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  • Writer's pictureDoug Weiss

Once More with Feeling

Not long ago, Alvean and I were on a radio interview show and a caller asked what she was doing wrong in her dating life, because she seemed to attract emotionally unavailable men. As we so often do, Alvean and I responded with almost the same advice, although we got there in slightly different ways.

We agreed, that the pattern our caller experienced had little to do with the number of men in the dating pool who were emotionally unavailable—in fact that is a myth we want to explore in another post sometime in the future. Rather, we suggested that rather than attracting a certain type of person, our caller chose them, and the trait they had in common—their lack of emotional availability, was very likely why she chose them. Now this may seem a very harsh judgement—why would anyone deliberately place themselves in a situation they knew was destined to cause them pain and unhappiness? I can see where this may be confusing. But, stick with us for a bit while we explain.

First, I want to say that I very much doubt any of the men our caller dated considered themselves emotionally unavailable. Very likely, they had a very different image of themselves. Likewise, our caller certainly did not consciously choose prospective partners whom she saw as unavailable. Quite to the contrary, there were many other things she was attracted to, none of which reflected emotional issues. The key here is that if either our caller or the men she dated saw the pattern they were stuck in they would probably have avoided it –but they couldn’t.

I have written before in Life, Love and Internet Dating, that we are capable of the most incredible acts of self-deception, we literally blind ourselves to what is often apparent to everyone but us. And, when we keep choosing the same type of people time after time it simply reflects the fact that we have learned very little from our past experience. So, why do we do this? Let us give you both the psychological and the spiritual response, in the end they come out in the same place.

While we may not think the people we are attracted to are a type, or fit a pattern, the fact is that many of us repeatedly choose the same person over and over again. We expect a different result—but the same things happen and for many of the same reasons. If we were able to step outside ourselves and objectively assess the people we choose and our reasons for doing so, what we would learn is a great deal about ourselves—things we may be surprised to learn and may not always welcome. Let me give you an example.

I have a friend who, for many years, dated and was in extended relationships with women who had issues of self-worth, deep seated doubt in themselves, and a number of other traits associated with people who are struggling with their sense of wholeness. Outwardly you would not have noticed this about these women—they were highly functional, intelligent, and capable in many ways but inwardly they were –as we all are—not entirely complete, broken in the way all humans are. Their inner tensions led to struggles—doubts about whether they were loved for themselves, control issues, sometimes polar swings between excessive and irrational emotion and cool aloofness. These behaviors played off against issues that my friend had—about his own sense of emotional security and self- confidence. Inevitably, time and again these relationships foundered, until my friend finally put himself through a profound course of self-examination under the care of a therapist.

Talking to him years later, he used the phrase, ‘wounded birds’, to describe the type of women he was attracted to. He did not mean to be disparaging—but was echoing what he had come to understand; that he had unknowingly adopted these women who he knew on some level were incomplete, out of a complicated rationale he had not been consciously aware of applying. Whether it was because he felt these women would be dependent on him and, therefore, would not abandon him, or he honestly felt he could love them into wholeness I cannot say, but I do know that once he figured it out he changed his pattern. I have not talked to him in years so I don’t know if he broke the pattern or not—I certainly hope so.

I tell you this story because some of that same pattern was at work in my life too, but what changed things for me had everything to do with God and less to do with therapy. When I began to peel back the layers of my life to reveal the real person inside, a lot of what I saw I did not like. Had it not been for the abiding trust I had that God had a plan for me and loved me I don’t know if I would ever have been able to leap the chasm of faith. In opening my eyes to myself, I found not only who I was, but who he was.

It is written that we are made in God’s image. True enough I guess, but not in a literal sense. God is so much more than us, so much beyond our ability to see or understand that he has had to manifest to us as everything from a burning bush to a swirling dust storm and finally as a man to even speak to us. We keep trying to anthropomorphize him but he won’t stay put for that. The way he best reveals himself is through us, when he shows us what it is to be a man or a woman. When we see him that way—see our higher selves in his image, we are able to see others for who they are as well. And for the first time—loving ourselves as God loves us, trusting in him to reveal his truth, we can see those around us as they are.

With this newly minted x-ray vision, we can truly do superhuman things. We can step around those patterns that lead us to unhappiness, avoid entangling ourselves in situations that are not for our own good. Most of all, we can seek out and find those who like us are ready to love, give, and become all that God made us to be. When we start living like this, loving like this, everything we have longed for becomes possible.

One of many things Alvean and I agree on wholeheartedly is that to love and to be in relationship we must begin my loving and respecting ourselves. One cannot get love, if one cannot give love. And I would add that if we want to feel loved the way God loves us—without condition, then we must learn to love as he does. So, whether you are in a relationship and looking to find the secret to making it even better, or looking to find that special person in your life, you won’t find a better way than this. Start with yourself. Hold onto that picture—now add the missing element, God. Love yourself, love him, and love like him-without reserve, without condition, without judgement. Do it once more, my friends, with feeling.

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