It’s easy to fall in love, but the real trick is how to stay in love.
So what really happens when we fall in love? We momentarily let go of our fears and restrictions and take an enormous leap. We’re funnier, sexier, more giving, open hearted, alive and complete. We believe we have found ‘The One’ who will give us what we need and our urge to attach to this person blossoms. We all silently long for a safe, reliable relationship that will ride the storms and be an anchor for us as we come and go.
But, inevitably, disappointments do occur and our supply lines are cut off. Our needs may go unmet, our partner may fail us in the same way our parents or past lovers did. Those rose colored glasses fall off our faces as we realized that our beloved cannot or will not love and care for us in the abundant way we secretly expected him/her to do. Love feels uncertain and unsafe!
Now, what do we do?
Usually we automatically fall back into what we know….our survival defenses from childhood. You may find yourself becoming a Yearner, anxiously seeking to attach and connect to your partner trying to override the feelings of emptiness you feel inside…..or a Protector who denies your needs for love and closeness, pretending not to care so much, and anxiously seeking separation by becoming OVERLY involved outside of the relationship.
Did you know that within us there are two powerful, opposing forces?
One force is our urge to be attached and connected to a reliable source of love and comfort. The other force is our inner drive to be separate and independent. But in intimate relationships these two forces go to war with one another.
Why? you may ask.
Well, like heat seeking missiles, we tend to fall in love with partner’s who treat us, much as our parents did, and we then, fall into the same patterns of interaction we did in childhood. On the surface, you may think you are consciously seeking a partner that reflects the best qualities of your parents or who seems to be the absolute opposite of your parents and can, therefore, provide you with all the goodies your parents never gave you. But unfortunately, your unconscious has a different agenda. Have you noticed that you seem to become attracted to and get hooked by a partner who activates all of your old, painful, unhealed, festering wounds?
Here’s an example of how it works….
.Let’s say one or both of your parents were unavailable or inconsistently reliable as you were growing up. You may unconsciously pick a partner who can’t be there for you and quite frequently disappoints you in this way. When your abandonment fears get activated, you may suddenly find yourself doing what you did in childhood to get attention and earn love. Pursuing, pleasing, blending, complying…losing your sense of self as you anxiously are driven to maneuver your partner into caring more>….This is a pattern of Yearning.
Conversely, if one or both of your parents were overprotective, critical or controlling, you may find that when your partner pursues closeness and intimacy and wants more of your involvement, your buried distrust of being consumed or smothered by another may automatically resurface. All of a sudden, your partner’s needs feel suffocating and you may reactively push away, create more distance between you, and deny your needs for closeness as you coldly withdraw and protect your separate sense of self. This is a pattern of Protecting.
Can you identify with either of these patterns?
If the answer is yes, you may ask…..”So what can I do about it?”
Remember that relationships are our greatest teachers. One of our tasks in relationship is to learn how to attach and achieve a comfortable, balanced flow between being loving and close to another, while simultaneously, retaining a separate sense of self. In other words, how to belong to a “We” AND maintain a strong sense of “I“
This article was written by Dr. Sheri Meyers, America’s leading love and intimacy expert.