To date or not to date?
Is it better to take time-out from relationships or continue searching for the 'right fit'?
Many of my fellow addicts have been in short to medium-term relationships, jumping off the springboard, full of hope, only to land in the arms of someone who appears to change from the perfect partner to the good-enough partner to the oh-so-imperfect partner, all too quickly. There is much derision heaped upon those who have relationship-hopped, in the hope of meeting their ‘right fit’ – that person who will love and accept all our idiosyncrasies, as we might accept theirs… ‘Ohh! Hang on! What was that last bit you said?’… As we might accept theirs….
This is where relationship addiction and codependency appear to crossover. We acknowledge ourselves as ‘faulted’ in some way – apologising readily for perceived mistakes or transgressions, hypervigilant, often misreading the nuances of tone, voice, body language, as the mind pattern-matches to old hurts, because we assume they mean what they did when we first heard them; first felt them – as a child. And it’s from this child-like place of perception that the sense of unfairness begins to grow. ‘They criticised me – that goes in the grudge bank!’. Each perceived slight – a remark, withering look, or raised voice, pattern-matches to those already saved up for this particular rainy day and they increase in magnitude and begin to calcify into resentments or, worse, manifest as physical illness (a growing body of evidence would suggest). Alternatively, one might give up on relationships altogether, as the perceived risk of involvement, and possibility of further hurt, far outweighs the cost of any occasional feeling of loneliness.
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Over time, the grudge bank fills and our partner’s fall from grace is hard, with no soft landing in sight. We turn the searchlight on faults, post-infatuation period, and find what we’re looking for. Always. When we focus on the negative, the brain has been set a task akin to ‘Don’t think of pink elephants right now’. So what’s there to do but cling on or move on, right? Er… hold on. Yes, maybe it is time to move on – especially if the partner is cruel, manipulative or devoid of empathy. But what happens when we begin to see that person as our teacher? That we’ve met them for a reason and they’re here to teach us something about ourselves. As many spiritual teachers advise, “Everyone is a mirror”. Each person has something to tell us about ourselves but, if we don’t reflect upon our own behaviours, our own words, our own patterns of thinking, we move on without having seen the gift this person has offered us – an insight into not only their pain but our own. Without this reflection, all we do is continue to repeat the same old patterns ad infinitum, risking further hurt and remaining evermore vulnerable and exposed, carrying this into the next relationship. Holding onto a relationship, as if our lives depended upon it, makes reflection much more difficult but it can be done. As Einstein famously remarked: “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them” and so, outside help is often needed.
So whether you’ve chosen to move from one relationship to another or chosen to avoid relationships altogether and remain celibate, without reflection and becoming aware of the lessons and the gifts, we continue like Sisyphus – either pushing our partners up onto that pedestal, only to see them fall from grace over and again – or we replay (as a singleton) the same issue over and over, the same pain over and over, allowing them to fester and decay, we enter every friendship and relationship then on Groundhog Day.
The solution lies within ourselves and can rarely be found alone, unless we have read and practised the teachings of non-attachment (in all of its various forms) and even then, a teacher or guru will invariably be there to guide us. Fortunately, there are methods available (meditation, recovery coaching, psychotherapy, Biodynamic massage, NLP, hypnotherapy, amongst others) which can be utilised to explore and dig out old patterns and assist us in replanting afresh. I remind myself always of one of the many famous codependents, Katharine Hepburn, who came to the conclusion that “You learn in life that the only person you can really correct and change is yourself”. Whether during dating or singledom, finding the correction – and the freedom that comes with it - is always always always within you and within your grasp. You just have to reach out and grab it!