I've been ruminating on these words by Brene Brown lately:
“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness and affection.
Love is not something we give or get; it is something that we nurture and grow, a connection that can only be cultivated between two people when it exists within each one of them – we can only love others as much as we love ourselves. Shame, blame, disrespect, betrayal, and the withholding of affection damage the roots from which love grows. Love can only survive these injuries if they are acknowledged, healed and rare.”
When it comes to relationships, past and present, I realize it has been my inability to be truly vulnerable that has caused many of them to fail. And I'm not just referring to romantic relationships, but also with friendships. I have had very few close friendships (and they're faithful blog readers, so what does that tell you?) and one -- no lie -- good romantic relationship. My high school boyfriend. Twenty years ago.
Vulnerability. That's what's been missing. Don't get me wrong. Not all my relationships have been unhappy. We each got what we wanted at the time and, in many cases, we ended up being friends. In fact, some of them were much more successful as friends. Why? Because it was then that I was at my best self.
In a strange way, I purposely chose people who were either overly affectionate and willing to please me or totally gave no regard to my feelings. No happy medium. No give and take. Sometimes it was just a physical attraction and I didn't have to open up about who I really am. Or it made them feel good to belittle me and I willingly took the abuse. In hindsight, I also see that I cast away good people who were truly interested in me. I felt undeserving. Unworthy. Unlovable.
I have spent most of my life in relationships where I either held back. Retreated. Didn't make waves. Gave in. Or either I was just angry. Miserable. Shame? Disrespect? Blame? Betrayal? I did most of those things to myself. For the first time in my life I am not allowing myself to wallow in self-pity. Nor am I going to fall into the abyss of letting past hurts imprison my present and future happiness. I am vulnerable to my feelings.
And no, my dears, there is no back story here of a Prince Charming and a happily ever after. Instead, I am learning to rescue myself. If I can respect myself more, then I have a much better chance of building stronger relationships. And the one with myself is a good start.