One of the great challenges in life is dealing with a loss or a break-up. Almost everyone has had to go through it at some point in their lives. If you want to know what depression feels like just think back to the last time you went through a separation – dry mouth, loss of appetite, loss of pleasure in activities you normally enjoy, trouble sleeping, etc. While anyone can be depressed following a break-up, people who consult have often had to cope with a long-standing pattern of failed relationships.
For some people, the pattern can be caused by their “difficult” nature – such as a pattern of anger, lack of a sense of compromise or poor communication. In one of life’s great paradoxes, however, there are a great deal of individuals who live this same pattern of failure despite being very warm and good-hearted people. For these people, the fear of the loss itself is what creates the actual pattern of loss. Quite simply, there are no guarantees that a relationship will last. In fact, the vast majority fail. What this implies is that we must be able to face the possibility of a failure whenever we enter into a relationship. If this causes too great a level of anxiety in us, we will often act in a way that may create problems and contribute to the break-up we are trying so hard to avoid.
One of the things I ask clients to consider is their relationships with friends. These relationships tend to be much more successful than relationships with boyfriends or girlfriends. While not completely the same, it is important to understand the elements that make friendships last. One of the main reason for the success is that we do not tend to question the friendship as often. If there is no news from someone, we do not question their motives directly. Even when we have a disagreement, we tend to let time pass and resume contact. We simply let these relationships evolve and develop naturally. This usually produces successful relationships where we respect each other and appreciate each others’ qualities.
More importantly, we actually live with a great deal of instability in our friendships and we accept this fact. The people that make up our list of friends change frequently. Yet we always seem to have the same number of friends in our lives, more or less. We distance ourselves from some while getting closer to others. In other words, by not freaking out over changes in our relationships, we end up with a fairly stable number of them. Friendship becomes a constant even if the individual elements of that friendship – our friends – change.
The same can be said for love. A love relationship cannot be guaranteed. Our best chance at success requires an ability to face the possibility of failure. One of the best ways to do so is to focus more on the concept of love rather than the lover. Worrying about the possibility of failure never helps. It can only push others away. On the other hand, the more we focus on what makes relationships work, the more success we will have in them.
My February 23 column dealt in part with this issue. (See also: Being in love and feeling secure).
Rock solid instability
(Source: Une instabilité solide comme le roc. Journal Métro, February 23, 2010)
Who is your best friend? Is it the same one you had many years ago? What about the person in whom you have the most confidence…or the person you love? Don’t we always seem to have a group of people that we feel close to? Yet over the years, don’t many of the individuals on that list change?
Can we count on a friend forever? Perhaps not. Can we count on having friends forever? Absolutely!
Unstable friends, stable friendship
When we look back on our lives, we can probably remember a time before we ever knew the person who is our current best friend. That person was a stranger somewhere in the world. What about those who were our close friends in the past? Have you noticed that some of them are no longer in the picture?
People change. Circumstances change. Sometimes people drift apart because work or living circumstances diminish the frequency of contacts. Other times the drift happens because of changing and evolving interests. There may even have been a conflict that drove us apart. Regardless of the reason, our list of friends is unlikely to remain perfectly stable throughout our lives.
Yet somehow, we almost always have friends in our lives. Some of the faces may change, but friendship is stable. Just as some people may drift away, others drift towards us.
Unstable lovers, stable love
The same can be said for lovers. No one likes the idea of a separation. It is almost always painful. Yet it is also inevitable in many, or even most, relationships. This can be very difficult for people to face, especially if they lack confidence or believe that it was their last – and perhaps only – chance at love.
Dealing with a separation or a loss, whether it involves a friend or a lover, is difficult enough. We only make it worse by focusing on that one relationship rather than on the concept of relationships in general. A person that we loved was a stranger at some point in the past. Similarly, although we may have not met them yet, our potential future lovers do exist somewhere in the world at this time.
If you are the type of person who was able to find love in the past, you can count on that quality to find it again in the future. In an unstable world of people, the one thing we can count on is our interpersonal skill that nurtures friendships and loving partnerships. While we may sometimes lose a friend or a lover, it is unlikely we will ever lose the ability to find friendship or love.
Posted in Relationships.Posted on 08 Mar 2010