It’s February and the topic always turns to LOVE at this time of year. Valentine’s Day shifts our attention to this important and often hot topic.
There are all kinds of relationships and ways of expressing love to those you care about most. There are also a ton of ways that each of us muck up those relationships and lose track of the LOVE that is the most natural and wonderful experience we have in our lives.
Today’s blog begins a series in which I focus on relationships.
How to bring more love into yours and how to let go of more of that stuff that doesn’t work… and I’ll touch on what you can do when, even though you know it doesn’t work, you keep doing it anyway!
Anyone out there resonate with that?
I am going to start with a topic that I don’t think most people consider when they look at their relationships. Healing…..Healing from old wounds, the ones you bring from childhood, from young love, from all kinds of experiences life offers.
Healing also from fresh ouches, and current interactions with those you love.
I’m starting here because, when you have a relationship wound, you will go unconscious and react in a way that is defensive. Defensiveness comes in many different flavors. It could be that you retreat and block the other person out. It could be that you defend yourself by seeing something wrong in the other person. It could be that you avoid expressing yourself fully about something really important to you. The word “defensive” – in and of itself – is pretty descriptive I believe.
When you have a wound that is unhealed and someone does something that touches on that wound, you naturally defend yourself. It hurts!! You defend your heart. You block love (because it’s vulnerable). Simple, painful, a very normal reaction.
Healing your relationship wounds will save you a lot of grief.
Healing wounds is where the yummy stuff lives as well. The healing process itself can be life affirming if you open up to learning and growing. I find this is especially powerful if you are on a spiritual path. Spirit LOVES to help us open our hearts. Spirit LOVES it when we hurt and then heal. (We may not but Spirit does!)
There are many great books out there and one in particular that helped me with my wounds. Getting the Love you Want by Harville Hendrix was the first book that really got through to me and helped me see my own relationship wounds. I learned about the Imago which describes romance as what happens when two people are attracted to each other because they are wounded in exact ways to trigger each other.
That doesn’t sound very uplifting does it!
The uplifting par,t though, is how this is an opportunity for healing within the relationship. If both people are willing to do their work in this area, it can be transformative and bring a lot of joy.
I liked this book so much I sought out a therapist to help my first husband and I heal our respective wounds. Once I had an awareness of my own wounds and could see my own defensiveness as well as his, I had hope I could make the necessary changes.
The therapist helped me uncover one of my relationship wounds that really shocked me. When I was sixteen I fell head over heels in teenage love with a boy. I opened my heart to him and he stomped all over it. After wooing and winning me he unceremoniously dumped me for another girl. That wound led me to shut down my heart instead of being vulnerable.
Though I did a lot of healing through the work I did with that therapist and other personal and spiritual growth activities, my first marriage ended. One of the things my first husband told me at the end was that he always felt me holding back. Ouch…that hurt. I decided that I was going to continue my healing so I wouldn’t have a repeat performance.
One thing I have learned as I have gone on to heal and grow in my marriage is that healing is an ongoing process. Some wounds are deeper than others and take longer to heal to the point of being able to respond lovingly. Some wounds may never heal completely. Some wounds are scratches and just need a little uncovering to heal once and for all.
The really good news is that the healing process itself is all you need to open up to in order to have great relationships. This is not something that requires perfection. Living your life with an open and undefended heart is something that brings joy as you work your way through the often messy moments.
Most of us need help in order to fully explore and not only heal but find new ways of thriving in the face of experiences that used to shut us down. I have come to welcome help in many forms. Professionals like therapists and life and relationship coaches, spiritual teachings and guides. Books and programs that I explore in groups or on my own. Those rare and wonderful people who you connect with in what seems like a miracle.
I believe having good relationships are worth the work, the risks and the effort needed to heal those wounds.
I also love little exercises that help me inch my way to healing and growing. Here is a three step process I have found can do just that.
One: Accept what is without judgement. Accept yourself. Accept the other person without judgement. This step will help you uncover your own wounds and be able to see more clearly your defensiveness or unconscious behaviour.
Two: Admit to yourself when you feel hurt, admit when your behavior hurts someone else. Again if you can do this without judgement you will be able to release the negative emotions that can block a wound from healing.
Three: Forgive yourself, forgive the other person and hand it over to God, Spirit, a Higher Power. Release and let it go.
One last thing that is super important to remember. Healing is an iterative process, not a one-walk dog, so remember to keep cycling through these three steps with love and compassion for yourself.