When a relationship "fails," it's easy to look back on it with blame and shame. We want to point fingers and attribute the pain to external forces (more often than not, by blaming our exes). But the truth is, every relationship is a dynamic. So when that dynamic spirals into dysfunction, we need to recognize our part.
Let's take an example to explore what I'm talking about further. Caren had a belief that all men leave. And she had good reason to believe this: her father left her mother and the family when she was five years old. In her adult life, her husband of six years separated from her so he could be with someone else. Since their divorce several years ago, she’s only had two serious relationships and each of them ended with the man breaking up with her: one man moved away and the other man didn’t feel the same way about her that she did about them.
In this kind of context, "a belief" is a thought that we keep thinking, and our thoughts are driven primarily by our experiences. And Caren had plenty of life experiences that demonstrated to her that men leave. Each time someone she cared about left a relationship with her, she perpetuated the thought pattern that all men leave, gathering more and more proof that her belief was true.
But what if she was unconsciously causing the exact experience she didn’t want to happen, over and over again? Believe it or not (pun intended), our beliefs are way more powerful than we think.
I suspect we've all had the experience where you go into a store and even though you’re “just looking,” the sales clerk continues to stalk you, offering advice and pointing out all the specials. And being chased by graspy, needy energy, tends to make us want to run, logically.
Well, the same thing happens in love and relationships. When we’re desperately afraid we’ll be abandoned, we create the experience that makes our partner want to run away, and then use that as evidence to support our fear. We think about that fear often, and over time it becomes a belief — a deeply ingrained belief. The more proof we acquire, the stronger the belief becomes, but we’ve been unintentionally and unconsciously creating the experience ourselves.
Now back to Caren: when she was able to see that experience through a new lens of truth, she understood that she had unintentionally created the exact experience she hadn’t wanted. Now she knows something she didn’t know previously: she can enter future relationships aware of and taking responsibility for the energy she brings into it. Because of her newfound knowledge, Caren is now creating relationships that don’t have that same dynamic. She’s able to be more confident. She no longer creates or holds onto false stories in her mind or attempts to predict the future based upon her clouded past.
When we are willing to become compassionately curious about the role we’ve had in creating the experiences we’ve had so far in love, we have the power to create a future that looks dramatically different from our past. To move toward clarifying our role in past relationships, consider these questions:
- Did you become far more worried about making the other person happy than making yourself happy?
- Were you looking for someone to love you enough that you might learn to love yourself?
- Did you act as if how the other person behaved was OK, when you knew in your heart it wasn’t?
- Were you attempting to be someone you’re not so the other person might love you more?
- Did you indulge their bad behavior and allow it to continue or ignore the signs?
- Was there ever a time when you stayed in a relationship long past its expiration date?
- Did you try to convince yourself that what you had with another was “enough,” even when you knew in your heart it wasn’t what you really wanted or needed in a relationship?
Frogs can't swallow with their eyes open. Weird, but true. With that in mind, now ask yourself what you have been swallowing in love and in relationships simply because your eyes were closed to the truth.
Now is the time to learn to love with your eyes wide open. Become curious about how you unintentionally played a role in your experiences. Then, with that newfound knowledge and understanding, begin making different choices in order to create a future that looks dramatically different from your past.
Excerpted from Sharon Pope’s new eBook, Soulful Truth Telling: Disbelieving the Lies that Keep Us from the Love We Desire, available on June 2. As a mindbodygreen reader, you can get the eBook for free (just download by June 6th), as well as gain free access to her online course, The Truth about Forgiveness.
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