I’ve never found love easy. Even when I was in relationships, things never seemed seamless, and I found myself not valuing the commitments I was in, my partners or myself really. I went from clinging onto lovers when I started out – my days of being an anxious lover. Then I was detached and closed off – I became the avoidant type. I had been doing things wrong and finally after another failed relationship, I decided something needed to change.
Firstly, I knew that I needed more therapy to address my intimacy issues. In my most recent journey in therapy I addressed how I’d let down my guard briefly, then slowly built the walls back up. This led to the dissection of how it impacted my relationships. As I progressed, I reached the understanding of why I shutdown and the fears that I had rooted in childhood experiences. From there, I was encouraged to start healing, to differentiate between what’s actually going on vs what I feel is going on. Additionally, I learned that even though fear exists, it shouldn’t stop me from doing things with my full potential.
But I couldn’t stop there. Luckily, through social media I discovered two books that’d change my thinking and truly enlighten me about where I was going wrong and how I could truly learn so that I could make better decisions for my romantic happiness. Surely there are plenty of helpful books out there that shed light on love and romantic relationships. For me, the ones that I took to were Attached by Dr Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller, and Conversations on Love by Natasha Lunn.
Attached, focuses on the psychology of attachment styles and how that impacts the way we engage in relationships. Whilst Conversations on Love is exactly that, our dear author talking to various people on the subject of love in its many forms to shed some wonderful insight and reshape our traditional thinking in some respects.
Each one of these books taught me something valuable.
Attached taught me how to seek more secure models within romantic relationships and made me identify the behaviours of my anxious and my avoidant traits. Through learning what I was doing wrong, I was able to set myself new systems for how I conduct myself. Additionally, I was able to learn to identify the traits that lovers who threaten my security display, so now when I see certain actions, I know to release myself. Conversations on Love was essential for me in reframing the idea of a romantic partner and my expectations for them, as well as setting expectations for a partnership. We often mistake the difference between a partner and a partnership, causing us to have unrealistic expectations of the people we choose. That was a valuable thing for me to learn as I now know, focusing on how you want a partnership to be will actually be more beneficial, than trying to change your partner.
One of the most important lessons I learned from both reads was that there were lovers I put on a pedestal. As much as I believe in romanticising one’s life, I learned that it’s vital to be open to the idea that there will be more romance, and I should generate it with whoever is next rather than holding onto the past moments of my love life. Letting go of things that don’t serve you is something both books encouraged and I’m grateful for that lesson.
I then finally managed to turn the theory into practice. I had already begun to exercise some of the new lessons I’d learned in a positive way, so that by the time I returned from my travels I would be ready to embark on a partnership with someone very special to me. Unfortunately, this relationship would be the one to threaten the new foundations I was building as it led to a minor heartbreak. However, with the new knowledge and tools, I was able to straighten myself out so that I could continue on my journey of security and finding the right romantic love for me. I think the hardest thing was trying not to feel regretful about the things I did for that person because at the time it reflected the love and care I had for them. Even if in the end it wasn’t reciprocated, I had to accept that loving them wasn’t a mistake.
Sometimes in life you have to learn a few lessons the hard way, but it’s also okay to learn some without the negative experiences. There are so many resources out there designed to help us on our journeys in love, and I encourage us to use them. I’m better off now, and as I venture into this next stage in life I know what I seek from a partner and a partnership. I’m still a romantic, but I’m not hopeless anymore.
Moving forward I’m learning not to live with regret. Not to become hardened and avoidant just because things didn’t work out. If I do something out of love then I should be proud and know that I’m capable of loving even more. I am slowly learning and shedding the previous notions I thought to be true.
Written by Rudo Christine Gwaze