Part III—The Heroism of Love
Think of all the foolish things you may have done in a romantic relationship—the words that came out of your mouth during a fight; the thoughts that entered your mind in the aftermath of an argument; the promises you made to yourself to avoid getting hurt; or even that grand gesture.
Our quest for love can find us doing things we never imagined, from the heroic to the destructive to the life-giving—love is a powerful and mysterious force that has captured the imagination of peoples across all cultures and time.
I have sadly seen many couples who want their relationship to work but act out in ways that push their partner’s loving attempts away. And, it makes complete sense to me. First, life happens fast, and our wants and needs—known and unknown—can be a moving target and even scary. Second, when you pervasively don’t feel close to your partner, you will want to either numb that experience and make promises never to feel that way again—and both of those actions will leave you feeling even more unloved and isolated.
The fact is we often remain indifferent to showing up for ourselves and offload the responsibility to others. The wife who has terrible anxiety and demands her husband manage it for her, for example. Or the husband who is so stressed at work and believes his wife should have little to no demands of him after work if she really cares about him. Moreover, partners do want to help their loved ones in distress, but efforts often go unnoticed or unappreciated because it doesn’t seem to matter when it’s not enough. Sadly, if you find yourself bitter and contemptuous toward your loved ones, it probably means that you’re overly preoccupied with them and have lost a part of yourself that was only meant for you.
The most reasonable position in front of this reality is recognizing the powerlessness we feel fixing the emotional pain that comes when we do not feel loved.
Therapy makes sense of our experiences and gives us the corrective experiences to change them for ourselves—and here’s how. Good therapists:
- Are willing to get into those dark and messy places with you, so that you don’t have to live the rest of your life with certain fears or living out those harmful promises you made to avoid ever getting hurt again.
- Understand that when your secure attachment is/feels threatened, it’s easy to act out in several ways. But it doesn’t mean the desire for love is pathological or that you are defective in some way.
- Help you sort through what is at the heart of your desire, and help you uncover how your words and actions may be getting in the way of fulfilling that desire.
- Help you reclaim who you are—someone worthy of love—through feeling loved.
Challenging that deprivation of feeling love for your authentic happiness is heroic! Even in those hopeless moments, there is always one step you can take to make it a little better. Life is a lot of little steps. While love is undeniably a maddening business, ancient thinkers and modern science alike reason to its central purpose in our existence. As Walt Whitman said, “We were together. I forget the rest.”