on.
I listened to as much of this as I could stand, and then said: “would you want your daughter to be with a guy like this?” And she was silent. I could hear the wheels turning. And the answer, in a small, clear voice: “no.”
Then why did she put up with this? Why keep going back to someone who does not honor and protect her?Simple. She doesn’t think she deserves it. Thinks that this is the best she can do. There is something damaged, deep within her. And until she heals it, she will never find the external love and success she deserves. It is very, very hard to perform at a level beyond your ego-identity. Either center and expand it, or rat-#$%@ yourself again and again until you embitter and give up.
And no, this isn’t just a female thing. Men also routinely put up with life situations they would never want for their own children. Step beyond the duality.
The third step of the Hero’s Journey is “Accepting the challenge”. Before she could heal her heart, the first thing she had to do was recognize, intellectually at least, that she had lost NOTHING. That rather than the love of her life, he was a childish, selfish user. Rather than a solution to her loneliness, he was actually evidence of a dysfunctional pattern that has plagued her life for many years. And once she saw that…and visualized the damage she was causing to her Child self to salve her adult loneliness…she took a deep breath, and began to change.
We had broken her pattern–at least for the moment.
That tiny moment of clarity becomes your leverage to change. Once you interrupt the pattern, you can define the game so that it is winnable (“I will be happy. My happiness must come from within, because I am the only part of the equation I have a prayer of affecting directly.”) And begin to gather the resources necessary to evolve.
Once you realize that the broken heart comes from YOUR bad choices, from YOUR misconception that joy and love come from someone else, you have a chance to take control.
(“But…but…I want a relationship!” Really, or do you want a healthy relationship? Because you’ll never have a healthy relationship with another person until you have one with yourself. Start there–it is the unraveled string of the Gordian Knot that you can actually affect.)
Marge had recognized that there is a problem (Step one. Misery)
Dealt with her fear (Step Two: terror of being alone. Fear that she is unworthy of love)
And taken responsibility for making herself happy. (Step Two: She must love and nurture herself as she would her most beloved child.)
Now look–there are countless ways to reach happiness. Just understand that everything you’re doing in your life boils down to an effort to avoid pain and increase pleasure. And if you aren’t doing what you need to do? You are associating more pain than pleasure to the steps necessary to reach your goal–otherwise you’d be out there trying, even if you need better strategies and resources. You’d take PLEASURE in swinging at that ball, even if you strike out a thousand times.
You have to see the problem, accept your fear, and break the pattern of failure. The “Ancient Child” is a method that works beautifully, but there are others. FIND ONE.
Because the next step, the “road of trials”, is dependent upon your commitment to change, to grow, to heal, to make a better life for yourself. Ultimately, only you can give yourself that gift.