Is It Really Love, Part II
by Maggie Barton-McRae
Hi folks! First I want to say that several people have called me about the relationship group. I am still welcoming additional people before I start a group, which will probably be in West Islip. Now, this month I want to talk about non-addiction - namely how to have a relationship which is not addictive.
The first thing, if you want to free yourself from an addictive pattern, is for you to break the chain that locks you to your past. You need to first understand the social and familial conditions that created your pattern and then you need to put them to rest and start taking responsibility for yourself. This is the first step towards freedom from addiction. Freeing yourself means learning new ways to cope with life and how you view yourself.
As with some addictions, you cannot abstain from people. However, what you can do is change your orientation towards them. To do this you need to learn to reshape your motivations, your methods of coping, and your sources of satisfaction. This is a start to having healthier love relationships, instead of substituting one addictive relationship for another. Hopefully, self-examination will lead you to feel better about yourself and enable you to relate more realistically and honestly to people.
One difficulty, however, that may arise is that you may start to compare yourself against some notion of idealized romantic love and conclude that you are not measuring up to par. It is precisely this belief in idealized romantic love that fuels your desperate behavior and makes you a prime candidate for addiction. So it is important to work at knowing who YOU really are and feeling OKAY about that. And to stop comparing yourself against some unreal image. By doing this you make it possible to really love in a more general way.
As an addict you want to escape from the realization that it is impossible to be altogether all the time. The pull is always to believe that if you can only find the magic ingredient to make things perfect for always. Quite the contrary. When you realize that you will have some unmet yearnings for love and that it is normal, at times, to feel unfulfilled then you can come to someone else with more realistic desires and expectations out of which truly stable relationships are founded.
Having an emotionally balanced relationship enables you to establish other interests. Focusing your attention primarily on your love relationship, engaging your life by this, is not the way to go. Diagnosing the state of your soul should not be based solely in terms of how you are getting along with your lover.
The key to non-addiction is maturity. Maturity meaning the ability to handle the struggle between your desire to connect with others and your own individual separateness. When you can achieve this you will no longer need to seek from others what you can attain for yourself. You will be able to securely interact from a sense of yourself and that you will not disappear when a particular relationship does not work out. This ability is the result of having formed a variety of emotional connections with life. When there is more that one thing that you care about, more than one person through whom you are fulfilled, then you will not be destroyed - no matter how much it may hurt - by the loss of one person.
The true acid test to non-addiction is your capacity to enjoy being alone. If you truly enjoy your own company then you will not become a victim of addiction. To admit to yourself that there is some significant part of yourself that you would like to change, especially when you have been avoiding that recognition for a long time is obviously painful. Even if you have been dissatisfied with yourself, isolating some mode of behavior or thought as having brought about your discontent is a shock to your self-conception. If the shock is too overwhelming your determination to change is bound to be short-lived because the pain will be too unbearable. Therefore, change has got to be gradual and it has to carry with it as much respect for what you already are and has to stay clear of self-blame or shame.
One important thing to remember is that the only instant gratifications are in addictions. Because being addicted means you are trying to get something essential but you are afraid to work at it. On the other hand, substantial pursuits come with some unpleasantness and frustration. But they do grow into experiences that count. To be able to come to grips with a relationship you must be willing to analyze yourself and it. It may seem difficult to figure out your own and the other persons motivations and to see the patterns of your interactions and to come to terms with just what kind of people you both are. However, if you are not willing to make the effort then it will be impossible to discover the sources of the problems in the relationship and the means by which you can improve it.
What is required is to interpret non-productive patterns of interaction and to become aware that they are happening. Then to understand when and why they occur. Expectations people have of those that are close to them can be very powerful. For instance, you may anticipate your significant others disapproval of you and you may act in ways to promote this, even if you do not approve of the behavior itself. Making a commitment to yourself and your own personal growth, resolving to make that a priority of the relationship, is the way to go. Hopefully, your significant other will change in the process.
It is also important for you to set aside time specifically to talk to each other. How you are both feeling with these changes. Setting goals for what you want to accomplish is a good idea. Preferably to act on them jointly. If this is not possible then it will be your responsibility to set them yourself. If you find that your significant other, for what ever reason, refuses to change, then it will be up to you to assess your investment in the relationship. Because first and foremost is always your commitment to growth and your commitment to life. The secret being that finding true love comes from your spirits need to experience joy and your desire to share all that is best in yourself with others.
I will be starting a relationship group for people who are interested and feel the need to learn how to have healthier relationships. The meeting location of the group will be announced later, depending upon those who wish to attend. Call me at 828-452-4029 for further information.