Valentine’s Day can be a lovely, romantic and fun day. Or, it can be a bitch. I guess it all depends on your situation at the time and your attitude to love and V-Day in general.
Until my marriage in 2011, I had spent most of my adult life in a decidedly single state. Sure, I had a few serious relationships over the years, and am fairly certain I received a V-Day card from partners from time to time. But I was not one of those girls showered with gifts, flowers, cards, chocolates or other such romantic gestures. I was mostly single during my 20s and 30s and hardly beating prospective suitors off with a stick. So, why did I stay single through this time? Quite simply, I couldn’t see the point of having a relationship with or getting married to someone that I didn’t want to be with for a really long time. And, I hadn’t met anyone I could honestly say I wanted to go down that path with. While I chose not to accept a couple of marriage proposals that came my way, being single long term wasn’t always easy.
So, when reflecting on the message I wanted to share in this Valentine’s Day blog post, the word that came to me was ‘courage’.
What I’ve learned throughout my own journey is this. Whether you want to create, build, nurture, save or maintain a loving relationship, it seems to me that courage is a required ingredient throughout every stage. In fact, even the conscious choice to stay single, especially when everyone around you is partnering up, requires an immense amount of courage.
it takes courage to stay true to yourself and live your life fully, whether ‘the right one’ comes along, or not. [ Tweet this ]
But I digress…
Like you, I’ve been hurt in relationships. I’ve been betrayed. I’ve had my heart broken and broken others. I’ve had more than my share of forgettable dates in the 16+ years of my adult, single life.
Despite all of this, I somehow managed to end up in a deliciously happy marriage (since 2011) with a wonderful, loving man – my husband Marc, whom I lovingly refer to as “Champion” (the story behind that will be told in a future post).
I remember the first time I introduced Champion to some friends in Boulder. It was our fourth date and we’d been invited to an Aussie-style pool party at the home of Jo White (@mediamum). Admittedly I’m biased, but Champion is a very likable and charming man who relates easily to other people, and he must have made a very good impression. After a fun afternoon in the sun, as we said goodbye, Jo looked at me in the eye and said: “You know, you are really lucky.” To which I replied:
“Yes, I am. And I worked really hard to be this lucky.”
It was true. Perhaps for some, finding love wasn’t hard work. Some people are lucky enough to meet their soulmate at high school, at a party, or on a Contiki tour around Europe, then go on to spend a lifetime in wedded bliss.
Others, like me, spend a lot of time single or conversely, become disillusioned by a series of failed relationships, that makes one wonder:
“Am I ever going to find that one, amazing person that I truly want to spend the rest of my life with?”
Equally, for those who are already married or in a committed partnership who discover the road of love is not always smooth, it can be easy to experience times of doubts, disappointment or apathy.
It is all too easy for disillusion or disappointment to give way to cynicism. A loss of hope. A lack of trust. The loss of our childhood innocence that truly believed we would find love and be happy after all.
It takes courage for us not to fall into that trap, into that deep, dark spiral that can take us down into that despondent, desolate place where we simply give up – on ourselves, on our relationships, on our hopes, our dreams, on humanity, and on love itself.
That’s why it takes a great deal of courage to love. Sure, we’ve all been hurt, we’ve all been disappointed by love and by lovers. But we can’t let those past experiences define us, and we can’t let it define our future. We are not victims of life, we are the creators of our life. And the sooner we own that, the better.
I remember in 2006 I attended a weekend workshop in Australia called “Set Yourself Free in Relationships” with Dr Shirley Smith. At that time, I’d been single for two years and was recovering from the spectacular debacle that was my last live-in relationship. Successfully, I thought, as I’d thrown myself headfirst into launching a new business that took up most of my time, energy and attention.
I remember thinking:
“OK, so I’ll knock these relationship issues on the head this weekend, and then I’ll be in a really positive and healthy place to meet someone new.”
Oh, how wrong I was.
Little did I know that weekend was the beginning of two extremely intense, yet ultimately life-changing years of deep inner emotional work, therapy and healing that would forever transform me and every area of my life – especially my relationships.
Within the first few hours, as Shirley shared her therapist wisdom about how we are each 50% responsible for what happens in our relationships – the good and the bad – I was jolted with a sudden awareness. I could no longer blame my ex for being the bad guy, for being insecure, for cheating on me, for causing me emotional distress, for being wrong.
I had a choice. I could remain a victim and continue to blame him for my pain, anger and mistrust in men and stay busy in an unconscious effort to avoid intimacy, or I could take a long, hard and honest look at my part in the relationship – including my choice to stay in a situation that had red flags all over it from the start.
