You thought love was going to fix you. But it didn’t, did it? Maybe you just need to look at this in a different way. In fact, I’m going to suggest to you how to do that, if you’re interested.
First off, I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is love isn’t going to fix you or your life, dearly beloved, no matter how badly you want to believe the fairy tale of happy-ever-after. Because that’s what it is, this ‘love will fix me’ idea. But there is some good news. The good news is, love isn’t going to fix you. I know it may not feel like good news right this minute, but trust me, it really is. You don’t want your life’s meaning, your happiness, your very self’s worth to be dependent upon someone else, now do you? If it is, then when they crash emotionally, go through a mid-life crisis or decide they need to paint pictures on a beach in Tahiti without you, it doesn’t take you down the pipes with them. Seems pretty self-evident, right?
Well, let me tell you, a lot of people don’t think it through. They look at the fairy tale, at what those old stories, a lot of TV shows, “chick flicks” and romance tales spout. But even more than that, it is what we want to believe, isn’t it? And the fairy tale, old or modern, in books or in our minds, is always the same: find that special person and everything else in your life falls into place.
Love Is Going to Fix Everything
I think right there is where we get the idea that love is supposed to fix us. No matter how nasty, grueling and disappointing life is, when we find true love, all the nastiness goes away—forever. We are rescued from the emptiness inside, the drudgery called daily life, and elevated into this place called “love” that makes everything bearable.
It isn’t as grim as it seems, though. The truth is harsh only as long as you believe you’re losing something valuable when you let go of “love is going to fix everything.” I’m here to tell you it ain’t so. I’ll share my own experience of discovery with you.
Alcoholism and Love
Early in my recovery from alcoholism—it’s been thirty-some years now, but I remember this exchange as clearly as if it had happened last week—I’d been telling my therapist at the time, that I had tried everything, absolutely everything, in an effort to feel good. I wasn’t drinking any more but damn it, I needed to feel good in another way, then, if I couldn’t use alcohol for it. But I kept having these exhausting ups and downs, I complained to her. I was doing everything right, I assured her. I went to my recovery meetings and groups, I participated in healthy social activities, I got regular exercise, for crying out loud, and did my meditation. I even went vegetarian and I donated regularly to the Food Bank and environmental causes. I voted. I put a dollar in the cup of the homeless person who stood outside my BART stop. I went to work every day, did a good job for the money they paid me, and my child was thriving. I did everything right.
Yet, I could not count on having a good day. What kind of a day I woke up to was completely random, I groused to my patient therapist. Honestly, who could live with random, for heaven’s sake? I needed predictability, I said. I needed to know that what I was doing had the desired payoff at the end. I wanted her to tell me what I was doing wrong so I could fix it, and find that forever ok place (which is just another version of love-fixes-everything).
She looked at me pityingly, I thought, and hesitated a moment. Then she said something I will never forget.
Needing to feel ok all the time, she said softly, is like drugs. Not real life. Stop yearning for the high or you will relapse, she cautioned.
Disappointing? You bet. Devastating, more like. I talked to myself a lot in those days. I said to myself, do you mean to tell me I have to put in all this effort, all this self-care, these spiritual calisthenics without knowing whether it would do any good? I didn’t want to believe it. Flat out refused, or tried to. I tried holding onto my own ideas about the rules of life, and how a woman in recovery should be able to get the happy-ever-after if she just worked her program right. Right?
But there was this pinch-y little place in my psyche that wouldn’t allow me to go back to my old way of thinking about things, now that I knew I was just kidding myself. As much as I achingly wished it could be otherwise, there was a place in my inner pile of beliefs where I held the knowledge that the therapist was right. Like bricks in an old wall that had shifted, my old fantasy beliefs were bricks that no longer fit into the overall pattern of my life.
I had to admit, as much as I tried to ignore it, that I still wanted that velvet-smooth sensation on my tongue, that feeling I used to get when the first shot burned down my throat and into my belly, and how the lovely warmth and peace spread into the rest of my body. How soothing it was, and how perfect I felt. For fifteen minutes.
