My greatest fear in relationship is that she leaves. She leaves and my life is destroyed.
This fear comes from my childhood. I have idyllic memories of my early childhood. I remember my parents being head-over-heels in love with each other. I remember being head-over-heels in love with both of them, with my family.
Then, I remember my mom yelling at my dad. Then she left. It was as though my heart was ripped from my chest.
I remember witnessing my father’s pain, first hand, the sorrow, the helplessness. He seemed pitiful, powerless, pathetic, and I felt the same way. I was even more pathetic and powerless. I could feel it.
As an adult, doing shadow work, I see how I internalized the feeling of shame and helplessness that I felt from my dad. Small children are unable to distinguish “feeling bad” from “being bad”. The story that I took away from this life-shattering process was that it was because I was “bad” that my mom left, that my life was ruined.
It wasn’t an intellectual or conscious understanding. It was something I felt in my gut, that I encoded in my subconscious, then buried.
Looking back, I can see the way that this fear shaped my relationships. Early on, I would charm women and lure them in to fill the void; but I would not let myself be vulnerable. I would not open up. I would not allow myself to fall head-over-heels in love with them because at some level I knew that if I did, it would mean the pain of loss.
Later, as I learned to let myself be vulnerable, to let myself care, I made efforts to be good. Fighting away that nagging feeling that I was deeply flawed or “bad,” I would do everything in my power to be the perfect boyfriend, the perfect husband. At some level, I felt that if I was good enough, I could keep her from leaving me. I could prove to her that I was “good” and not “bad”.
When I did all the good things, she was delighted and I was validated. She would tell me how great I was and I would feel good. Her reassurance would push away the fear. This was my codependence cycle.
But being “good” was exhausting. It was different than just “being me.” So I would crave ways to break out of the mold, break out of the role to find some escape. The moments in which I found escape, were the moments that my partner resented me. No matter how clear I was with my communication, or how much I felt I was in-control, there was always something that made her angry, uncomfortable. I suspect it was because I was being someone other than the “good” person that she had chosen to be with.
She would get angry. She would leave. My greatest fear would come true. I would feel like my world was crumbling around me.
When she came back I would vow to be “good” again. But I resented her for hurting me, for not letting me have my relief.
Being “good” became more tiresome. My need for escape became stronger. I would push the boundaries further. She would get more angry. I would become more resentful but would keep trying to be “good.” Thus the relationship spiraled into demise. Thus I created my own deepest fear.
For me, salvation came in letting go of the idea of “being good”. This took many forms. My coach pushed me to look at the “bad” part of myself. I did men’s work and shadow work where we dove into all the messy imperfection of my true self. I experimented with BDSM where I could be brutal, domineering, and really “bad” and she LOVED it. I found a partner who was able to hold me lovingly in all my messy imperfection.
As it turns out, I’m not that bad.
The more of myself that I accept, the more free I am to just be me, the less codependent my relationships become.
It’s a slow process, and the old dynamic still comes back. Recently, something upset my partner (she has her own fears and triggers). Rather than having a big fight, she chose to take some time for herself, to give us space. But all I saw was her getting mad, and her leaving. My world started to crumble around me.
Fortunately, she was able to tell me that it was not about me. The work that I have done helped me regain my wits. With a little time and reflection we were able to see the deeper beauty in each of us.
Each person has their own deepest fear. Each person has their own triggers and shadow work to address. Each person has their own ways of questioning their own value, and their own path to fully honoring their beauty and power. Each person has their own process for learning to love more fully.
Doing this work is slow. At first, it might seem useless or invisible. But as you fill your heart with love and acceptance, your world begins to change around you. Your life gets filled with more joy, love, and play. You look around at your life and think “Fuck Yes!” You feel more confident and can’t help but swagger a little in everything you do. The world responds to this type of energy. Beauty is all around you, within you. You realize that you are beauty. You realize that you are divine.
Photo Credit: Stephen Flynn Photography: www.facebook.com/stephenflynnphotography/