How do you know whether or not your partner is 'the one' for you? This is the question troubling Simone just when, for the first time in her life, she has a partner who is emotionally available.
S: 'I am 44 and have never had a relationship with an available man. I have only ever chased after 'project' partners or had tentative affairs with unavailable men. These relationships were always plagued by highs and lows and lots of drama’.
People with a fear of abandonment usually make 'projects' of people with a fear of commitment. This is a good way to unconsciously keep intimacy at bay. By 'working on' the other person, you avoid your own fear and don’t run the risk of losing the other person, or so you think.
S: 'Last year, after years of therapy, self-study and insights into themes surrounding Love Phobia, I met a man. At first, I was not at all interested in him, felt no attraction, yet something in me decided to give it a chance. This may have been because I felt so different in myself: the absence of drama, especially with my track record, seemed like a good starting point – a break in pattern.
We have been in a relationship for a year now. I feel he really sees me, and I feel safe with him. It is really hard work though! I am constantly being confronted! It feels like the first mature and equal relationship with a real connection. We can talk about anything and everything and each take responsibility for our own 'shit'. He meets all the criteria on the list of characteristics of an available partner in the Dutch book Liefdeskunst*. Why then, does this not feel 'liberating'?'
Because this is only the beginning! The mirror the available partner holds up to you brings you face to face with your own brokenness and unresolved issues. What had you wanted to be freed from? What had you hoped or expected that the other person would solve or heal for you? These are questions that refer directly to the hidden claim; an inappropriate expectation that we often subconsciously place on a partner. An expectation that sabotages love. We make the other person responsible for what we do not want to face in ourselves.
S: 'This is what I have always wanted: a relationship with a kind, available man! Why isn't this relationship living up to my expectations? It even feels a bit boring, and I often feel disappointed by the things he does or doesn’t do. I ask myself daily if this is 'enough'. Wouldn't it be better to look for a man I instantly feel is 'the one'?'
If you are used to living on the 'highs and lows' inherent in the love-phobic dynamic, an available relationship can feel 'boring' at first. You miss the adrenaline of the short-term thrill. Who are you, though, when this is absent? You have to find it within yourself.
The search for the perfect partner distracts you from what you have right NOW. The voice of fear would rather keep searching forever than allowing yourself to really connect. The more you include the good as well as the not so good aspects in yourself, the more the other person becomes 'enough'.
S: 'At the same time, I am afraid of throwing away something valuable. It is as if I know deep down that I still have work to do on my SELF and that the lack of fulfilment I am experiencing may have more to do with my own hidden claim than with the potential of our relationship. But why can I still not feel this clearly? And if it is my fear of throwing something beautiful away, should I stay with him out of fear?
When you truly connect, it becomes real and exciting. This is also precisely when the risk you run, makes itself felt. The more deeply attached you become the more your fear of loss surfaces. The more you can include your own fear, however, the more you can allow the other person in. As long as fear stands in the way, you cannot fully open your heart. Since you were mainly on the fear of abandonment side in previous relationships in that you turned partners with a fear of commitment into 'projects', there is a good chance that your fear of commitment will be playing up in your current relationship. The other person is available, and so now the ball is in your court.
The fact that you don't feel a clear yes (or no) regarding him could be related to this fear. It points to an inner divide: your head, heart and gut are not in agreement with one another. They are giving out conflicting signals. As long as these do not correspond with one another, every possible decision will have you being pulled back and forth between these parts of your inner divide.
S: 'He is very patient with me, and even when I express my doubts about whether and how much I am in love, he stays true to himself and doesn't lapse into drama. ‘That is something you need to find out for yourself, I can only tell you how I feel’ is what he tells me. His name is TIM and with him I am experiencing inTIMacy for the first time.'
In the experience of intimacy, at the very least, your heart is open. You cannot feel intimacy with a closed heart. He can be himself and present and does not lapse into the role of opponent. In doing so, he puts the ball – quite rightly - back in your court. In doing so, he is the perfect teacher, mirroring how you can grow in awareness and (self)love. No matter whether you stay or go, what is important is the position from which you make the choice. Do you make it out of fear or love? Questions that may help you in this search are: What do I want to avoid? And what do I want to achieve?
If we keep looking for ‘the right one’ outside of ourselves, we may well end up disappointed. It is better to become ‘the right' partner you are looking for yourself. Think of five characteristics you think a true partner should have then start developing these qualities in yourself. You will then automatically become the magnet that attracts 'the one'.
* How do you recognise someone with a secure attachment pattern?
The characteristics of a secure attachment pattern are:
• They are not afraid of intimacy.
• They are not afraid of being alone.
• They trust that their partners are loving and trustworthy.
• They are not quick to feel attacked and so quarrels tend not to escalate.
• They forgive their partners easily.
• They are able to express their own needs and feelings.
• They dare to be direct.
• They are prepared to listen to criticism from their partner.
• They are respectful and loving towards their partner.
• They know that they deserve to be loved and appreciated.
• They are willing to give their partner love and attention without expecting anything in return.
• They have a realistic self-image.
• They have a realistic view of others.
Read more in the book 'Love Phobia'.