It is a challenge to let go when all you want to do is hang on and control. Let’s begin with why people hang onto control. The kooky things we do always make sense (which is the title of the 4/09/09 entry on this blog). Being in control provides people with a false sense of safety. So if my child marries in their own ethnic group we will share the same values and life will be easier. If my partner learns to love me the way I demand then I know he really loves me. Hanging on to your own way of looking at things means ignoring the reality your child could love a serial killer in their own ethnic group or that a man who tells you what you want to hear may do so because he is manipulative. Life is very complicated and because we’re so afraid we create simple, arbitrary (ultimately flimsy) solutions as ways to soothe ourselves.
Wanting someone else to soothe your fears by jumping through hoops will never really work. Why? It is your job to learn to soothe your own fears. The most current research says that the best way to go about that is to face your fears in smaller doses. If you are 27 or under you are still growing up and if your demands for reassurance are used as a springboard to learning how to reassure yourself that’s o.k.
Facing your fears is to acknowledge and embrace uncertainty as an important part of life.Instead of avoiding uncertainty learn how to allow it to be bearable. Try reading Embracing Uncertainty by Susan Jeffers.
More closely examine your kooky ways of pretending to be safe i.e. if he loves me the way I demand then he must be decent. See them as the false premises they are. If he loves you the way you demand he may be patient and generous the first couple of years but the truth is unspoken resentments can pile up pretty easily. Do resentments pile up because he cooperates too much and loses self respect? Therapists are like detectives looking for what’s missing and all too often respect is a missing key element.
Claim your own panic and anxiety that makes you want to pretend. Learn to think through you fear full feelings that exaggerate and twist reality to suit you. Educate yourself about anxiety and read Overcoming Anxiety for Dummies. Learn to control your own fears instead of other people.
Learn how to soothe yourself and slow down. Pick up a bumpy rock that is interesting to the touch and put it in your pocket. Anxiety is most often about leaping into the future. Use the rock to get in touch with your five senses and bring yourself into the present. If you ask him 20 times a day if he loves you, slow down and knock it down to 10. You provide yourself the answer the other 10 times. Certainty in love is hard to know and it develops over time. Stop scrambling for premature answers. Everyone has a dark side, no human escapes that harsh reality. Even Pollyanna was relentlessly cheerful like the false smile produced by waitresses at chain restaurants.
Find your courage and be open to a partner pushing back, disagreeing and being themselves with differences you might not appreciate. Who wants to hitch their star to someone who is a pale shadow of themselves? Disagreement is like adding fresh herbs to your cooking, creating far more complex flavors. Be Curious and think about the ying/yang of life. (More on this in next post.) There are always two sides to everything. The point of view that you’ve ignored may be very exciting, not just scary. Discover that being disagreed with is truly interesting rather than threatening. If you surround yourself with head nodding and yeses how can you grow?
Think long term and believe that the value of respect is the glue that holds the relationship together. If you want to make it for the long haul don’t follow the easy path of contempt, struggle instead with how to be respectful of differences.
Remember how short life is and one of the very best parts is to have someone to travel with through the lovely ups and very harsh downs. Finding an honest man/woman is way more interesting than a yes man/woman or a rich man/woman or a good looking man/woman.
Trust the process of truth telling. Truth has a quiet dignity. Defensiveness is loud and clanging which is part of why the 20’s and the 30’s are so rough. If you commit to the path of telling the truth in small moments over time it will be like stringing pearls on a necklace. You really can end up with something beautiful. If you are a control queen you need to learn to ask more questions and wait for answers. Don’t fill in the space for the other person. Learn to talk about hard things instead of avoiding.
Recognize you aren’t being honest with yourself if you go through life increasing your demands as a test of love. Learn to love yourself which includes your own dark side and that will make it easier to be authentic in relationships. Finally, don’t use a relationship with someone else to plug the hole in your own soul.