From Love to Happiness
As a child growing up in a alcoholic home, I spent endless hours dreaming about growing up, leaving home, and finding the love I never got from my parents. Unfortunately, I was so needy that I fell in love too quickly and with anyone who would give me some attention---even negative attention.
After 15 years of hopeless and abusive relationships, I had a nervous beakdown and went to Alcoholcs Anonymous to deal with my drinking. I had turned to drinking to drown my sorrows because I never found the love I craved.
It never occurred to me that I was chasing after men just like my dad who could not love me because of his own alcoholism.
Eventually, I realized that I did not know what I was doing and started to research healthy relationships. The book that helped me the most was, "A Fine Romance," by Judith Sills.
The first thing I learned is that I was in too much of a hurry. I craved love and couldn’t wait to find it. As a result, I moved too quickly from attraction to infatuation without stopping to see if my heart's desire was available or compatible.
Today, I believe that we should develop a fulfilling relationship with ourselves before we attempt to have a romantic relationship. Romantic feelings can be like a tidal wave sweeping us out to sea if we are not securely tied to a relationship with ourselves. Many of us may want to be swept out to sea, but this is not really healthy; and sometimes it is even dangerous.
I also believe we should be careful who we select and . . . :
- Take our time;
- Do everything we can to keep from being blinded by our emotions;
- Know what we don't want people who trigger our dysfunctional behavio);
- Look for someone healthy, and observe them objectively before we plunge in;
- Look for someone who does not have to change very much too please us without looking for perfection. We should find the middle ground.
I believe we have to take a second look at dating. This is when we find out what a person is really like─any false fronts should crumble after a few dates. We should be ourselves and not try to control what someone thinks of us. We want people to know who we really are.
During dating we should not just be having a good time, but measuring our compatibility, and establishing trust. We should also consider holding off on sex if it blinds us to what this person is really like. If possible keep a lid on any budding romantic feelings. Even if we feel romantic,we do not need to give them a lot of power by fantasizing too much.
During the dating process we should be willing to change our mind if we usually cling to unhealthy or unavailable people and be willing to hang in there if we usually run away from emotional intimacy. This is time for a friendship that might turn romantic.
This is a time to ask ourselves if we can relax and have fun together─to see if we can count on this person, and to built a strong foundation for a future romantic relationship.
If all goes well we can begin a courtship which is a friendship combined with romance. Romantic feelings can now have a free reign, so we can see if they mix well with the friendship. We can let romantic love blossom now; we don't have to put a lid on our feelings anymore.
Now we can test our readiness for intimacy; this is usually the time when a fear of intimacy comes up.
Commitment is the next stage. Now things can get serious. We can set ground rules for the relationship and discuss things like:
* Growing closer
* The future
* How much time we will have for each other
The final stage is a partnership. This used to be called marriage, but now the wedding ceremony is optional. During a partnership we should:
- Maintain what we have established up to now;
- Honor the values you have in common;
- Grow as a couple, as well as individuals;
- Get to really know each other and experience intimacy. (Intimacy comes from revealing yourself to a non-judgmental partner.)
One note of caution. Watch out for what Judith Sills calls the “switch.” At any point in the progression of a relationship, one partner may experience a fear of intimacy and pull back. We don’t need to panic. We can give our partner some space. However, if he or she does not come around in a few weeks, we should move on.
Now, I want to give you a word of encouragement and a warning. Intimate relationships are wonderful and something to aspire to. They can enhance your life in unbelievable ways. They can be very fulfilling and help you grow to your full potential. But always remember that they are a "want" not a "need." Your self-esteem should never depend on finding someone special.
Also, love (as attraction and desire) is not enough. Love that follows a careful selection, and is coupled with a willingness to work hard and extend yourself is also necessary.
Finally, we must not become slaves to the myth that romantic love will always span an entire lifetime. Only spiritual love lasts forever. Therefore, as we change, our relationship will change; and sometimes (but not always) it will fade away. We should not be discouraged by this. Change is part of life. It is what makes life interesting.
Addiction to Love by Susan Peabody
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