Perhaps I was either too naïve or too blinded by what I thought was ‘love’ to recognize and heed the warning signs. Yet, ultimately I ended up in a co-dependent relationship in which I enabled behaviors that were addictive, unhealthy and unloving to both of us.
When I recognized my part in the failed relationship, my part in ALL of my failed relationships, I recognized I also had the power to change myself, who I loved, the way I loved, and in doing so, re-write the script for my life. I had a huge realization as I hear a little voice inside me say:
Your relationship past does not have to determine your relationship future. [ Tweet this ]
By working on healing myself, and developing a new, positive and healthy understanding and relationship with myself and others, I could create the kind of loving partnership I had always wanted, but never had the awareness or tools to create.
That weekend workshop changed my life and was the beginning of a deeply courageous journey.
With it came a newfound sense of inner freedom, where I started to look at every area of my life and my past that needed healing and gave myself the time and space to do that. I chose to stop being a victim and start taking a more empowered approach to my life and to love.
I learned how to forgive myself for my past mistakes and bad decisions.
I learned how to stop being so hard on myself and start being more gentle and compassionate with myself and others.
I learned how to appreciate all of my relationships as valuable experiences that allowed me to learn and grow.
I learned how to be vulnerable, share my feelings authentically and take care of my own emotional needs.
And I kept drawing on my inner courage, to keep on showing up and keep my heart wide open – with discernment of course – while trusting and believing that there was a great love out there for me, all the while not allowing myself to fall (for too long) into impatience or frustration in the meantime.
My point is simply this.
Whatever your relationship status, you need to keep showing up with courage. [ Tweet this ]
Here are some suggestions for how you might show up with courage in your present situation whatever that might be.
How to Show up with Courage in your Relationships and Life
1. If you are currently single and want to be in a loving relationship…
Have the courage to look deep inside yourself, to heal the parts that need healing, to do your inner work, to keep your heart open (despite disappointments), to have patience, to keep trusting and believing that you can have the kind of loving relationship you deeply desire. Have the courage to see other loving healthy relationships around you as evidence of what you wish to create, appreciate them and allow yourself to feel inspired by them, knowing beyond all doubt that great love IS possible and out there, for you are already witnessing it.
2. If you are currently single and don’t want to be in a loving relationship…
Have the courage to be deeply honest with yourself about your reasons. Are you taking time out while you heal from a past relationship or other traumatic life event? If so, give yourself the time and space to heal and when you are ready, follow the suggestions above in point 1. If you are consciously choosing to stay single for other, healthy reasons, have the courage to keep an open mind and heart about new possibilities, whatever they may be. If you know you are avoiding a relationship to avoid pain, have the courage to read the suggestions in point 3 below and consider whether any of these apply to you, and if so, take appropriate action.
3. Whether you are single or in a relationship, if you are staying busy and distracted…
Have the courage to be deeply honest with yourself and ask yourself: Are you staying busy and distracted with work, kids, pets, technology, alcohol or other substances, sleeping around etc, so you can shy away from committed partnership, prevent the chance of being hurt, rejected or disappointed, or avoid intimacy? If so, have the courage to admit this to yourself, and take the steps necessary to heal yourself from that pattern and be open to creating space in your heart and your life for love. Have the courage to consider that it is virtually impossible to experience true intimacy in the presence of addiction, and seek help from a therapist or 12 Step program.
4. If you’re in a relationship and things are going great…
Have the courage to avoid complacency and make things even better, by taking your relationship to yet another level. Explore new ways to connect and build intimacy by having regular, romantic date nights, trying new thing togethers, reading a book or doing a workshop together on deepening intimacy.
5. If you’re in a relationship and having a tough time, but want to make it work…
Have the courage to sit down and share how you are feeling, in a loving, open and vulnerable way. Share what you love about your partner, what you appreciate about them, share your ideas on how you would like to enhance communication and connection between you, and create new ways to help you navigate the difficult times. Have the courage to get help from a relationship counselor or therapist if you need professional support.
6. If you are in a relationship that has broken down…
Have the courage to honestly address your relationship situation. If the relationship is unhealthy, or no longer working and you have tried to resolve your issues without success, have the courage to sit down and have an honest conversation with your partner about ending the relationship, in a healthy, loving and conscious way. Instead of projecting your hurt or anger onto the other, have the courage to look at yourself, reflect on what you can learn from your experience and consider how you can take responsibility for your part so you can consciously address that and do things differently next time.
It takes courage to love and to be loved. It takes courage to be deeply truthful with yourself about what you truly want in your life. And it takes courage to make the changes necessary to heal and create a real and welcoming space in your life to allow love to enter.
So on this Valentine’s Day, and every day, I wish for you the courage to keep an open heart and an open connection to your dreams and how you want your life and love to be.
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