There is good reason why we take time in the middle of February to celebrate love. Being in Love with someone is an important aspect of the human condition because it allows us to connect to the deepest and most meaningful parts of our lives. Romantic unions give us our greatest chance to evolve into authentic human beings even when we fail miserably.
Most humans dedicate a lot of time pursuing a mate. This is puzzling because this quest can contain our most difficult and complex experiences and can be a roller coaster of pain, joy, suffering, and ecstasy. Perhaps people would live happier lives without them. But we cannot, for companionship is an intrinsic part of our makeup and why solitary confinement is considered to be one of the harshest forms of torture.
Unfortunately, our culture has chosen to consider relationships that break up as failures. Those who end the relationship are often considered to be the winners and the ones who didn’t want it as the losers. Winners are believed to easily move on with their lives because they got their way, while the loser is seen as left behind like road kill on life’s emotional highway. But what these descriptions and attitudes did not apply? What if every person who enters a relationship automatically enrolls in an earth school curriculum meant to teach us lessons on the way to our own personal fulfillment? Under this scenario, there would be no failure, only the opportunity to learn and improve.
I was not aware how much viewing relationships as successes or failures affected me until six months after my second divorce. By way of an online dating service, I met a charming lady named Crissy. After exchanging a few emails, we settled on a phone call as a next step. Our conversation was going fine until Crissy asked about my past relationship.
I could feel the boiling blood of embarrassment rise up from within me like the eruption of Mount St. Helens. I was aware that my divorces made me feel uncomfortable, but I had no idea I felt such shame until Crissy asked about them. I mumbled a nearly incomprehensible response.
Naturally, Crissy wanted clarification. “Did I hear you say you have been married twice?”
“Yes,” I said.
She didn’t stop there. “How many years did each marriage last?”
“They each lasted twenty years,” I replied.
Her surprise increased her volume by several octaves. “You were married twice for twenty years?”
The shrill from the other end of the line made me want to shout back, “What do you want to do alert the f**king media about it?” Fortunately, restraint came to my rescue before I could make a fool of myself. I threw out a simple “yes”.
I had been unable to prevent my second divorce from happening. This left me feeling like a loser out in the cold. This was evident when answering Crissy, but her response gave me a glimpse at a new perspective. In her mind, my marital tenure was proof of my relationship work ethic. This spoke to my patience, perseverance, and ability to find mutual solutions to problems. She insisted these skills would be the foundation of my next one. I should be proud of this, not ashamed.
It has taken me some time, but I have come around to Crissy’s perspective. It is true, even when relationships end there is a value we take to future ones. We don’t see this right away because of the emotional pain we feel during the breakup. We view such suffering as the residue of our failure. In reality, this is simply not true. Just as the end of a relationship does not signify failure, an ongoing, long-lasting relationship does not mean success. Some of the most miserably unhappy people I know have been married for decades. Longevity in a relationship might be something to admire in some, but in others, it can indicate very unhealthy things, like a stubborn adherence to archaic religious beliefs, an unbending stubbornness to achieving a goal, a blind denial of reality, or a suffocating fear of making a change. Ending a bad relationship may actually be the most compassionate thing a couple can do, even when only one triggers it.
There are few things more painful than a relationship ending in divorce, but there is a benefit to the suffering. My pain forced me to reflect on what I brought into relationships that seeded their ultimate demise. I learned that I entered both my marriages with an inner belief that I was not worthy of love and that my partner would eventually betray and/or leave me. I tried to do everything in my marriage to make my partner happy whenever I sensed their displeasure. In so doing, I blurred my boundaries along with my character. Not only did they end up losing respect for me, they never got to know the real person inside. By unconsciously emitting the energy of my negative self-beliefs into the Universe, I attracted partners who fulfilled my expectations. When the relationships ended, my negative beliefs about myself were confirmed.
Facing this reality was painful, but the experiences provided me a very valuable lesson; I don’t need to prostrate myself at the feet of someone in order to be loved. My partners served as my teachers and I am grateful for what they taught me.
The key to your success in relationships begins the same way; you must first acknowledge what it is you bring to partnerships that cause their demise. Your lessons may not be the same as mine, but if you look closely at your past relationships you will find your pattern. You may need help from others to change these habits, but recognizing what YOU do is always the first step.
There is always danger of being hurt when you commit your love to another, and no one likes pain. But the only way we can avoid heartache is to never leave our bed and that is just not possible. Relationships offer us the best opportunity to evolve, which is why we must engage in them. It is important to remember that, although it feels like it, hearts don’t really break; they expand with every love experience. Like a crab during its molting phase, your heart sheds itself from the confines of the shell it has outgrown. Every relationship that ends contains the hope that we will find the most wonderful and fulfilling love of our lives. This is made possible because of what we have learned from our past partners. Because of them, your next love has the chance to be fuller, more mature, more encompassing. This is the real success!
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We are all immigrants! Whether we left a country for a fresh start in another, or whether an unforeseen life change has sent us on an unexpected path, this cycle of death and rebirth is at the center of our human evolution and can alter us in ways we don’t fully understand. If you are going through such a period, I can help. If your organization is going through a challenging phase or serves people whose lives are in flux, like immigrants, seniors, or communities that are unappreciated, I can help as well. The combination of years and experiences have molded me into a messenger uniquely qualified to write, speak and mentor on the subject of discovering the inner resource that will convert difficult transitions into positive triumphs. Check out my website for the services I offer, and to subscribe to my weekly blog. You can also request a free one-half hour consultation to get your questions answers.