Orin Hahn explores the things that ruin good relationships
I was talking to a client recently about his personal life. He came to me wanting to know what true love was like. He’s 43, European, smart and successful. He dreams of meeting the right woman, but like many people, he has considered giving up on the dream of the “happily ever after.”
In short, he wants to know if he can start trusting his heart out there in the world. He wants the courage to deal with vulnerability and possible rejection, which becomes more terrifying the deeper you go.
The ability to trust is necessary for love because you’re building something that is meaningful, knowing full well that if it disappeared, it would destroy you. There is no short cut to having faith in yourself and giving your trust to someone else. You only develop when you grow and know yourself, but there are shortcuts to sabotaging your progress.
Here’s a short checklist of what to do if you want to stay unloved and unfulfilled, along with suggestions on how to avoid that:
(Avoiding) Fear: If you want a relationship that never scares you, then get a plant. Seriously, love means giving your heart to someone. It means taking a chance and being willing to face the consequences. If you’re looking for a person who will never make you feel afraid, then you’re not ready for a relationship. Sit with what scares you when you’re alone and start there. It doesn’t mean you have to be alone forever but once you can face your fear on your own, then you’re better equipped to face it with someone else. Besides, embracing a tiny bit of fear can not only be exhilarating, but once you face it, it can help you face life more fully.
Reinforcing Old Patterns in New People: Baggage and patterns, we all have them. The trick is not unpacking them on someone. It’s one thing to say “hey, I’ve been hurt in this way and sometimes I still having trouble making peace with that.” It’s another to hold the current person in your life hostage to your worst experiences. Maybe you got cheated on and lied to. It sucks. It hurts and can take time to get over that pain. Find what’s already good in the person you’ve chosen or let them go. Putting your partner on trial repeatedly for another person’s crime is a good way to encourage that behavior. In short, if all you see is the bad, your new partner might show it too.
Emotional Affairs: First, what are they and why do they happen? Well, it goes like this. You’re seeing someone. You’re one of the lucky people who has moved from searching to having but you have a secret something extra. A side of yourself that you keep away from the main person because s/he can’t handle it. You don’t want them to judge you. Then, you take this juicy part of you and find someone else to share it with. You start building a secret bubble with someone besides your partner. Now, I’m a big believer in sharing intimacy with more than just your partner. It’s not for everyone I know, but for some it’s a valid choice. But there’s a difference between being an open person to those you love and saving a vital part of yourself only for someone else. It’s a form of relationship theft and it can deplete your relationship as fast as physical cheating because it robs your relationship from the inside. Give who you are and learn to aim it where you want it to grow. S/he may leave, but at least they’ll know you. When you aim your intimacy outside of your relationship, it’s easier to get the approval you want because they don’t have much to lose.
Jealousy: Too often, we hear that jealousy proves emotional investment. The more time you spend getting worked up because other people appreciate your partner, the less time you’re aware that they’re with you. Jealousy can be used constructively, but rarely is. The usual response to jealousy is to criticize. I suggest trying a different technique: get curious. The more you can take in this new and complex person while still loving the person you already know, the better you become at building a future with her/him. After all, who doesn’t want to be with someone who can reflect the beauty of what exists and the beauty what’s emerging? Isn’t that what building a future is all about?
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