I am middle-aged and single, with a solid profession, good friends and a comfortable home. Although I pray to meet the man who is my true life partner, I am also afraid to meet him. I have been really unsuccessful in my past relationships. I rarely meet available men. When I finally get a date, I am so desperate that I rush into a full-blown relationship with a guy that no one in their right mind would choose. I hang on longer than I should, and then it ends. I’m starting to date again after another drought. I hope you can help me avoid another waste of time. I feel like I am missing my true love because I get stuck in these psychodrama relationships.
Perhaps the psychodrama relationships are leading you to your true love. Each of us has areas of immaturity or emotional stasis embedded within us as a result of traumas, large and small, in our personal histories. Some people learn to grow beyond these flashpoints within the container of a single, committed partnership. Others manage the same progress through a series of relationships. Of course, the growth and subsequent emotional integration doesn’t occur automatically. For those who avoid emotional union in a single, committed relationship or those who propel themselves into a relationship immediately after the breakup of another, healing does not occur at all. It comes as the result of engaging in honest reflection following an emotional challenge or after a breakup.
Here’s an exercise that can help. Write a one-paragraph description of each “psychodrama relationship” (in historical—not hysterical—order). Then take a break. Go for a walk or dance around your living room to a cool tune. (How about “Where is the Love?” by the Black Eyed Peas?) Return to the list. Read each paragraph individually and respond to it by writing what you gained by being in that relationship and what lessons you learned about yourself. Next, admit whether you have truly integrated this information into your life. If not, write an explanation of why you have not and how you can change in the future. Be honest. This means there will be nothing on your page that blames your ex-boyfriends or otherwise projects your own failures onto them. Focus on yourself. Eventually, if you remain open to possibilities, you will meet someone who is the one you hope for (or close to it!).
As I go through my day, I keep hearing Marlon Brando’s famous line from On the Waterfront: “I could’ve been a contender.” Maybe it’s because my 50th birthday is fast approaching, but I am beginning to feel uneasy about my life. I am a divorced, well-employed, financially secure man who has no trouble finding dates or hobbies to occupy my time. I am also someone who never thought they would consult an advice columnist! Please help.
So, here you are, peering into the second half of your life and wondering what to do with all that time! Luckily, your psyche is sending messages that your sweet ego cannot ignore. Hearing the line “I could’ve been a contender” is a sign that, despite your worldly accomplishments, you have not touched the work that you are in the world to do. Think back to your early life. What dream is waiting? A foundation to support educational programs for children in Uganda? A proposal to engineer clean water for India? Whatever piece of heaven was given to you is meant to serve the world. Give birth to it and take us one step closer to heaven on Earth.