Relationships had never been my strong point. I had them, was in them, did not need them, but still managed to end up in them.
They were unavoidable… relationships were and are everywhere. We have relationships with everyone we meet: big, small, long term or short, we are all in one in one way or another.
However for me it was how I was in and around people that determined the kinds of relationships I had. For the most they were ‘good’ – they were reasonably safe. We had an exchange, we supported each other in what was needed: company, conversation, support in times of struggle and drama.
All these things most of us want and seek in a relationship, but is it what a true relationship is or should be? Or is it a level of comfort, an opportunity for us to continue along in life, not being asked to go deeper, to be transparent, completely open and surrendered to another, willing to reveal or live in our true state of tenderness and vulnerability?
There was no way I was prepared to allow myself to be totally transparent, tender, vulnerable or gentle, totally surrendering to another in all that was me and fully letting them in. I harboured way too many hurts of the past and pictures and images of how I wanted things to be, forever shifting the goal posts so that even if another got close to ticking the boxes, I would shift the goal and add a few more restrictions and demands into the mix. Meaning I would never have to fully let them in because they would never be able to live up to my ideal of how they and the relationship should be.
Expectations were high, their love for me always having to be proven – an unrealistic but safe way to play the relationship game.
This was a game I was very good at – one that, if I allowed it, could go on for my entire life, entering into relationships of convenience, arrangements that allowed me to stay where I was, holding others out, never letting them in to see just how vulnerable and tender I am.
Building my exterior armour, forever in the fear of being hurt, let down or disappointed. Brilliant really, what a great excuse I had set up, lived and played out my entire life. With friends, partners and family, no one was exempt from the standards I had set. Relationships of convenience, we both got what we wanted without having to let ourselves get too intimate, too seen or exposed.
I thought I was being loving, open, honest and supportive of others, but all the while I was forever gauging how I could keep them at a safe distance, protecting myself from the possibility of being hurt. The only true hurt that was occurring was me keeping myself held so tightly, so hard and withdrawn that I ached for true love, to allow myself to just be.
Clever and cunning are we, setting up ourselves and another in a game, you can almost see the pieces being moved by another hand, manipulation at its best, and we are the big-time players, all in the name of perceived protection. Demanding the love and support of another and yet not prepared to give that ourselves.
This is a game that no-one can win.
I have been observing myself in relationships, and it has been exposing, challenging a new level of responsibility I have not allowed myself to go to before.
The manipulation… how I set my partner up to fail in a deliberate attempt to justify the images I hold, the expectations I have of him. Doing things that I know will get a reaction from him, setting him up so when he does react I have an “I told you so” that justifies why I don’t open up and surrender in full. If he reacts, gets angry, doesn’t do something I’ve asked him to do, I’m justified in my actions and thoughts. Absurd, ridiculous, cunning and sneaky, knowing exactly what I am doing, setting the board, making the moves, then calling the shots.
The more I observe my behaviour the more I see how it plays out – excuses, justifications, deliberate sabotage. Asking myself: do I really want to be loved, what am I so afraid of, what is it I am really keeping at bay? I have spent many years keeping people at what I thought was a safe distance, entering into relationships that are safe, that allow and support me to continue playing my game of denial and protection.
Recently I became aware that the demands I have placed on my partner were all to avoid and hold back my own connection, not allowing the love to pour in and through me from my one love.
God’s love, it pours in and through all of us, and it is us who at any cost will hold that back, keep it at bay.
My partner was the perfect distraction and point of focus with me, demanding he love me and prove his love and dedication to me, all the while knowing that no matter what he did, I would continue to avoid the love on offer from above.
God’s love is forever running through my veins: it is felt and cannot be ignored. We can attempt to override it with the many distraction, addictions and games we play, but never does it stop knocking.
For some of us that knock becomes louder, more obvious, unavoidable. It is here we have a choice –– do we bring our focus to that which is within, allow that out, to truly love ourselves and others? No games, no pawns, no more moving of the goal posts, instead surrendering to the love that is on offer, putting an end to the need of love from another?
Simplicity is revealed: God’s love is stronger than, and can hold us deeper than, any emotional love from another. To surrender to and allow this brings a whole new dimension and understanding to relationships as I had known them to be.
In the past we were like pieces of a puzzle that fitted together, filling each other’s gaps and needs. Once I realised I had to fill my own gaps by loving and appreciating myself, allowing the Love of God in, my relationships changed dramatically. There was no longer a need; the expectations and pictures of how it should all be fell away, there was now an allowing of myself and others I had never had before.
As I become more allowing of the love on offer, surrendering to the will of God, Heaven that is knocking on my door, I can feel my levels of protection fall away and I am opening up to the potential of true relationships, to be seen warts and all, no judgement or criticism of self or others.
The spark we carry within burns bright: avoidance can only dim the spark, but never can we extinguish the love that pours in and through us.
By Nicole Serafin, 46, NSW, Australia
Published with permission of my partner.