It would be so much easier if we could handle relationships as if they are milk cartons. Right away, we can tell when something is off or has gone bad. We do not ignore the signs and negate the reality of what we are sensing. We accept when a milk carton has expired and is beyond its “best-before” date. We recognize that it will no longer meet our needs and we do not try to hold onto it. We do not get stuck on questioning what went wrong and why it happened. We do not cast blame. We do not hold onto any false hopes that the milk will return to its previous state or that we can manipulate such a change. We do not seek closure. We do not cry over spoiled milk. We do not worry or stress over whether we will be able to find another milk carton that was as good as the one we had. We simply acknowledge that we must let it go, start fresh and move on.
Alas, this has not been my experience with any of the significant relationships in my life. There is one in particular, which proved to be more of an enigma than I ever expected. A chance encounter through a shared interest, friendship blooming to romance and geographical distance after a one-year sabbatical ended, would be the Cliffs Notes version of the relationship. In my heart of hearts, I knew that he was not “the one” but the emotional bond was unlike any I had ever experienced before. As a person who feels deeply, the depth of the lows can be equally as potent as the height of the highs. How can one person be like the blazing sun that makes you feel alive, lit up and energized on one hand, but like your kryptonite on the other?
Although we parted as friends and stayed in touch, I did not bargain on the third party of emotional distance, intruding upon our connection. After sharing a close, personal connection with someone, it is very painful when they subsequently communicate with you as if you are a stranger. It is an oddly disquieting experience to grieve the death of a prior version of a relationship that lives on in a different form, with the same person. Many times, I questioned whether he was only keeping in touch out of a sense of obligation. My perception was that he would sprinkle a few breadcrumbs my way, every now and then.
I spent about three years unpacking, dissecting and drilling down, to try and make sense of things. What remained consistent, was the cycle of behaviour and emotions that would play out, like a song that is on repeat. As I poured my thoughts, theories and emotions onto the pages of my journal, layers of pain, sadness and disappointment would be released. Each time I thought I had uncovered the truth, found the missing piece, or was on the verge of solving the Rubik’s Cube—I was proven wrong.
I had always sensed a discordant undercurrent that would weave in and out of our relationship, from the very beginning. There was some kind of disconnect, that consistently eluded me. My understanding now, is that his heart had remained in self-preservation mode after a particularly painful break-up from ten years ago that he had told me about. As a result, I think he adapted by choosing surfacing level living, enjoying what he can and then moving on—heart intact. If were restaurants, he would be a pop-up and I would be more of the brick-and-mortar variety.
I believe that he went to the emotional depth that he was able to with me, but the emotional vacancy was undeniable. I think we were each other’s escape. We were like a couple of kids enjoying our real-life Disney movie. We shared a sense of playfulness and adventure, but the emotional imbalance would rear its ugly head and complicate matters. His emotional unavailability may have been more masked at the beginning, but it was always there. I chose to see what I wanted to see, not recognizing it for the illusion that it was. He was the whole symphony to me, but it turns out that I was just one movement to him.
No one was to blame. He is hard-wired the way he is and so am I. We were simply not a match. I thought the solution would be to restore balance, so that our friendship would not feel one-sided to me. I decided to pull back my energy and invest in the friendship only as much as he did. To my exasperation, this did not work either. Although we would go two to three months without communication, when we did exchange messages, it would somehow manage to put me on “tilt” and throw me into an emotional spin. The interaction never measured up to the expectations of my illusory version of him. The sad realization was that he had not changed, as I had initially believed. I was simply seeing him more clearly as the person he truly was, without dismissing or rationalizing away his behaviour.
I was determined to get to the bottom of whatever was holding me in its grip, so that I could break free once and for all. I dug deeper to see what else I could excavate. I knew that if I set the intention to find answers, they would show up. Healing occurs in layers and I knew I had done the majority of it already. It felt the time was ripe for the final purge. It took about a week or so, but I did hit pay dirt! I am always so grateful for these moments of grace, when I receive exactly what I need. There is usually a very clear before and after, delineating the alchemy of grace.
My mind was directed to the subject of inner child healing. Based on our childhood experiences, certain needs may not have been met and childhood emotions may have been suppressed. We may have also developed unhealthy patterns of behaviour to help us cope or unhelpful views about ourselves, that became the roots of our issues as adults.
Other people often serve as mirrors for us, making us aware of these unconscious aspects of self. I have to admit that the aspects that triggered me within the relationship, helped me to recognize that those same threads were woven through the tapestry of my life. Being on the receiving end of these highlighted behavioural patterns, I understood how I must have come across to others.
In the Law of Attraction universe, like attracts like. If I come from a place of feeling a sense of void within, I become a perfect match for someone who will facilitate the experience of that same feeling. Time and time again, I always discover that it is not about the other person. So much time and energy are wasted on focusing on them, trying to change their behaviour and reason with them, although they do not have the emotional bandwidth required.
What if we took responsibility for filling our own cup of happiness? When we focus and direct our energies toward nurturing, accepting, supporting, validating and unconditionally loving our inner child, he or she will feel safe, secure and happy. There will be less of a tendency to act out because their needs are being met. When we fill our own cup, we do not have to wait or depend upon another to do it for us. We understand what it is like to feel good in our own skin, to feel whole, balanced and complete within ourselves. We treasure this state of being and value ourselves enough, to choose wisely and with greater discernment. When we raise the standards of what we believe we deserve and demonstrate it through how we care for our inner child, we emit a different signal out into the universe. We will draw people in, who will mirror the same experience back to us.
Illusions can be very powerful, irresistible and difficult to shatter. They may entice us to take a chance and walk through new portals that crack us wide open. They may serve as catalysts for deep transformation, necessary for our soul’s growth and evolution. They may also serve as a temporary coping mechanism to help alleviate the harsher realities of life, by giving us something beautiful and magical to believe in.
When the illusion does shatter, it can be very tempting to beat ourselves up for not seeing things clearly. We need to forgive ourselves for our distorted vision. We need to forgive ourselves for seeing a person as we wanted them to be, rather than as they really are. We need to forgive ourselves for not being aware that our inner child needed our attention, love and support. We need to offer ourselves grace for all of life’s transformative chapters which ultimately bring greater clarity, personal growth and hard-earned wisdom.