By Suma Varughese
A failed relationship can be an enriching and positive experience if we follow certain rules.
Among one of the hardest things to heal from is a love affair. Everyday, we read in the papers gory accounts of love affairs gone horribly wrong: suicides, murders, acid being flung on the face of the offending partner, and so on. This, fortunately, is an extreme reaction and rarely encountered with in everyday life. Yet most of us do not know how to emerge out of a love affair totally whole and intact. All too often, we emerge a little twisted and bent, a few parts missing, self-esteem slightly jarred, a little cynical about love, or a little afraid of one’s own incapacity to be faithful. Sometimes, we carry a permanent heartache, unable to get over our love, and forever measuring prospective others against the impossible ideal of a love preserved in amber.
Unfortunately, society, with its deification of romantic love and lovers, Laila-Majnu, Romeo and Juliet, Devdas, and so on, sees such reactions and responses as par to the course. But you can heal. It is possible to emerge from the chakravhyu of relationships completely intact, provided we learn how. Society, however, views failed relationships as dangerous and hurtful experiences and many people, after one such jolt, establish barricades against experiencing such pain and vulnerability ever again. They swear never to fall in love again, or if they do, they hold back, unwilling to explore the relationship or establish intimacy.
But of course this never works. Indeed, it is a recipe for disaster. For if you give little, you get little and soon the relationship dries up. So back you are with a sore heart, only a little more cynical and a little more aloof than before.
Give it all you’ve Got
Life, and certainly love, demands that you go all the way, and although it gives you no guarantees that you won’t hurt, it guarantees that you will hurt if you do not obey the rules. In love, one must be willing to be consumed by the flames, to experience all that love unfolds, the dizzying rapture, the lacerating agony, the trembling uncertainty and blinding anger. There is nothing that takes so much out of you as love does. It pulls out all your stuffing, forces you to confront your every emotional and psychological need, and brings your sense of self into sharp relief.
It is one of the most stringent classes in the school of life and most of us find it hard to pass out of it.
Why is romantic love such a strong force? Maybe it has to do with the culture. Western culture, particularly, has deified love to such an extent that most people are led to believe that to fall in love and marry is the ultimate destiny and happiness of human existence. The concept of the soul mate, particularly, has taken such a hold on the popular imagination that few can imagine a fate better and more meaningful than to meet and marry one’s soul mate.
The truth, though, is that this search for perfection and completion through someone else is doomed from the start. The moment we put the responsibility for our happiness on to someone or something else, not only are we giving them tremendous power over us, we also resent them for it. We need them and in some part of our consciousness we hate them for it. This resentment is the main reason for love’s inflammable nature.
Moreover, unless we are complete in ourselves, the relationship becomes a powerful source of emotional and psychological gratification. But no one can please us all the time. People have their own agendas and needs and sometimes that can be in collision with what we want. You may need security while your partner needs to take risks. You may need to be told how much he loves you and he may hate to articulate it. And so on.
Often, the friction reduces the relationship to rubble and eventually both stumble out of the debris, much the worse for wear.
So how does one come out of this experience whole and intact? How does one ensure that one’s innocence is intact as also one’s faith in oneself and others?
Firstly and most importantly, don’t kill your feelings for the other. It is very tempting to do so, especially when you are hurting so deeply. You may never want to see the person again. You may not wish her well, but for heaven’s sake don’t suppress your feelings or distort them into hatred. We do this by talking ill of the person, reacting violently in their presence, exhibiting contempt and scorn for them, ruining their reputation in the eyes of others and by blaming them for the break-up. All these may give temporary relief, but not only will it destroy the relationship for keeps, it will also destroy some parts of you.
If you betray the relationship, you will never be able to look at the person in the eye again and in sheer self-defence you will begin to see them as more and more culpable. Not only will you lose an opportunity to change and grow, but in some indefinable way, you will not be completely free of the person. His or her memory will be like a sore spot in the heart, giving you a little pang.
Instead, one must learn to look into the relationship detachedly and evaluate one’s role in bringing about the break-up. It is absolutely important for you to recognize that you are no victim and the other no villain. Each has had a part to play in creating this emotional tangle. Indeed, it would help if you were to approach this introspective exercise with the perspective that ultimately one is fully responsible for the events in one’s life.
Once you have pinpointed your own offending behavioral patterns or emotional needs (low self-esteem? compulsive flirt? inability to communicate? uncontrollable anger? inability to forgive?) take steps to heal yourself. Go to a therapist, if necessary, or join a course. Better still, and this is the recommended course of action, go deep into yourself and root it out through awareness and acceptance. This takes time but it is a permanent cure. The most important thing is to recognize that relationships of this nature offer a powerful impetus for growth. We discover how far we have progressed in becoming independent of others or of having stanched our emotional and psychological needs. All relationships only throw light on our own relationship with ourselves. As we mend this and become more accepting of ourselves, more self-aware and confident, have greater self-respect and self-worth, our relationships with others, particularly the significant other, grow in joy.
Once we find that we have grown through the break-up and are wiser and better for it, we can embark on the process of forgiving. We can forgive ourselves for our part in the relationship impasse and we can forgive the other too. We can even begin to feel gratitude for the opportunity for growth.
Through it all, experience the pain, anger, hurt and longing when they surface. Give them space in your being, for after all, they are a part of you. Reiterate your commitment to your growth, to your peace of mind and to regaining mastery of yourself. Give yourself plenty of love and acceptance at this time. So okay, the relationship did not work. Maybe it was not meant to. Maybe it was meant to take both of you to a certain level of growth. Cultivate your other relationships and participate in activities you enjoy such as sports, traveling, culture.
Once this has become a more or less constant state of mind, reopen in your mind the possibility of resuming the relationship in friendship mode. Of course, this is to be done only if there is a minimum level of respect and appreciation of each other. If the other has done something unforgivable, or is given to manipulative conduct that you are not able to cope with, drop the idea and simply focus on healing. But if it can be salvaged, work on it. After all, a great deal of investment has gone into a relationship of this sort. Each time angry thoughts about the other and her actions or words floods you, repeat your commitment to resuming the relationship. Consciously look at the good side of the individual and ask yourself why you were attracted to her in the first place.
Do not, however, get in touch with them as yet. You need time to heal. Especially do not call if you are longing to do so or want to resume the relationship from where you left off. Accept that one part of your equation is over. No matter what the future brings to it, you need to face it with a clean slate.
The Auric Connection
The most subtle and most important part of the healing is to be aware that the relationship also has an auric or non-tangible existence. In love relationships one can actually become embedded in the other. When such a relationship disintegrates, there is a sense of amputation. You feel as if some part of you were bleeding. At the auric level that would probably be true.
The Hawaiian therapy of Huna, for instance, asserts that the life force, which they call Mana, flows out through a sticky tube-like substance called aka. So whatever you give attention to will create an aka connection between you and them. Love relationships, by their very intensity, create a very strong aka connection. You can imagine the innumerable sticky threads connecting you with the one you love, each of which needs to be released in order to be free of the relationship.
In his book, The Celestine Prophecy, James Redfield describes what happens at the auric level when two people are attracted to each other. Their auras merge. They are no longer two separate individuals. They have become a third being, composed partially of each other, but with its own presence and agenda. It is this psychological meshing that creates the intimacy and also the resultant emotional tangle.
Healing therefore also has to happen at the auric level. You will know it has happened when you suddenly experience freedom. Random thoughts of the other no longer invades your mind space. You will no longer feel a pang when they do. The sense of incompletion that haunted you leaves. You feel complete and whole again. Now you are ready to reopen the relationship. Good luck!
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