It is perhaps one of the most difficult things to do after having loved, The Lie. To love again without fear of the past repeating itself. To love without fear of making a mistake. Without fear of being hurt.
And yet, we yearn for love. For connection. For that special someone to spend away the hours, sharing in good times and bad. To whisper sweet nothings in the night, to hold and to be held, to laugh with, cry with and even have sex with.
But no, our tender hearts cry out, I can’t do it. I won’t. I’ll never love again. Too risky. Too intimate. Too much.
Or, before our broken hearts even have a chance to stop bleeding, we race out and find another, searching for that special someone to make us feel so special we forget all about the blood dripping from our wounds with every beat of our aching hearts.
We are relational beings.
When I was released from that relationship from hell, I knew I wasn’t healthy enough to date. I knew I was very broken and so I made a commitment with myself to not date for a minimum of a year. I knew that I had to give myself that time to get comfortable with myself again. To heal the tender spots. To soothe my wounded soul and strengthen my sorry ego.
And, underneath my practical approach to what I needed to do to heal was the absolute truth. I was absolutely terrified of getting close to a man. I was terrified I’d vomit all over his leather jacket because it happened to have the same smell as the one I’d given ‘Him whose name I could not speak’ our first Christmas together. Or, I was terrified I’d break down crying in a restaurant just because my date happened to order the same meal ‘He’ had ordered the night he’d proposed to me. Or what if, while sitting in a movie, my date reached across to take my hand and I wasn’t expecting it and I got all scared and accidentally slapped him in the face and made such a scene I got up and ran out of the theatre and we were sitting in the middle of the row and everybody had to get up and let me out and I’d feel like such a fool and when I got outside I kept running because, well, I was such a loser!
Seeing as my psyche was pretty caught up in some pretty serious fortune telling of the negative kind about weird and wacky things that would happen if I dated, it seemed wisest to not date – at least until such time as I could look at a man across a table and not want to hurl my plate at him just because he preferred his steak rare. Doesn’t he know? Eating steak rare is a red flag suggesting he was out for blood! A vampire of the sociopathic kind!
And so, the year became two, and then three. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to date. It was just, even after I’d gotten over my fear of pending dating disasters with every dinner invitation; every time I went out on a date I couldn’t figure out how much of the sordid tale I should tell. Do I warn him I’ve got some serious trust issues about men on the first date? Do I tell him I’m hyper-vigilant when it comes to his behaviour? What about the ‘three times, you’re out’ rule? How much do I tell and when?
It seemed easier to not date than to try to figure out the ins and outs of dating etiquette after the sociopath is gone. And so, I created a story of my satisfaction with my single status, laughingly telling anyone who listened that I liked my life better without a man.
Reality is; we are relational beings. For the vast majority of us, the desire for intimacy, the yearning to be in relation with someone special, is part of our human condition.
Challenge is; looking at my track record up to and including ‘Him whose name I do not speak’, I wasn’t sure how to be in relationship without my patterns leading to the ‘new love’ becoming the ‘ex’, regardless of what a true prince he was.
History does not repeat itself – unless I make it happen.
And then I met C.C.. I met him through business. Oh oh. I met the sociopath through business too. Strike one. He was a friend of a friend. So was ‘Him whose name…’ Strike two.
What am I doing? My mind shrieked. Am I repeating history? Two similarities right off the bat. Not good.
C.C. even liked cars. Oh no. ‘He’ liked cars too. Had lots of them. The difference with C.C. was, he liked cars but they weren’t his life. He drove an old antique Mercedes that he’d lovingly restored. And that was his only car. Okay. Only one car. It’s old. We’re okay.
The real difference though between ‘Him…’ and C.C. was evident from the very first time I met him. C.C. didn’t flirt. He didn’t come on to me or even try to convince me to go out with him on our first encounter. And he never ignored my ‘No’.
In fact, when we met he was just coming out of a marriage of twenty years and wasn’t looking to date. We’d have lunch or coffee and talk about life and living and I’d share what I’d learned in my growing through the pain of having loved, The Lie, and he’d share his love of his kids and his sorrow at having ‘failed’ as a husband.
It wasn’t until after about a year of a casual friendship that he asked me on a date, or, as I insisted we call it, an ‘undate’. “We’re not going out,” I told him. “We’re simply spending some time together to share in the company of someone we enjoy who happens to be of the opposite sex.” And pretty sexy to boot – I didn’t tell him!
Two years later, C.C. and I live in a home we bought together. We continue to deepen our intimacy and to strengthen our commitment to each other. We still have ups and downs. Moments when I think, “Someone to cuddle in bed just isn’t worth this!” But, reality is, my responsibility in our ups and downs are 100% my doing. And his accountability is 100% his doing. I am willing to work on my 100% and I am willing to let him be responsible for his.
And that’s the difference between then and now.
I’m not looking for C.C. to fix me, change me, improve me. And, I’m not looking to fix, change or improve him.
What I’m looking for is a relationship where I can be accountable for myself 100% of the time, and be confident that even when I’m acting out, even when I’m not hearing him or seeing him or behaving in a loving way, our love is not the issue. It’s my behaviour that’s at fault, or needs changing or evaluating and realigning. It’s not ‘me’. It’s what I’m doing, or how I’m reacting to what’s happening that’s the issue.
