I found myself holding space recently for a friend who was going through a confusing time in a romantic relationship which she felt might be coming to an end. I felt deep compassion for her because I’d been where she was; sitting in a gray area of uncertainty and anxiety. You know the one; it’s an area that frequently causes us to build a story based on past experiences. It sends us on a wild future trip that inevitably ends with worst-case scenario. It encourages us to create mental barriers and emotional walls out of self-protection and preservation. It tells us we’ll feel better if we make the other person “wrong” in order to give ourselves some mental ease.
The thing is, not one of these practices serve us or our wellbeing. They’re all rooted in judgement (either for oneself or for the other person) and blame (which implies guilt and needed “punishment”). Each encourages mental suffering versus the freedom of forgiveness and release. Yet, these are quite frequently our conditioned response when we reach the gray area or when a relationships dissolves or shifts.
Holding space for my friend also gave me the space to revisit my response to similar situations in the past. These are not uncommon responses, they are responses that we’ve all been conditioned to make. Responses like over-intellectualizing situations or behaviors; getting caught up in false stories; replaying scenarios wondering how outcomes could have been different. Responses like blaming ourselves or blaming the other person (because someone obviously has to be to blame, right?). We listen to the advice to bury or forget about the emotions we have; as though feeling them is a sign of weakness.
Ultimately, each of these attempts leaves little space for enlightened experiences such as healing, growth, appreciation, and forgiveness. What I wished for my friend (and what I wish for anyone going through a similar situation) is that she would come to know these four important truths about relationships:
1. There is no shame in having a shared, yet different, experience.
Have you ever been on what you thought was a great date (or series of dates); an interaction you thought went really well? You know the kind: the conversation was stimulating, you had several commonalities and interests, the chemistry was great, etc., etc. You think things are going somewhere until you find out that your romantic interest isn’t on the same page...for whatever reason...and your new relationship falls into the “it didn’t work out” category. Particularly, as females, we’re taught that we should feel one of three ways in this scenario: Angry at the guy because he’s obviously an asshole who didn’t see the queen that was in front of him; indifferent because we’re crazy/emotional if we show any sign of disappointment/hurt; or ashamed and foolish because we got excited about a possibility that didn’t pan out.
No. Why do any of these have to be our reality? If you had a lovely time (or times) with someone getting to know them and they don’t feel the same, or the timing isn’t right, or whatever; there is nothing to be ashamed of or angry about. If you had a great time and felt a spark; give yourself permission to enjoy that feeling. There’s no need to feel shameful or “stupid” for getting excited just because the feeling wasn’t returned on the same level. You felt what you felt in the moment because you are a human being with emotions. It’s okay to feel them. You don’t need validation from another person that your emotions are “right”. Enjoy the memory of the positive experience and ask the Universe for more of the same in a more suitable mate who returns the energy and appreciation.
2. Even at your best, you’ll never be right for the wrong person. But even at your worst, the right person will remind you of your worth.
When things don’t work out, it’s easy to blame ourselves and wonder what we might have done differently, or worse: how we might have been better. The simple truth is, the right person will see past your flaws and weaknesses. They will have faith in your ability to grow beyond them and despite of them. If a potential romantic partner doesn’t show the capacity to have faith in you or suggests that you might come into the relationship more perfect or whole than your currently are: that person is not your person.
Yes, I do believe that there are times in our lives when we can be quite broken. When we require time alone to work through our wounds; to grow and heal and become whole. We cannot rely on another person or a relationship to make us happy. However, I also believe that the right relationships are intended as our greatest opportunities for growth. We are matched with people who will help bring to the surface not only our brightest light, but also our insecurities and our false beliefs. The right person will not judge or shame you for your weaknesses. The right person will be willing to accept you where you are and embark on a journey of mutual healing and growth with you...and remind you of your worth and capacity for greatness on the way.
3. The Universe is always conspiring on your behalf; trust in the plan.
Sometimes (okay, a lot of times), we get attached to a specific outcome just because we’ve invested time working towards or thinking about that outcome. When you’re dating someone and things don’t go as planned, it’s easy to let the “gloom and doom” track start running in your head. This is where we tell ourselves that a particular relationship is ruined. That we’ll never have our fairytale. That we’ve wasted our time. It’s easy to become disappointed after we invest time and energy into a particular relationship only to get to an outcome less-than what we wanted. Here’s the thing: the Universe wants you to be happy. The Universe wants you to experience love, and bliss, and happiness in a relationship. If he (or she) is the one, the Universe will support your meeting again when the time is right. If he’s not the one, trust that the one is out there and that your current situation is all part of a larger plan to better prepare you for the one that is meant for you.
4. Forgiving is the only way out of a painful thing.
If a relationship doesn’t play out the way you’d envisioned, it’s really easy to make the other person the bad guy. Your friends may even villainize your past partner and encourage you to believe they are bad in an attempt to make you feel better. You’ll be tempted to harbor hard feelings as a way to protect yourself from pain. I assure you, this is not the way. The only way we can be free and find peace as individuals is to forgive those who we perceived have hurt us. How do we forgive? We release our attachment to the meaning we have made of things. We pray for the happiness of the other person. We let go of resentments and judgments that we are tempted to hold on to by recognizing that holding on to these negative emotions blocks us from having space to receive the positive feelings of love and connection we are actually seeking (if you’re looking for more tangible ways to forgive and heal, I’ve offered some tips in this post).
We don’t have to beat ourselves up or hold on to negative feelings like anger, judgement, resentment when a relationship doesn’t work out. We don’t have to make the other person a villain in order to move on. In the same sense, we don’t have to blame ourselves for something we did or assume we were too much or not enough. Rather, we can appreciate a relationship for showing us the things we DO want and ask the Universe for more of that good feeling without feeling shame for having feelings that weren’t returned. We can find peace knowing that the right person will have the capacity to hold space for our growth and will show willingness to grow with us. We can trust the Universe is always conspiring on our behalf and will help our paths cross with the right person when the timing is right. Finally, we can recognize the characteristics of a potential mate that we enjoyed and acknowledge those we didn’t without holding on to negative emotions that block us from our true potential.