I felt nervous when I sent out my first newsletter seven years ago. I wondered who would want to read it and what I could say that would make a difference in someone’s life. I was really wondering whether it was going to be good enough. Underlying this concern was the fear that I’m not good enough. Relationships remind us of this feeling. Let me share with you when it started for me.
I was away from home for the first time at UC Berkeley. There is always someone you meet that you look up to who seems to have all the answers. Mike Breen was that guy for me. I had just turned 17 and at 19 Mike seemed to possess that wisdom and experience about girls that was missing in my life.
I remember the defining conversation like it was yesterday. We were on the asphalt basketball court with some other students. After a while, Mike and I were the only ones still playing. This was my chance.
”Mike what do you do if you meet a girl and you really like her and maybe even love her?”
Mike coolly replied with that air of maturity and experience,
“You tell her how you feel.”
I was confused, “What if she says she doesn’t love you back?”
That was one of my biggest fears and a few years later at the end of my junior year I felt that pain of rejection when my girl friend Bobbi told me she loved someone else. I made the decision that I would never feel that pain again so I avoided anyone who could hurt me like Bobbi had.
What I did to avoid getting hurt!
One thing I did was to select partners who I knew did not fit my picture of the person I wanted to be with. By finding enough faults with them I could keep them at a distance and eventually move on so as to avoid getting hurt. Another approach was to select a partner who was emotionally unavailable. They were hopelessly self centered, in other relationships, or afraid of intimacy because of the same wounds that I had experienced. If I was really honest with myself it was obvious from the very beginning. But as we know facing the truth is not always so easy.
Even though I felt that I wanted a life long partner, the pattern of avoidance lasted for many years. During this phase of my life I consulted with many teachers and mentors and participated in many personal growth workshops, always on some level focusing on overcoming my barriers to having a great relationship. Sometimes there’s a saying or a poem that resonates with you and makes the biggest difference in your life. For me it was the following quote by Anais Nin that inspired me in my quest.
“And the day came when the risk to remain closed in a bud
became more painful than the risk to blossom.”
Have your ever thought about the connection between trust and risk? To have a great relationship you must be vulnerable. As you expand your capacity to be vulnerable you also expand your capacity to let go and trust. As my attitudes and beliefs shifted I was able to embrace my fears, overcome my barriers and attract my soul mate, Annie. We have been on this journey together for over 25 years.
Let me share with you a few insights that have enabled me to embrace this journey. In a subsequent article, I’ll share with you insights as to what is necessary to go deeper.
We all want to be with someone who we think is special. Regardless of how special they are, if they are not interested in you in the same way you are interested in them, it will never work. Be willing to take a honest look at whether they love you in the way you want to be loved. If they are self absorbed and self centered they probably won’t be capable of loving you in the way you want. I think most of us really know this in the beginning, but we long so much for this special type of relationship that we overlook the obvious.
There are many reasons why we don’t recognize this pattern sooner, especially if we haven’t been in a committed relationship for some time. It’s not unusual for us to think that perhaps there’s something wrong with us, so we give up on finding the love that we really want and overlook the obvious. We question our values and choose a partner that on some level we know isn’t the right one. What complicates matters is that quite often we have a mental image or concept of the kind of person we want to be with. If our partner does not fit that image, our emotions and heart will be in conflict with our mind.
We all have dreams and goals. Honor them by asking yourself if you and your partner share the same dream. If you have different dreams and a different vision it’s going to be difficult for the relationship to reach its fullest potential. I had been there many times before meeting Annie and I know that it’s difficult to admit to yourself “what’s so.” Pay attention to the clues. If you desire a long term relationship and pick a partner who hasn’t had a relationship greater than six months, the likelihood is that this new relationship won’t last much longer.
I know there are many books written on relationships. These are just some of my thoughts. I realize that a lot more can be said and in a subsequent letter I will focus on things you can do to enhance the quality of your relationships and to deepen your connection. I hope my experiences and insights inspire possibility in your life Feel free to pass this letter on to those in your circle.
Mark Susnow’s life has been an unfolding journey of discovery. A former trial attorney for 30 years and musician, he integrates what it takes to be successful in the world with the inner wisdom unfolded to him through years of yoga and meditation. Whether coaching one-on-one, speaking to groups, or leading a retreat, he shares his message that regardless of our life’s circumstances, we can find more joy and meaning in our life. He is a sought after speaker and coauthor along with Zig Ziglar and Brian Tracy and other experts in the book 101 Great Ways to Improve your Life. Mark’s new book, Dancing on the River…Finding Joy and Meaning in the Midst of Change will be released in early 2010. firstname.lastname@example.org 415.453.5016