One of the most annoying things about relationships that mystified me for years was the deja vu effect: the phenomenon of the same kind of potential partner showing up, bringing very little variation on the theme of emotional unavailability to the table.
There were slight improvements from one to the next, but not to the point where I experienced connected and committed, what I was shooting for, what I knew was possible.
Until I got connected with and committed to myself.
There were seven milestones along the way to my understanding of what that meant, seven key realizations that I eventually came to through hard work, intention, and a need to know that just would not let me be.
Each of those "Ah-ha!" moments are available to anyone who is ready for them.
I offer them to you here in the hopes of adding one to your collection when the opportunity shows up today.
Which it will.
Those opportunities are endless.
Whether we choose to view them as such is another story, which is a great segue into Number One:
#1 - Keep looking for the intellectual framework that explains how the universe works to your satisfaction. This could be a religious or spiritual practice, or a body of work by an certain author, or a combination of a few different ideas. Whatever those pieces of wisdom are, you'll know them when you bump into them because of how the teachings resonate with you, how they fill in the gaps where other frameworks were lacking, and especially in how they make you feel on a daily basis. Having an answer to the "why" and "how" of our existence makes the "how" and the "why" of relationship yin and yang easier to find. My own personal cosmology is eclectic and diverse, collected over the years into a pantheon that stands the test of time and the, "Well, what about this?" test. If you don't currently have such a framework, keep looking--it's out there, waiting for you to claim it.
#2 - The wherewithal to outmaneuver the onslaught of the Inner Critic, that inaccurate, unforgiving and relentless belittler. Without #1 above in place, our Inner Critics have free reign with no place for a toe-hold of interruption to build upon and eventually outwit this wily character. Most of us have undergone decades of programming from our families, religious dogmas, school authorities and the culture at large, not to mention the messages we see on the covers of women's magazines in the check-out line. With #1 in place, we have the chance to dismantle the negative self-talk tapes that play in our heads and keep us stuck in beliefs and behaviors that don't serve us and keep dishing up Mr./Ms. Wrong.
#3 - Embracing the lowly baby step. There are no overnight successes. Ever. What John Q. Public usually sees is the accumulation of millions of baby steps toward a goal that eventually got to critical mass and then paid off. Our human tendency to want change to happen quickly and with no "mistakes" just isn't possible. Nor would we want it to be. The slow, steady acquisition of a new skill makes it more likely to stick and become part of the landscape.
#4 - Resistance Toys. This is my term for any and all visible reminders that we purposefully place in our visual field to assist us in remembering what we decided we were going to do differently, and why. It's one thing to read a relationship or personal growth book and find a perspective that strikes you as helpful; it's quite another to implement the shift in thinking required to get that perspective to stick. Resistance Toys accomplish this task with humor, creativity and the clarity gleaned from the combined strategies of #1, 2 and 3 above. My first effective Resistance Toy was a Post-It note that said, "It's not true," to remind me that my self-talk tapes weren't based in reality, and what I'd rather be thinking instead.
#5 - Uncomfortable is the new comfortable. Any shifts in your personal growth will be accompanied by feeling uncomfortable, since it requires us to try on new behaviors that feel so different than what we are used to. It's easy to quit when this discomfort comes up, but if you are able to champion this notion in your head, you'll look forward to it. It means that you are making progress. Your ego will try to convince you that all hell is breaking loose and you must stop this new thing, NOW! Having strategy #4 in place helps immensely at this crucial juncture.
#6 - Bargaining with yourself is no bargain. Ignoring red flags, pretending that things will get better when we know they won't--this is the practice of bargaining with ourselves about what is acceptable in how we teach others to treat us, what we will settle for, what we think we are worth. Females especially are socialized to make things OK even when they're not, and we can get ourselves into some pretty dangerous circumstances because we are desensitized to that danger. There are baby steps of awareness along the path to knowing what your boundaries are and holding them in the face of being tempted not to. Lather, rinse and repeat with milestones #1-5.
#7 - Joy pullers, or your purpose on the planet. Our bodies and our psyches are not built to carry negativity. The natural consequences of carrying around this negativity--illness and despair--are not why we are here. Allowing ourselves to do and be the things that make our hearts sing, is. And until said allowing happens, in the form of not letting what others think about us dictate how we react, we are held captive in a prison of our own making. Sure, the adults around us were responsible for putting those seedling ideas in our heads when we were small, but we're grown-ups now. We can rewrite the script any time we choose to wake up on the other side of that prison door. Surrounding ourselves with and participating in the things that make us happy--that pull joy through us--only augment, amplify and solidify your efforts with #1-6.
Think any of these steps are impossible, only happen to other people, I've-tried-but-just-don't-work-for-me?
I am a thought chaperone.
I can help you with that.