It feels like the only time I am really able to let myself go in a relationship is when I know that it has an expiration date. This being the case, I have spent the last ten years in a string of in-the-meantime relationships. I am worried that I'll never be able to let myself fall for someone fully unless there is a major dealbreaker, and that I'll forever end up dating a series of Mr. Right Now instead of finding my Mr. Right. Got any advice?
Yes. This is an issue I have dealt with for years and still deal with, though a bit more skillfully now than before.
I think what's happening is that in the relationships you don't care about, you're not so worried about losing something. When people worry about losing something, they start to micromanage their image and actions. They try really hard to build and maintain a connection and they do so by being the person they think they're supposed to be--funny, charming, intelligent, successful--and suppressing what they think they're not supposed to be--afraid, confused, nervous, and unfocused. Jung called this the Shadow. All that image management makes you feel disconnected from yourself. You lose the ability to feel, to be joyous, to be creative, spontaneous, and to have levity in your life. All of this usually happens quickly and quietly. I think you've started to feel that loss of self-connection and have been avoiding it, preferring to enter relationships where you're less invested and less worried about the way you come off to others.
Is there a solution? Certainly. It takes effort, honesty, and courage, but there's certainly a solution. First, get a basic understanding of what's going on. Are you, like I suggested, shrinking away from potentially meaningful relationships because your self-connection gets buried under fear and worrying? If yes, then you can move onto the next step, which is asking why you're worried. From what I gather, nearly all (95% of the people I've met) suffer with the same issues as you and I, married people included. Some of them are able to hide the problem. Others aren't even aware that they've lost their self-connection. The reason we're so worried, I believe, is because we all feel inferior on some level. We feel like we're defective and incomplete. Sometimes we might pin our feelings on something specific--inferior intelligence, confusion, social skills, a lack of financial success--but I think the root of it is a pervasive feeling, not a specific deficit. Don't take my word for. Look inside. How do you feel when you're with these guys?
The solution, in my opinion, lies in challenging that feeling. It is finding a place in your heart where you hold yourself as you are. You're not perfect, but that's okay, because you're human and you have a good heart. No one is perfect. We're all fragile, all confused, all sharing the same feeling of incompleteness and inferiority. That's okay. Practicing that understanding and self-compassion gives you space to stop the micro-management and it lets you be yourself with courage, flaws, defects, gifts, talents, all of it. When you let all of that be the way it is without apology, you forge a super-strong connection to yourself and you no longer feel inadequate. You feel like you're talking to an equal, and if it doesn't work out, the rejection isn't as devastating because you don't take it personally. Your self-esteem isn't so fragile anymore.
The "Right-Now" relationships are distracting you from this task you've been assigned of learning how to stand up to inferiority and see yourself as good enough. Cut them out of your life and get to work on the big stuff.
With love and care,
[I'd encourage you to browse this site, since I tend to discuss the same themes, since I think they're all interrelated. These articles are a good start.]
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