Years ago, after a series of life events, I came to the conclusion that I was done with shallow and unfulfilling relationships; I am ready to find ‘the one’, I told myself. Back then, my relationships felt like a competition. With my partners, I was often engaged in intellectual debates, kept my mask on, and never for the life of me showed any vulnerability. It simply did not feel safe to be vulnerable. My partners at the time could also not handle any other. They could not handle my flaws, weakness, or vulnerabilities and I would certainly not show them anything but ‘perfect’, not if my life depended on it.
From ‘my perspective’ the men I chose to be with were ego-centric, were often intimidated by me, and as a result would try to put me down. They would claim my power to feel powerful inside. When I was with them, they would make me feel special; they knew how to say all the right things. When we were apart, we were disconnected. What I now call defensive detachment. Our interactions were based on fear, fear of getting close, fear of being revealed. It was exhausting! When, apart, I would sometimes find myself reflecting on each moment of our interactions. Reviewing my moves and his moves as if we were in a game of chess to be won or lost. I would try to make sense of our interactions and try to figure out if he loves me and if it will lead anywhere. It was a tiring and trying guessing game.
It was amazing how I would attract the same types of men and the same types of relationship, time after time. Or maybe it wasn’t that amazing or extraordinary. I mean, let’s have a look at this equation. The common denominators in each of those relationships were me! Yes, of course, my perspectives and beliefs on men and relationships always came along with me. That never failed me. My fears and insecurities around emotional intimacy, being revealed, and looking less than perfect were also my loyal companions. So you add up all these factors and you have got the exact same relationship with different packaging. Yes, I would always find myself in relationships with lovely and wonderful people who were also afraid. They could not bear to be revealed. They could not bear to be emotionally intimate. They could not bear to have a look inside, let alone show themselves to anyone else.
Now, I can sit here and say that I was in the wrong relationship. And I would go on a quest to find the right relationship. I would look in the same and sometimes different places. And sure enough, I would once again end up with the same guy. I mean it was slightly different, the face of my partner had changed and I was more and more guarded. I had found new ways to protect myself. I had shut new doors inside me. But here is the crazy part, as unfulfilling and dysfunctional as my relationships were, they were the right relationships! They were the only relationship I knew how to be in. They were the only relationship I could bear to be in; superficial and shallow. Sit here and argue with me about the meaning of love and intimacy. About how we need to shed all masks and be vulnerable. All beautiful words that I could absolutely not argue with. But if you had put me in a relationship like that with a loving wonderful, open, respectful, person, I would have run, million miles an hour. I would not trust them, I would say they are up to something. Or that they are not my type. The guy who would answer my calls, not play games with me, make me feel safe would not be my type.
So why was that the right relationship?
The relationship we are in at any given moment is the right relationship because it is all that we can handle. If you are in a relationship with a respectful partner, who appreciates you, loves you, and can lovingly hold space for your flaws and beauties; that is not an accident. It means you have come to an internal place of peace, growth, self-love, and self-acceptance where you can be with all of those qualities within yourself and are able to reveal them to another person.
I then had a realization that it was egotistical of me to think that I should be in a wonderful open and loving relationship without doing the internal work. After all, the one we are with is the person we can handle. I had a profound realization that changing me on the inside would attract the partner that I desired to have. Once the changes occurred, the emotionally unavailable men wouldn’t be interested in me anymore.
With this knowledge the equation seemed simpler. Once I was able to accept that little truth, my anxiety about finding ‘the one’ started to subside. I mean it was not great to know that was the best I could do at that time, but it was empowering to know that it was in my own hands. The liberation came from taking personal responsibility. Shifting focus from the men, to me! Now, here is something I could work with. It did not seem so far reaching and impossible anymore. It was just plain difficult, yet doable. It was freeing to know that my unfulfilling relationships were not due to bad luck or lack of decent men in the world. I mean, the world has 3 and half billion men and I was under the impression that they were all emotionally unavailable.
I kill myself laughing just thinking about that right now, but then, at that time that was all I knew. That was my truth.
Now, I actually had to get to a place where I genuinely liked myself. I first hand got to realize that this was more than just a quote that I would ‘like’ and ‘share’ on Facebook and forget about the next minute. Looking at the deep dark shadows within was the path to self-love and it was anything but beautiful, romantic and colorful. It was ugly, dark, and distant. But here is what it was; it was real! It was authentic! It was raw!
So I committed myself to learning; to learning about me! I worked tirelessly with a counsellor to process and learn about my patterns that had been anchored in my family of origin. I started to develop a relationship with my inner children that were stuck at various ages and stages of development. All the younger parts of me that needed to know that it was safe for them to start the process of growing up and healing. It was a difficult path but there was something strangely freeing about it. It was amazing how almost exactly a year later I found myself in a very different type of ‘right’ relationship. The relationship that reflected the new me, the different me, the me that was operating from a place of inner power as opposed to fear. My partner was respectful, open, and emotionally available and could handle all aspects of who I was and I was able to do the same for him.
Today, I bring my learnings to the courageous people that I work with in my counselling practice. I often work with people who are in the very same place I was years ago, unable and afraid to look inside and appreciate their own beauty and power, yet are determined to make a change!
Sabrina Golchin is a mother, wife, entrepreneur, writer, university instructor, public speaker, workshop presenter, therapist, and parent coach who lives, works, and plays in Woodbridge, Ontario. She holds a Masters in Counselling Psychology. She is the proud owner of Life in Harmony Counselling Services www.lifeinharmony.ca which provides counselling services to Children, Families, Parents, and Individuals. She provides in person, on the phone, or on Skype counselling sessions.
You can follow Life in Harmony on Facebook or Instagram, or contact at firstname.lastname@example.org