Avoiding Pain vs. Creating Love
In the quote above, I define the risk of love as the risk of vulnerably & openly being my True Self with another person. When I was 23 years old, I had a huge revelation about how I’d consistently approached relationships:
- Meet cute boy & flirt
- Develop crush
- If cute boy shows interest, put up a wall: hide the parts of me I’m afraid he won’t like/love
- Establish exclusivity [I rarely wasted time getting to this step]
- Yearn for validation to prove I’m “good enough”
- Arbitrarily only collect evidence supporting my “not good enough” beliefs about myself
- Fear a break-up due to #6
- Focus on everything he does “wrong”
- Use #8 as evidence for why we shouldn’t be together
- Break up with him [before he breaks up with me]
Wow. Toxic habits. Yet I’ve done it several times, and have seen the pattern repeated in countless other people & relationships. And afterward, we often have the gall to say we “gave it a try.” Wait, what? How are we defining giving it a try?!
Well folks, here’s what I think: we tell ourselves that we want true love, but in reality, we just want to avoid pain. Our fear of being truly seen (authentically vulnerable) can be so gripping that we would rather a) put up a wall and push the other person away, because at least that way we feel “in control” of the situation, and we feel “less hurt” if we are the rejecters and not the rejectees; or b) pretend to be somebody we’re not, just to feel loved by the other person.
After my revelation, I decided to finally tear down my walls and FULLY commit to my boyfriend (who is now my husband). I couldn’t believe what a difference it made, both in myself and in our relationship. I finally made the choice to be my wholly authentic self with him, “the good, the bad, and the ugly.”
It was hard. And very very scary. “What if he hates the real me?” I was showing him sides of my personality that I’d never shown anyone before. I had no guarantees that he would love me for all of my silly quirky craziness…but I finally chose to take the risk because I decided the following:
I would rather be my True Self with him than be in a sham relationship where I put on an act and hide different parts of myself from him. I will actively choose to come from a place of love instead of fear.
Quite frankly, a relationship built on hiding & acting is just too much work! And for what? To only be partially seen/known/loved? No thank you, not anymore.
After tearing down my remaining walls, I felt truly free in an intimate relationship for the first time in my life. I finally understood what it meant to be my 100% in a committed loving relationship, and it was INCREDIBLE.
I’ll admit, to this day (5 years later) I have been known to briefly slip back back into wall building -- I had done it for so long that it became my conditioned response to feeling ashamed of myself. But over time, with committed & consistent efforts from both of us to continue being vulnerably authentic, the walls don’t come up NEARLY as often, and they’re always broken down within minutes (if not seconds) of being built.
We have figured out how to be our True Selves with each other, and it’s truly magical. We are connected on a level that I didn’t even know existed, and our connection only grows day by day.
I know that it was worth the risk of loss, and I sincerely hope you know it is, too.
Here are some suggestions I have for how to continue choosing the risk of love:
- Be yourself. I know this is a very prevalent teaching in the world of transformational growth, and there’s a reason for that - IT WORKS. What is life for if not to be our authentic selves, sharing our gifts with the world?
- Check-in with yourself after having interactions with your love-interest (or really, with anyone): do you feel fulfilled, satisfied & content with how you showed up? Or did you feel ashamed of yourself at some point and attempt to hide it in the interaction?
- Be kind to yourself. We all make mistakes, and if you’ve hidden parts of yourself that you’re ashamed of, it’s understandable. Once you acknowledge it (with yourself AND the other person!), don’t beat yourself up about it. Just make a commitment to show up differently in the future. Life’s all about learning.
- Get clear. A lot of people don’t have clear intentions when it comes to relationships. Or perhaps their intention is clear and sounds something like this: “I’m in this relationship so you can validate me, because I don’t love myself” or “I’m so desperate for love that I’ll compromise who I am to get it.” I think it’s important to be intensely clear about your deepest intention in choosing to risk love, and make sure it is coming from a place of love and not a place of fear/lack.
- Commit. Remember that love is both a choice and an action. Don’t give up on a relationship until you are sure that you’ve given it your 100% (whatever that looks like for you). You might be surprised at what being in a relationship with both people giving their 100% can feel like.
All the best on your loving adventures! :)
[jbox title="About Nicole Strack:" border="5" radius="15"]
Nicole is a personal growth blogger and a photographer. Her life’s mission is to live authentically, connect wholeheartedly, and share openly. She’s married to her best friend, and because of the love they’ve created, Nicole knows that true love is way better than the stuff of fairy tales. [/jbox]