“Love didn’t happen to us. We’re in love because we each made the choice to be.”
– Mandy Len Catron
What is the secret to enduring love? I thought this was a fitting article for February. However, as I started to research this, I realized that for this article to hold any power, to be truly authentic and real, I would have to write about myself, to make this personal.
I have been married for thirty years, and in relationship with Jeff, from friends to lovers for over forty. I guess that gives me some credentials for enduring love. But it is not straightforward, not a simple dance. After thirty years of marriage, Jeff and I are now once again in therapy; this time working within the model of EFT, Emotionally Focused Therapy. We are reading “Hold Me Tight” by Dr. Sue Johnson in an effort to overcome some really hard patterns we have developed.
Even after all this time, we still rub against each other’s raw spots. Dr. Johnson defines raw spots this way: “A hypersensitivity formed by moments in a person’s past or current relationships when an attachment need has been repeatedly neglected, ignored, or dismissed.”
After so long, you’d think that we would have figured out each other’s raw spots and avoid them. But we seem to pick at them, like a scab, before it can ever heal.
I like this quote:
“I’m selfish, impatient and a little insecure. I make mistakes, I am out of control and at times hard to handle. But if you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”
― Marilyn Monroe
… not that I’m comparing myself to Marilyn Monroe, I promise … but I can relate to it. The problem I face though is, how do we deal with relationship problems, when we are at our worst, when it seems like love is falling through the cracks…
Richard Bach proclaims: the opposite of loneliness is not togetherness, it’s intimacy. So how do we hold on to that intimacy, even in the face of dealing with raw spots and fear of loneliness?
One of my biggest raw spots is fear of abandonment. My father left our family when I was 12 and my mother died when I was 16. I absolutely have a massive fear of abandonment… and my husband keeps leaving! He is about to leave again, this time to work in Bangladesh. For at least six months, perhaps up to a year.
Another quote from Bach, this one from one of his books that I love The Bridge Across Forever: “I’m here not because I am supposed to be here, or because I’m trapped here, but because I’d rather be with you than anywhere else in the world.”
I want this to be true for Jeff; I want him to stay by my side because there is nowhere else he’d rather be. Unfortunately though, one of Jeff’s biggest drivers and passions in his life is to be of service and to work with people who are in the most need. This time he is off to work at a refugee camp. And I love him for it, I really do… and I struggle with not wanting him to leave. These two emotions co-exist in me. I love the man I married who has such high ideals and has a willingness to go through self-sacrifice to serve. And I hate the fact that he keeps leaving… I want to be enough to make him stay.
Every time Jeff leaves to work in another country, I feel a sense of abandonment, my attachment needs rubbed raw.
“Attachment needs are our human desires for acceptance, belonging, comfort when we hurt, and safety to be ourselves. From the cradle to the grave we all long to feel understood and accepted by those we love.”
So we are doing more work, reading and holding each other, and trying to heal some of the raw spots. We are working to keep making our relationship more secure. Dr. Johnson explains “in insecure relationships, we disguise our vulnerabilities so our partner never really sees us.” So in order to keep securing our relationship, we explore these vulnerabilities and work together with hope they will heal a bit more before we scratch at the scab.
I envision us growing old together, hopefully another thirty years. I believe we will. But I know it will continue to take work.
I want to close by altering Mandy Len Catron’s quote I used in the beginning of this article slightly:
We’re in love because we make the choice to be, everyday, even when it is hard.