Love can be stomach-wrenching, head-spinning, dumbstrucking, spellbinding.
But apart from being intoxicatingly sweet, love can also be damn hard. And hurt. And mark. And drive mad.
It depends on one condition only. Whether you searched for love in order to give yourself a sense of purpose OR you knew who you were before love crossed your way. This is important because in order to be able to participate in love with dignity and really say “I love you”, first you have to be able to say “I love me”. And know why.
For those of us, marked by a past of trying to impress, entertain, and retain people, love is always but a lesson. Through love we do not simply get in touch with another soul. We fish for the long-craven approval our parents refused to give us freely – years ago.
For those of us who can lay in bed and calculate the various ways in which love can beat us black and blue, love is a way of getting rewarded for the hard work we’ve done on becoming a loveable person. Love is the ultimate medicine that cleanse our system from the byproducts of the toxic past.
We fear abandonment in secret and powerful ways that actually attract it. We choose (mostly unconsciously) partners that are likely to get disenchanted with us, or reproach us for not being this or that – just like our parents did and it hurt us so horribly. We often fall for the unavailable not because we are mental but because somehow, in the back of our minds, we presume that if we manage to change the end of the story this time we will be worthy at last. We will have made it.
We can’t imagine that love can be received freely, like a gift. We always have to deserve it.
It’s because earlier in life love and acceptance have been denied to us – unless we fought for them with every bit of our being, trying to guess what is next, fearing we will do something wrong, and abhorring the consequences.
To us love is never just a pleasant chance to get close to another and enjoy it, readily receiving and giving what is there to receive and give. For us love is a lesson in self-love. And it will hurt us to our guts until we learn to stand on our own two feet. Until we learn to not betray ourselves in order to win somebody over – petrified that even if we do, it won’t last.
The trouble with love is our main problem in life. We meet people and, if we really like them, we get panicked that they will suddenly stop liking us. We are jealous and spiteful, we crave attention and reassurance in such quantities that is always humiliating to say it out loud. We hope that we will be loved back but deep in our souls we feel doomed to belittling and underestimation.
We either stay alone for a really long time, imagining the love that would never leave us, becoming more and more idealistic in our world of fantasies. Or we rush into relationships, ready to give our hearts away at the first signs of affection. We are tormented by our fear of rejection, our low self-esteem, our panic that it will NOT work out in the end. The end where we weren’t enough. That is what trauma re-enactment is all about. Going through what burned you again and again, hoping to fathom the unfathomable and to change the irreversible.
The trouble with love for us is that as soon as we feel in love, we feel lost.
We can be very entertaining and self-declaring, we can be confident and even nonchalant, we can be a great flirt and play hard-to-get without even really wanting to achieve anything. We draw attention like magnets because we have learnt how to be noticed, how to get applause, how to make people laugh. Nevertheless, the shit hits the fan when we feel attracted to someone who we would love to make attracted to us. It is then when our authenticity and confidence get swept away by the fear of rejection and abandonment.
Most of us can recall many instances on which we suffered humiliations or coldness, when we waited around the phone and begged for attention, obsessed with the idea of receiving it. It is as though our lives shrink into that one possessing sensation of hanging into thin air, starved for adoration and love, angry at the person, and terribly dependent on them – because the power to make us feel worthy now lies in their hands, not ours.
The trouble with love for us is a trouble with not knowing who we are and not being constructively interested in our own well-being.
The distant and avoidant partners that we secretly choose seldom fail to deliver on our most horrible fears. They somehow manage to forget about us, to need just a little of us, to train us to tolerate their inconsistency and hesitation.
How we feel most of the time in our romantic endeavors is uncertain. The trouble with love for us is that we do not use love to enrich our lives but to mercilessly prove to ourselves, once more, that we weren’t wanted badly. So we are not valuable, we are a failure. An entertainment. A one night stand;. An affair. A friends-with-benefits. An it’s-complicated.
Once we feel abandoned and insufficient, we sink 10 000 feet per minute into the abyss of self-hate and martyrdom, crying for the “love of our life” with bitter tears of anguish and rage. We swear it wasn’t fair. While it was. But not because we are not worthy, but because we missed to show it, to stand up for it, to put it first and to bear it in mind like a precious mascot of who we really are – with or without the love we so hopelessly waited to lose.
We have an early trauma. The trauma of not having received love unconditionally. Of having been criticized and urged to become someone more perfect and lovable. It is this trauma that demands re-enactment in love. And we “medicate” it with various kinds of potential partners that miraculously show the same behavior as our parents – coldness, inconsistency, stone walling, reprimanding, shutting off on us, abandoning us, rejecting us, and then sometimes feeling like liking us again – only for a short time so it hurts more when it’s taken away later on.
Our trauma is like a huge wound which attracts all kind of predators – our teachers. The people we meet and come to love are the ones who teach us how to love ourselves first. There is only one way to turn this around and it does not go through becoming more altruistic, more adaptive, or more generous. We have done that already and it never worked out. We have tried to become significant and needed, only to start feeling redundant at the first signs of disinterest.
So it is our most important task to sit with ourselves and to honestly inspect what part of us made us unwilling to receive love and eager to meet with failure. Because it was us all the way, although our partners contributed to the process by adopting the roles we secretly ascribed to them – withholding appraisal and love, being inconsistent, caring less, going cold on us. It is up to us to really sit down with who we are and invite the demons inside to come out into the sun and make friends.
It is up to us to learn to sit with ourselves. And to be ready to get up and leave when someone is treating us as though we are less of – instead of staying long enough, like tireless warriors, proving our worth over and over again. It is now that we have to embrace ourselves and cut the crap about why we are no good. And we do that by accepting who we are – not by becoming better, or more lovable, or less ditchable. We do that by agreeing to be who we are and respecting this person and loving to spend time with them, and really, really giving tons of shit about them.
At all times. Unwaveringly. Starting now.