“Happiness is like a butterfly, when pursued is always beyond our grasp. But if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” Nathaniel Hawthorne
Linda: And the same can be said about love. If it pursued with excessive vigor or desperation, it will elude us. Sit quietly, and love may alight. Taking our attention off of the object of our desires, and not trying to change or chase them, not pursuing them to bring love to us, can set a context for love to flourish. Paradoxically, when we cease our efforts to control another, they become inclined to see us in a more favorable light. When we begin to receive from ourselves that which we at times desperately chase after our partner to bring to us, we are less likely to frighten or overwhelm them. When we become less needy, we become more attractive to others.
Loosening the white knuckle grip.
Many of us have had to learn the hard way that fear and insecurity can prompt us to hold a tight grip, and to become possessive and demanding. Such behavior can be repelling rather than inviting. Consider the situation of Mira.
Mira was attached to a vision that she had since she was a little girl, the dream of the perfect family. Mira’s included a husband who came home every evening after work, to happily sit down to dinner together. He would be very involved in the children’s development, and would coach little league. In her fantasy, he was incredibly supportive, devoted to her and the kids, and encouraging of her professional success.
Mira’s told me that her pictures were vivid, and her attachments to them were strong. In the earliest stages of her marriage, real life matched her image, but then when her husband took a new demanding job, her whole picture shattered. In Mira’s words, “I’m good at holding on, but not as good at letting go. I thought that my challenge was to pull the family back together again, but it actually was to adapt to a changing reality. This period of time was painful because I resisted so strongly and refused to accept what my situation had become. When things didn’t go according to my plan, I decided that Mark didn’t love me anymore. My fear and disappointment turned into anger, and my attempt to control had the opposite effect of restoring the love that indeed was ebbing away. I finally realized that I needed to do some work on myself and that learning to let go was my growing edge. When I became more accomplished at being still, it allowed the love to flow back into our family.”
Mira came to understand that when her real life situation didn't correspond to her cherished pictures, she spun directly into thinking that the relationship wasn't working. It took a while, even with good support, to realize that the relationship was in transition to a more creative form.
Ideas about what a good relationship should look like can go through many revisions. We may also have notions about what love and intimacy should be, but things can change over time. We can’t expect to put the relationship in a box, and forever keep it the way it once was. Life is full of surprises, and we are challenged to accept change. Relationship is a powerful process of learning each other's language and respecting each other's way of being. We tend to think that the way we see things is the right way. It takes a high level of emotional maturity to be able to loosen our grip on the model of how we think things are supposed to be.
By simply sitting quietly, we can come to see ourselves more clearly. We can recognize our shortcomings and our strengths. If we haven’t done the work required to know and accept ourselves, deep and lasting love will inevitably continue to elude us. No matter how much approval we get from others, the satisfaction is always brief. We know that the approval we are getting is based on a manufactured image, not on our actual self.
There is always the lingering doubt that “if they really knew me, they would think less of me and wouldn’t love me.” By expressing our true self rather than our manufactured image we reaffirm our essential self-worth and simultaneously convey this to others. As we come to this quiet acceptance of ourselves as a mixed bag of greatness and flaws, we become more real and authentic with our partner. It is in being present with what’s true, that we come to more fully accept and honor both our deficiencies and our magnificence, and in so doing become available to express and receive the love that is our birthright, no strings attached.
Linda Bloom L.C.S.W. has served as psychotherapist and seminar leader practicing relationship counseling almost forty years. Check out her OMTimes Bio.
If you like what you read, click here to sign up Bloomwork’s monthly inspirational newsletter and receive our free e-book: Going For the Gold: Tools, practice, and wisdom for creating exemplary relationships.
Follow Bloomwork on Facebook!