Recently, I came front and centre with my 100% accountability factor. It started with C.C. phoning late in the afternoon to cancel on plans we’d made for that evening. “My partner and I need to meet to go over a crisis situation. Sorry hon. Can’t be avoided. I’ll be home as soon as I’m done,” he said.
Now, ‘Him whose name I do not speak’ did that kind of thing all the time. Plans made. Cancelled. Promises broken. Disappearances that lasted for days. Turmoil and mystery. Empty promise after empty promise.
My psyche went on full alert. The past was triggered and I boarded its runaway train.
Know that voice in your head that just won’t shut up? After hanging up the phone, ‘that voice’ revved up into high gear.
“You know he’s lying,” the sibilant hiss of that voice raced through my mind, skirting in and out of the shadows. Beguiling. Seductive. Destructive. “He’s lying. He’s not meeting a business associate. He’s got a date with someone else. He’s conning you.”
Now, let’s be clear. I had no real reason to doubt him. C.C. has never not phoned when he’s promised to phone. Never not appeared, on time, when he’s promised to appear. Perhaps it was I was tired. I’d been out of sorts about all kinds of things in the previous week, including issues with my eldest daughter and her father, who was being who he’d always been, an emotionally distant man but not a sociopath.
Normally, in my post sociopath awareness, I can quieten ‘that voice’ with a good dose of loving care. “You’re just scared, Louise. That was then. This is now. C.C. is not Him… C.C. has never done anything to cause you to doubt him.”
Alas, on this night, the furies were about and I unhooked their cage and released them.
I got in my car. Yup. I got in my car and drove to where I knew C.C.’ meeting was to be. ‘If I just see his car there, then I’ll know he didn’t lie.’ I told myself. ‘I need to do this to give me peace of mind.’ ‘There’s nothing wrong with being suspicious. After all I’ve been through, why wouldn’t I be suspicious?’
And the justifications carried on, and on and on as I drove closer and closer to my date with the furies. Tears streamed from my eyes. I played a CD filled with songs of love betrayed just to fuel my pain and my feelings of self-loathing. I cried and I cried. I drove and I drove. With every block closer to my destination, the voice of reason receded further and further from my reality.
“You know this is wrong, Louise,” the voice of reason admonished.
‘That voice’ snarled back. “Bug off. She has to do this. It’s your fault anyway. If you’d just kept her from falling in love with him I wouldn’t have to step in and protect her!’
I’d like to say I came to my senses before I got to my destination. But I didn’t. His car was there. He hadn’t lied. I turned around and headed home.
I have nothing to fear but myself.
I hated what I’d done that night. Hated that I had given in to fear and talked myself into behaving in a way that undermined my higher good.
It was a great lesson. In the end, I discovered the truth about what I was doing. It wasn’t that I couldn’t trust C.C.. It was that I didn’t trust myself enough to do the right thing. I was letting myself down by giving into my fears. I will wilfully behaving in a distrustful way. I was being untrustworthy and undermining our relationship.
Regardless of whether C.C. was or wasn’t where he’d said he’d be, I had let my fears control me. I had let myself react without giving care to what I was creating in my life. Harmony or discord? The choice was always mine. That night I chose discord.
It was several months before I told C.C. what I’d done. I knew that had I told him that night, while I was still feeling off-centered and out of control, he would not have been able to hear me speak of what had compelled me to act in such a foolish and distasteful way. He would only have heard the bare facts – I hadn’t trusted him enough to believe him.
Trust is a big issue for C.C.. We’ve discussed it many times. He needs to know he is trusted in order to trust.
My big issue is safety. I need to feel safe to know I am safe. My behaviour that night had nothing to do with C.C. and everything to do with what was going on in my head. I wasn’t safe within me.
Intimacy can do that to me. In having come through those years of abuse and healing, I know I am okay. But, as I get closer to another human being, along with the joy of knowing I am loved, I am loveable, I am enough, the fears of never being good enough, or of being made to look like a fool, also awaken.
It’s up to me to tame them with ample doses of self-love and liberal dollops of truth and honesty, accountability and authenticity.
When I did tell him about my ride with the furies raging in my head, I ensured I began the conversation with a statement of how much I love him. In the end, he heard me say, “What I did had everything to do with me and my issues around intimacy. It had nothing to do with you and your trustworthiness.” And in his hearing me from where I was at, intimacy deepened, love survived.
We’ve weathered that storm. Climbed different mountains, crossed other seas. And through it all, I am learning that loving another is a journey of discovery. It is a voyage of wonder where I get to let go of holding someone else accountable for how I’m feeling, how I’m acting and what I’m thinking.
To be in relationship with another requires that I first and always hold true to my relationship with my self. To act out is to act against my values, beliefs and principles. To act in love is to embrace all that is wondrous, miraculous and Divine in me.
I am responsible for me. It is my responsibility to act in my higher good, and to not let myself down on the side of doing the wrong thing. Love requires my attention. I deserve my loving care. And love deserves I turn up, pay attention, speak my truth and stay unattached to the outcome. And when I do, love blossoms and I am safe within me.