I’ve had a series of heartbreaks with men. I’ve fallen for them only to learn that they are emotionally unavailable or cheaters … or mental cases. I finally met a man I really like. He treats me really well, but I’m secretly terrified that he will abandon me like the guys in my past, so I distance myself from him and start little fights. I almost cheated on him, too. I seem to be doing everything that was done to me instead of being happy that I have a good man. Please help! I don’t want to blow this relationship.
Give yourself credit, girlfriend! Awareness is the first action in the process of change, and you have taken that step. You’ve asked yourself the tough question that many people avoid: “What am I defending against?” and determined the answer is: “Being left by the man to whom I have entrusted my heart.” Calling abandonment out as the fear that bedevils you empowers your ability to release its hold. The next step is to engage in the spiritual practice of forgiveness.
In her profoundly insightful book, The Inward Arc: Healing in Psychotherapy and Spirituality, psychologist Frances Vaughan writes: “Letting go of defenses means forgiving oneself for past mistakes and present inadequacies. It also means forgiving others for not being what one thinks they should be. If to understand all is to forgive all, then lack of forgiveness implies inadequate understanding.”
It is important to realize that forgiveness is not blaming others for the way you are. Nor is it trying to force people to take responsibility or apologize for the harm you perceive they have done to you. Forgiveness is the understanding and acceptance of human nature. We all make mistakes. Often the words or actions that cause pain result because of our own or the other’s unhealed wounds from prior relationships. So when something inside you is activated, it’s an invitation to exorcize the ghosts of your past by seeing how you participated in creating the current experience and admitting at least three ways in which the past experience benefited you. For example, if your father left when you were a child and you never saw him again, you might have feared that you are unlovable. The process of becoming an adult includes confronting beliefs about yourself that are not true. If you failed to do this for yourself, you contributed to any problem resulting from false beliefs. Acknowledging things like, “I was really close to my older brother,” or “I learned to do things for myself faster than kids who had dads,” takes the charge out of the drama about your father’s exit. You begin to understand that his leaving was about his issues and inadequacies, not your own. So excavate your past and present, then extend yourself past your ego (we all have one) to forgive yourself and others. It will inspire the power in you to create the future you desire with your new man.
I am not religious, but I consider myself to be very spiritual. Can you recommend a simple practice that I can do daily, despite having three children in diapers and a partner who has just started her own business?
I keep ear plugs and a timer in my purse so that if I have even 10 minutes, I can sit in my car in a parking lot with my eyes closed, earplugs in place and practice the deep abdominal breathing that is the entrance to many forms of meditation. You might also try keeping a happiness journal. Each night, record one sentence describing the moment that day when you were the happiest. Eventually you will know exactly how to decrease your stress by increasing your joy.