Get ready to give again

Love hurts, love scars, love wounds, and marks any heart, not tough or strong
enough to take a lot of pain…

Yep, Scottish rockers Nazareth weren’t just whistling Dixie. Love does hurt,
scar and wound in all sorts of rotten ways and can leave you feeling like you’ve
had your guts ripped out and will never, ever be whole again.

And we keep going back for more.

Why? Because we’re gluttons for punishment, but also because love, when it
goes right, is the best thing in the world. So good in fact that we’re willing
to risk going through Hell for it. Either that or we’re idiots. I don’t know
which, really — probably a bit of both.

But relationships take a lot out of you and often, when we come out of one,
we are spent. We have nothing left to give, because in one way or another, everything
we had was taken from us. Maybe you were abused, lied to, cheated on, taken
advantage of.

The scenario is one that fits many situations — the stay-at-home mom who leaves
her husband after coming to the realization, when the kids leave home, that
the spoiled, selfish man she’s been coddling for 25 years has been getting some
on the side all along. The devoted husband who spent three decades married to
a woman who spent them married to her job.

Or worse, like Katy who finally walked after Carl hit her in the face one too
many times and broke one too many of her ribs. Or Joel, whose wife took their
daughter and ran off with another man, then came back — all apologies and regret
— only to run off again three months later with the same man. We all know people
can put each other through unbelievable crap.

And so you take some time off, hide under a rock and lick your wounds. But
eventually most of us are going to want to get back in the saddle again, so
to speak. And for some this is harder than for others. Because getting back
into the dating/relationship game means learning to trust again. And learning
to give again, because that’s what relationships require. But how do you find
something to give when everything has been taken from you?

The first thing you have to do, says Sheila Ellison, author of The Courage
to Love Again: Creating Happy, Healthy Relationships after Divorce
, is
let go of the past.

“You can’t change it,” she says. Seems straightforward enough right?
Yeah, now try doing it. Letting go of the past means actually letting go, not
squashing your feelings into a little ball and shoving them deep down inside
where they fester and wait to bubble to the surface or telling everyone who
will listen how so very OVER IT you are because (insert jerk’s name here) is

Letting go means forgiving, working through your issues, forgetting, doing
whatever it is you have to do to actually let go.

Four years ago my friend Marla stopped seeing Sean after he cheated on her,
kept her dangling for seven months while he made up his mind, then ultimately
left her for the other woman. She is still so angry at him it’s stunning (and
it drives me crazy). Letting go of anger is hard, not least of all because being
angry gives us the illusion that we are in control of a situation when in reality
the opposite is true. Anger controls you, not the other way around.

One step toward achieving this goal may be taking the advice of Hugh Willbourn,
a UK psychotherapist and author of How to Mend Your Broken Heart.:Overcome Emotional
Pain at the End of a Relationship . Willbourn says, “Firstly you need the
humility to realize that whatever went wrong in the last relationship, you bear
half of the responsibility for it. Not more, not less, but half.” Yikes,

A lot of people, he says, are initially appalled to hear this, “especially
if they were emotionally or physically abused.” But psychologically it
is true. Whatever happened to you, it happened because you were still there
to let it happen.

“If you gave and gave and gave and received nothing in return, you gave
too much. How do you know you gave too much? Well in a truly loving relationship
giving is reciprocal — you give one thing and your partner gives something
back to you — not necessarily the same monetary value, but something that is
emotionally equal.”

Sheila Ellison recommends learning to “understand that the feelings of
regret, revenge, anger, hurt all keep you stuck and attached to the person who
created the situation or feelings within you. As long as you feel these things,
the person who left you, took advantage or hurt you is still running your life.”

And know that giving too much is a trap. There’s a fine line between generosity
of spirit and idiocy that enables and encourages someone else’s bad behavior,
which isn’t doing anyone any favors. You don’t have to give until you bleed
— and probably shouldn’t (unless you’re giving blood — a worthy and noble
donation). Sometimes, the greatest gift you can give yourself and others is
holding back on all that giving.

Many of us, says Willbourn, have been caught in this trap of giving more and
more “because we see our partner as wounded or lacking or more in need
of help than ourselves. Whilst that may indeed be true we need to remember another
important psychological rule — the less someone has, the less they are able
to receive.

“That means that if someone is very wounded, very lacking or very impoverished
in any way, you can only help them a very little bit. When they receive that
tiny little bit of help, and can find the strength to express their gratitude
with a reciprocal gesture then a very slender bridge of equality and trust is
built. Very slowly you are both able to give a bit more and slowly you can build
a relationship.”

Those who give too much, Willbourn says, usually have one or both of two problems:
One, their own psychological boundaries are poor. And two, they gave more than
was wise because they were addicted to giving.”

If your problem is the former, “if you give more than you can afford you
end up impoverished yourself. So the answer if you are unsure is almost always
to give less, not more.”

And if it is the latter, “it is time to look into your heart. Are you
giving to the other because it makes you feel better? Because it is a distraction
from your own worries? Because you are worried your partner may leave?”
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, Willbourn advises holding back
for a while.

Ellison’s steps also include, deciding what you want. “I see relationships
as a way to practice being yourself,” she says. “Know what you want
out of a relationship, know what you’re working on within yourself, what old
patterns you had in your former relationship that didn’t work and use your dating
experiences to reshape yourself, your patterns and your way of being in a relationship.”

She also advises you “take action,” saying, “If you don’t want
to feel bad, you have to replace those bad thoughts with something else. It
takes work.”

When you do finally find yourself in a new relationship, Willbourn says you
must be patient. “Giving on its own is never the key to a relationship
unless you want to be a martyr. But when a relationship is working giving is
easy and natural.

“If you feel you can’t give anything maybe, for a little while, you can’t.
Maybe you need to be patient, enjoy the company of your new partner and start
with very, very small gestures of giving. Don’t buy an expensive watch. Give
a bunch of flowers. Don’t give a whole weekend to their kids straight away.
Meet them for a walk or for coffee. Don’t lend money, lend your ears.”

Don’t be afraid to start small, says Willbourn. “And this time, do it

Photo © Stitt

Article courtesy of Click by Lavalife.

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