When I first heard fictional character Carrie Bradshaw say ‘I’m looking for love. Real Love. Ridiculous. Inconvenient. Consuming. Can’t-live-without-each-other love’. I recall it resonated with me as that’s what I have been looking for. My whole life. Until recently this ideal had never been challenged. I don’t mean people had never suggested to me that my expectations were too great or I had a ‘fairy tale complex’, I mean I myself had never challenged this belief.
What was my belief exactly? Well, boy meets girl, they fall in love, they live happily ever after. Like my own Gran and Grandpa who were married 50 years until physically separated by death. And where did this belief come from? Childhood I guess. I remember reading a lot of ‘Happily Ever After’ books and dreaming about my moment of riding off into the sunset.
I had a few reality checks along they way. Parents divorce. Estranged father. First boyfriend cheating on me. Second boyfriend cheating on me. Husband cheating on me. You may have noticed a pattern? It took me a while. I remember the first year of marriage being a huge shock to the system because of MY expectations of what it would be like. I often thought, ‘why on Earth did my mother not warn me about this?’ Why was my marriage so hard? We are supposed to be on ‘happily ever after’ now. My sister wisely reflected, that after a wedding such as I had had (rural Scotland, old castle, hilarious ceilidh) that anything after that was going to be decidedly less exciting. One of the last days I spent in my marital home before we separated, I recall sadly looking at the beautiful, solid, Mexican pine furniture he had insisted on getting as ‘it would last’. He was right, it did. Longer than our marriage.
I insisted afterwards, that I would meet ‘the one’, he was still out there. I would just have to be wiser, or better still I would listen to my friends opinions on who I was with next. They seemed to know who wasn’t right for me long before I did. So I basically gave away my power, as I didn’t trust myself. I cheated on myself you could say. I had a brief relationship a year later, only upon its end I realised it was the infamous ‘rebound’ one. Whilst we were together I remember an uncle asking me ‘do you think you can keep this one this time?’ I replied, ‘the real question is whether he can keep me’. Good retort, but his words hurt me. Why? In counselling we follow the hurt and get curious as to where it began. Those words hurt me because they resonated with another script, that it was my responsibility for keeping a relationship together. As a child, I believed I was responsible for keeping my mother and father together, and I failed.
I finally got the ‘fairy tale’ ‘boy-meets-girl’ which again reinforced by script, my belief about a perfect person out there for me. My niece had come to live with me and as the new girl at school, she was assigned another girl to look after her. They both became good friends, best friends.One day we all walked past a bookshop it sparked a conversation about my nieces friends dad. I realised I knew who he was. I had known him 5 years ago when I worked at the same place. As chance would have it without this discovery, I would have ended up meeting him the following day anyway as my niece and his daughter were doing an activity together. Destiny! If this was fiction, this would definitely be a ‘cute meet’. Within no time at all he became a real love – ridiculous – consuming – inconvenient. It seemed eighties romantic rock music played wherever we went. We were going to move into together and be a family unit. That idea was short lived, storm clouds gathered, and we did not move in together. We lived separately, but stayed together despite how dark it got around us. I was determined that if we separated it would only be because we chose it ourselves not because of other people and their agendas. I am responsible for keeping this relationship together or I fail.
On my counselling journey over the last year, I have had a lot of beliefs challenged, discovered scripts I didn’t realise I had and thankfully re-written a lot of them. Society had given me a belief of what ‘real love’ looks like, my belief. Mine didn’t look like that, so mine must be wrong. I have to try harder. I am a failure. Its a bit like the ‘ideal Christmas’ – what it ‘should’ look like, anything else and I have failed. But love is supposed to conquer all, and it didn’t, how can that be?
It has taken me a while to realise love starts from within, my internal feminine and masculine embracing. If we look at this, then we are not on a mission to feel complete from an external source. Our external world is only mirroring our internal one. I cheated myself, if I want to see change in the world I need it to start with me. My ‘cute meet’ is undoubtedly one of my soul mates, a mirror – and I have tried my best to deal with all that he has reflected to me, particularly my mistrust in men. I acknowledged the script from the inner child who believed she wasn’t lovable enough for her father to stay, so why would any other man. I also acknowledged a soul mate does not necessarily mean for life, it could just be for a season or a reason, but it doesn’t mean they are any less important to our evolution. It has been a wonderful but crazy journey with him and one I now wouldn’t change. I can accept it for what it was and let go of my expectations.
Love has many amazing and different forms. It is not limited to a set of beliefs and ideals. It can guide us all sorts of different ways through life. Love doesn’t always involve staying together, it can mean letting each other go, but with love and light. Maybe that’s what is meant by unconditional love. In changing my perception and understanding of love, it now feels that I can keep hold of one of my beliefs that love conquers all, but I can let go of the Hollywood adaptation of it.
“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it” – Rumi
Image: Chirobocea Nicu