She’s been single for over three years now after a series of hits and misses with guys who weren’t really there for her. They would initially appear interested but then after a little while would not return her calls, her text messages or emails. She couldn’t understand this because she spent so much time trying to work out what they wanted, trying to please them, trying to be the woman they said they were looking for. What was wrong with her, what was she missing?
This was one area in her life where she felt at an absolute loss, even despairing. The last guy she was with lasted for three months before she found out he’d been surfing the internet dating sites behind her back and meeting other women. This really knocked her confidence and trust in men. What did she have to do to keep a guy? Why did she keep attracting the same sort of guy – different package on the outside but on the inside they had the same remoteness, lack of interest and respect.
After the last guy, Jodie came to work on her relationship disasters in therapy. It became quickly apparent that, like many of us, Jodie had a big inner part of herself that was highly critical and constantly put her down, diminished her needs. The bottom line was that she didn’t believe she was lovable, and didn’t really believe she could get the guy she was longing for. She spent a lot of time giving to and pursuing the guys she had started a relationship with, believing that’s what you do to be loved. But she was exhausted and had lost hope that someone might one day give back to her.
She was hoping to meet someone who would love her in ways that she wasn’t able to love herself. This was a problem, given that she was so practised at dismissing her own feelings and needs. How she felt about herself, and treated herself, was often reflected in the partners she was attracted to. The first step for her was to stop and notice this and to notice earlier, and not later, that they weren’t into her and stop the pursuing. And more than that, some of them had treated her appallingly and she kept giving.
She started to consciously work on noticing when this critical part of her self steps in, cuts her down or dismisses her feelings when she’s hurt or angry. She started attending to and taking more seriously the parts of herself that were vulnerable and needy and needed to be soothed (by herself!) in a kind, compassionate and loving way – or reached out to others for support. Strengthening this part of herself that is deeply loving and unequivocally attentive of her own needs is like being the loving and attentive partner she longs for 24/7. This was the challenge – can she love herself, pleasure herself, enjoy her own company, nurture herself and be the super duper, soul mate that she’s longing for?
Initially making time for her own pleasure felt selfish for Jodie. I had to agree with her – yes, she did need to be more self-ish rather than other-ish, given that her focus on others’ needs was way out of balance. She needed to even things out. Was she super woman?!! Even superwoman needed time out and could probably have used a good massage every now and then.
Jodie starting to explore what her needs actually were, getting to learn about the things that gave her pleasure and nurtured her. She gradually started to practise acts of kindness that consciously nurtured herself. She made a special vow to herself that she would never leave herself, especially when she was down, hurt or vulnerable. She would listen to her needs and take her needs seriously. She was learning to open her heart and soul to herself and see her own lovability. When she got home she didn’t go straight for the TV, she lit some candles instead and put some beautiful music on. She bought herself flowers every week and started to go to yoga classes rather than working back late all the time. She noticed that some friends loved this new change in her, and supported her 100%, while others who didn’t like it slowly dropped away. Jodie had stopped trying to please them. It wasn’t surprising then, when she met a new guy at her bush-walking club, that he genuinely seemed like he really wanted to hang. She made sure she made time for herself in the relationship. She was not always available to him and he respected that about her. There was quite a long courtship and, difficult as it was at times, Jodie really allowed herself to be cared for – and allowed herself to be pursued a little.
Who we choose as our love partner is probably one of the most important choices of our adult lives. It is a decision worthy of our utmost attention, self-awareness and intelligence. I believe that the yearning we feel from the depths of our beings for our beloved is our soul speaking. Many of us speak of wanting a soul mate or soulful partnership, or a soul connection when referring to our need for profound love. The word ‘soul’ isn’t used here in any religious context, but within a more contemporary psychological framework developed by Carl G. Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. Jung’s description of soul refers to our deepest ways of sensing ourselves, others, and the world. The soulful path is one of reaching our potential as unique individuals. When we think of soulful experiences that have stayed with us over time we may be reminded of those simple single acts we’ve experienced in life such as the first time we smelt the fragrance of a rose, our first kiss, or music that suddenly moves us to tears. Soul may also be experienced as a deep force within us that connects us to others and the world and that is slowly moving us along in life.
The essence of soul is love. Love makes it possible to believe in and create possibilities from the unknown, even in times of despair. To start with we need to change the focus we put on the language of love. Very often, love is spoken of as being ‘out there’, and that our job is to ‘find it’ in order that we can have some of it. In seeking love we can come from the view that suggests we have a hole within us needing filling by someone else. If only we had found love or were loved by someone we’d be okay. This can feel elusive and even disappointing if we feel we’ve been searching for a long time and can’t find this love. To take a more soulful approach is to start looking at love as something that is already inside of us. In order to nurture it we need to connect to it in ourselves consistently and live this experience as an outward gesture. The more we engage in the world through our inner experience of love, the more we experience love. Taking responsibility for nurturing this love in ourselves allows us to move closer towards intimate, loving, soulful connection with another.
This is easier than it sounds. Yes, you read right. Easier than it sounds. Many of us want love yet don’t have a clear sense of what it actually is, feels like, or requires of us. Getting clear is the first step and can lead us to more than one soul mate in our lives, although for many of us we’d be thrilled to meet just one person we were deeply compatible with.
Who would you be if you experienced true love in partnership?
Where you’d be, what sounds are around you, how you’d look, how you’d feel.
Shushann has worked as a counsellor and psychotherapist in the Eastern suburbs of Sydney for the past 17 years. She has a deep interest in deepening relationships through combining her counselling skills and expertise with healing, tango and tantra. She has worked with individuals and relationships in addressing love, intimacy and sexuality. She has also been working as a love coach taking a soulful approach for individuals seeking partnership or partners wanting to deepen the relationships they are in. She is on her own path of love with her relationships, the beach and her poodle who teaches her about acceptance and patience everyday.
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