Forget about what came after—the excesses, the wild emotions, the endless snotty tears over my own stupidity, the broken relationships, and the failed plans, derailed because I was too busy getting drunk to follow through with anything. I didn’t want any of that, of course. I only wanted the good part, and I wanted to feel it all the time. And if I was honest with myself, I had to acknowledge that it was that “good part,” the feeling of that first drink going down or that first rush of whatever drug I’d tried, that I had been chasing after all the years of my alcoholic drinking. And now I was frantically doing other things, but still chasing essentially the same thing. Sometimes the lesson is not an easy one.
Love Is Going to Fix It
Here’s the thing: believing love is going to fix us is exactly the same thing as me chasing the “good part” of boozing it up. Wanting just the “good part” of life and thinking we can get it through another person in the name of true love. Seriously, what’s the difference between wanting to feel good all the time and drinking to get there, and wanting to feel good all the time because we are in love with someone?
Yeah, yeah, I know you’re going to say it isn’t the same thing at all. That alcohol is a substance and we’re putting it in our bodies, and that’s not natural, but a feeling of love arises from within us. But let me ask you this: why did you think love is going to fix you?
Be really honest with yourself. Was it because you weren’t happy living life on life’s terms? Was it because you wanted someone or something to swoop into your boring/depressing/ lonely/meaningless/ fill-in-the-blank life and save you from yourself? Did you want love to make your life good so you wouldn’t have to figure out how to make it good all by yourself? Aside from the whole issue of the method used, isn’t the endeavor exactly the same thing? Why did you think love would fix you? Or, more to the point, why did you want love to fix you?
Sad part is, just like life, love has its ups and downs, too. It might feel like a drug in those first weeks or months. Alcohol love. Or Drug Love. But after you and your lover start sleeping again instead of making love all night, and after you are reunited with your friends and family after the extended absence you created when you had eyes, ears, and time for your true love only, when all that happens, it’s the beginning of the crash. I know it and you know it. Then the issue becomes what should you do about it?
What To Do, What To Do
Are you a “drop them before they drop you” kind of a person? Or are you the ever-hopeful “even though it feels like it’s over, it might not be over” kind of a person?
Or, are you fortunate enough to have found someone who, like you, can take a step back and assess? Ask yourselves whether, now that the dizzy, drug-like infatuation stage is over, is there something about this person that really touches you?
Do you find yourself with someone who you think is interesting and who thinks you are too? Is it possible there is some reason to enter into a deeper exploration with each other because there might, just might, be a basis for a mutual and growing relationship? Do you think you are ready to give up the idea that if you find someone to be with, then everything will be all right in your life?
If you are honest with yourself and find that you still cling to the idea that all you will need in order to be ok is to find the right partner—well, that’s okay. Giving up the belief that there is a special someone out there that can make everything ok is simply more than we can consider without feeling hopeless. Because for some of us, it is asking too much.
If that’s true for you, don’t worry. Why should you give up a belief, a fantasy, that sustains you during times when you feel lonely or depressed? The answer is, you shouldn’t. Listen, we all just do the best we can to get along in this life. Maya Angelou, one of America’s greatest poets, was quoted as saying “We do the best we know how to do—and when we know better, we do better.”
If you happen to see me for therapy because you had a break up with someone who disappointed you—or maybe your current relationship has badly disappointed you—one of the first things we’d do is talk about whether you believe love is going to fix you or your life. We’d find out if you had a notion of a happy-ever-after. If we found that ‘happy-ever-after’ belief among all the other beliefs that, like bricks, build the castle that is You, I would endeavor to help you change just a couple of little words in your belief brick. The goal would be clear. Instead of telling yourself that “I believe love is going to fix me/my life,” you would be telling yourself “I believe love is going to enrich the good life I already have.” And you would believe it, if the therapy did what it’s supposed to.
Easy-peasy, right? Well, maybe not quite. But do-able. Oh, so very do-able, dearly beloved. We are all endowed with the capacity to love. That I do believe. It’s just that sometimes the bricks of our Belief Castles get tumbled into a pile, or cracked or turned upside down. That’s where I come in. Just think of me as a sort of brick mason, only instead of making and setting clay bricks, I help you make and set your belief bricks back into a pattern that makes a strong Castle You, a beautiful one you can be proud to share with that one special person you are looking for. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to know—to really believe—you had as much to offer as what you hoped to get?
If you want to talk with me some more about ‘love is supposed to fix me,’ your belief bricks and your Castle You, call me at (415) 710-6615 so we can chat about whether working with me on this is a good match for you right now. I welcome your call.