Jennifer is a woman I know through a woman’s business networking group, but not a client. She has been married and divorced two times. She has not had a long-term relationship since her last divorce which is over 12 years ago. This is not because she doesn’t want to be in a loving long-term relationship, she actually is very desirous of one.
Jennifer is an attractive 40 something mother of two and has owned her own successful business for 15 years. She is very personable has lots of good friends…but for some reason she’s still single. Last May, a four-month relationship ended. It was his choice. This seems to be a pattern with Jennifer. All of her relationships including her two marriages have ended because the men decide it’s over. The odd thing is she talks very openly about her desire to be in a relationship and she’s just as candid about her failed attempts at relationships.
Jennifer is a woman who has literally pulled herself up by her bootstraps. But sadly, she has difficulty reaching out for ‘real’ help that would give her the tools to end this pattern of self-sabotage. She’s managed to gather a group of ‘supportive’ women who are sympathetic to her painful plight of singlehood.
From the outside looking in, it appears supportive, but in reality it is part of what is keeping her stuck. In May after her last breakup, Jennifer shared that she was really hurting. She said her emotions were raw and almost unbearable to experience. Now, fast forward four months since the breakup. Jennifer has now built up a story around this relationship and why it ended.
Creating this story makes her feel better and gives her short-term relief from the pain. Long term, its keeping her stuck in this same pattern that is clearly keeping her single. Unfortunately, she is not open to honestly explore her part in this repeating pattern.
Instead, she creates story after story and makes comments to the effect that she ‘intimidates men.’ And that, “I can’t make a man want the relationship,” “So what can I do?” etc. When experiencing these feelings of loneliness, hurt and rejection as well as confusion about not being in a relationship…the tendency is to create a story so we don’t have to feel the depth of our pain in the moment.
The first type of pain is the pain that you feel in the body when your break a bone, cut your finger, or burn your hand. The second type of pain is emotional pain. This is kind of pain that Jennifer is experiencing.
It’s the disappointment, frustration and sadness that she is feels because she doesn’t have a man in her life to give her the meaningful and caring relationship that she so desires. Now, body pain is pretty easy to understand.
If you fall and break your leg the pain alerts you that there is a problem. In the emergency room they put your leg in a cast and give you crutches because you will need to stay off that leg until it is healed. That means you will have to modify/change the way you normally walk until the leg is completely healed.
But emotional pain is not so easy to understand and here’s why. When you experience emotional pain, it can feel overwhelming. But unlike the body pain of breaking your leg, it may not cause you to change or modify our behavior.
With emotional pain you can put a soothing salve of ‘denial’ and ‘rationalization’ over the part that got hurt. That results in keeping you unconscious and in essence you can numb the pain. The way we do this is by telling ourselves a story. This story shows up with comments like:
“When the time is right, Mr. Right will appear.”
“Or if it’s meant to be it will happen.”
And if it hasn’t happened…it’s not meant to be.
What is really going on is you don’t want to feel the depth of the despair, thus the story appears to ‘deaden’ the pain. But luckily, there is a way out of this sabotaging pattern.
The first step is to make a decision that you want to change your situation. That you want to move out of this pattern that keeps you in an unsuccessful loop.
The second step is to become aware or what you’re telling yourself and others that keep you stuck in your story…rather than achieving the success in a relationship you really want.
The third step is to stop playing the victim role and get rid of your pity party.
The Fourth step is to ask yourself this:
“Do I want to suffer because of this belief… or do I want to move on in my life?”
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