Finding love requires letting go
There’s a practice I’m trying to follow right now to take care of my health and wellbeing. It’s called substituting and the idea is that before adding something new into my life – an activity, a hobby or any sort of commitment – I must first let go of something that requires a similar amount of energy, time and space. I believe this holds true for love too. Looking back over my romantic history, there were so many things I had to let go of or give up in order to make space for love and create the right conditions for a healthy relationship. Here are five of those things.
I had to let go of my desire to control the outcome of my life and every date or relationship and I had to relinquish control over my own or the other person’s feelings.
Traditionally, I’d tried to control my feelings and avoid being hurt, abandoned or rejected by staying away from relationships or by deliberately sabotaging my love life through dating unavailable people and commitment-phobes. I’d also tried to control the other person’s feelings by telling him what he wanted to hear or by staying in a relationship well beyond its sell-by date.
The notion that I was in control and, if I just worked hard enough, I could move mountains and influence every outcome had, from a very young age, given me a sense of safety, albeit a false sense of safety. Even with faith, I struggled to hand the reins over to God.
Eventually, I learned that I’m not in control but it took burnout and many failed relationships to teach me this valuable lesson.
I had to give up rigid, fixed ideas about the person I wanted to be with to make space for the man I needed, my now husband. This involved throwing away my long list of specific characteristics and letting go of the idea that my partner should look a certain way, have a certain degree, work in a certain career or live in a certain place.
Letting go of this list allowed me to focus on how I feel when I am with him, rather than on what I think about him. More feeling, less thinking. Less rigidity and more softness.
Unhelpful core beliefs
I had to let go of a whole range of unhelpful core beliefs, the main one being about what marriage looked like. As I worked through my blocks, I understood that my beliefs about relationships and marriage were leading me to sabotage my chances of love.
From my childhood, I’d formed the idea that marriage was stifling and suffocating and that it led to heartache, pain, divorce and financial hardship. Why on earth would I want a part of that? Much better to be single, to avoid dating or to date people who were emotionally unavailable so I’d never have to commit.
It was only by letting go of these beliefs that I could experience the benefits of marriage as I know them today: love, intimacy, companionship, support, joy, laughter, teamwork and incredible opportunities for growth and healing.
The fantasy of being perfectly parented
This is a complex one but it’s vital to grasp. When we go through life trying to get other people to meet the needs that went unmet in childhood – perhaps a need to be loved, seen, heard or held in mind – we end up in unhealthy relationships.
We deserve to understand, with God’s help and perhaps with the help of a professional, that we can’t get those unmet childhood needs met by anyone else in the present. In other words, we have to let go of the fantasy that someone will care for us perfectly and give us what we didn’t get when we were young.
Once we let that go, we can reparent ourselves, see ourselves, hear ourselves, love ourselves and hold ourselves in mind. And as we meet these unmet childhood needs and stop looking for a replacement parent, we are able to enter into a healthy relationship.
In this relationship – of two adults rather than two wounded children – we will be loved, seen, heard and held in mind, but only because we have let go of our deep need for these things and have healed our gaping wounds.
When we think about dating or entering into relationships, some of are handicapped by fears of abandonment, rejection, loving and losing, being suffocated or trapped, making a mistake, making the wrong choice and so forth.
We have to understand these fears so that we know what we’re dealing with, so that we can fathom why we struggle with anxiety and indecision when it comes to love. Then we need to let go of these fears, or rather face them, with God’s support and perhaps with the support of a professional, so that we can become open to the relationship we deserve.
If these five steps sound daunting, know that I have been walked this path myself. It took time and it required lots of support, from God and others. It was painful at times but incredibly freeing and so worth the effort. To find love, we must let go. I send you courage for your letting go journey.