Are You Really Ready for Love? Taking Risks for Love
- Wednesday, February 22, 2006
“I want to play it safe when it comes to dating women,” Tim said to me recently. “I’ve been divorced, burned too many times, and I’m not going to be burned again.” And Lisa, a single woman, frustrated in her dating experiences, said this to me. “I go out with these emotionally unavailable ‘bad-boys’ because I dread the humiliation of being dependent on a man, then having him leave. I try to prevent that feeling by choosing men I know won’t get involved, so I could tell myself that it was all under my control.”
Two different people, both angry and frustrated, deciding in various ways to play it safe. As the saying goes, “Better to be safe than sorry.”
Or is it?
Unless you have been hiding under a rock, you have probably experienced the crumby feeling of rejection. You know the twisted aching after he/ she leaves. The desire to have them back, even if they weren’t any good for you. You know what it feels like to have loved and had your heart broken.
The issue we will explore is not whether you have had your heart broken—that goes with the turf. The issue is what you have done in response to those experiences. Have you withdrawn into bitterness, like Tim? Have you blamed all of the problems on the opposite sex, claiming innocence in the matter? Perhaps you have decided it simply is not worth it to reach out again and again, only to be wounded and humiliated.
If you have loved deeply, you have probably been wounded deeply. If you have risked letting someone into the inner reaches of your heart, there may still be a place inside that aches when you think about him or her.
But, what to do now? Are you ready to love again?
Our seventh trait in this series to determine if you are really ready for love is having the courage to take risks for love.
Intimacy has been defined as “into-me-see.” If you are really ready for love, you are willing to take risks, even though it means risking being hurt, and being willing to do the healing work if loss occurs. It means squeezing every ounce of learning out of the wound. It means submitting every experience to God, asking what can be learned even in this painful situation. The Apostle Paul says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
Understanding that “grief is the healing feeling,” you allow any grief and pain from your previous relationships to carve out an even deeper place for love to reside in the future. The danger, of course, is to do what the Tim and Lisa have done: put up various barriers so no one can hurt them again. They have created crusty shells that no one can possibly penetrate. They carry their wounds like armor against a malicious enemy. Of course, the armor only serves to insulate them from anyone who might love them and help them heal.
Tim blames all his problems on women. He has made choices, of course, but fails to learn from those choices. He blames the external world—the world of women. He feels powerless to make better choices so that the risks are mitigated. Feeling powerless, he sits with his anger and feels strangely strong—if not completely isolated.
Lisa also insulates herself, but in a different way. She chooses men who are predictably distant and even unkind. While she will always be hurt, it will be a hurt she knows and can manage. She knows how to sabotage a relationship so it cannot survive. She knows when and how these men will leave and wound her. Her world is manageable, if not poignantly painful.
While the reaction to rejection is hurt, the reaction to humiliation is shame. We recover a bit easier from rejection than from humiliation. Have you experienced the shame of being exposed as lacking in some important quality? The prospect of humiliation can be so terrifying that for some people it can keep them from reaching out at all, or make them so cautious that they permit themselves little involvement or intimacy.
Consider these steps to reduce being tyrannized by humiliation or the fear of it:
- Realize that your feelings from the past are distorting and twisting your feelings about the present—putting an unfair spin on other’s responses to you.
- Look at your past and invite the Holy Spirit to sympathize with you in your struggles and offer wisdom in healing, and future choices—recognizing that you are no longer that person.
- Recognize your destructive choices and be determined to change your self-defeating patterns. Previous rejections reflect not on your adequacy or desirability but on your self-defeating need to put yourself in that position.
- Accept that you will make mistakes. It is part of the journey. Remember, the path to love is not for the faint-hearted.
- Recognize that love requires honesty and openness and is one of its greatest rewards. Be exactly who you are in a non-judgmental relationship, and seek to be with another who is committed to being open and honest as well.
From the moment you meet someone you care about, you risk the possibility that he or she may not return those feelings. That rejection can lead to relatively minor disappointment if it occurs early, or can cause profound feelings of pain and depression if you were deeply involved over a long period of time.
But, we take measured risks. If we keep things in perspective, we learn:
Being rejected does not make us worthless
Being embarrassed does not make us a fool
Unrequited love is not the worst thing in the world.
It is possible to love again.
Are you willing to be emotionally available to another special person? Are you willing to let them into your heart, in a cautious but vulnerable manner? If so, you may really be ready for love.
David Hawkins, Pd.D., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years.
He is the author of over 18 books, including Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, Saying It So He'll Listen, and When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His book, When the Man in Your Life Can’t Commit, released in February 2006. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.
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