Ben Speaks: Haunted by Endings

I began the debut episode of Love Bites this past Monday by saying:

“The sad truth is that all relationships do end. Whether it’s one date and you don’t ever talk to the person again, or you’re seeing a person for a few months or even a few years, or you are in a marriage that ends in divorce, or you’re simply weeping over the body of your dying spouse … it always ends.”

I know this to be true.

Here’s why.

My entire life I’ve watched the deterioration of relationships that I, at one time, thought to be indestructible.  When I was in high school my parents went through a very ugly divorce, and I watched, paralyzed by my feelings of helplessness, the severe and startling emotional havoc that it wreaked upon my mother.  Around the same time, my uncle got divorced, too.  Then it was my turn to experience a series of breakups: My 4 year relationship came to an end.  My subsequent year-long relationship came to an end.  After that, I fell in love again, only to have the object of my affections choose a relationship with my best friend over me.  Not much time passed until my dad, who had gotten remarried, told me that his second marriage was about to end in divorce, and even now, as I type this blog post, I’m sitting with my phone by my side, awaiting a phone call from my mom to help console her through her second divorce, as well.

I’m not listing these moments as some sort of “woe is me” self-pity party.  In fact, I believe the tired old adage “It’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.”  I’m on the path to accepting that my life is more about seeking and experiencing than it is about achieving, and this includes the achievement of a story-book relationship that persists happily ever after.  I know that the real beauty of love is in the living of it.  The highs, the lows, the joys, the agonies, the triumphs, the disappointments, the laughter, the tears, the intimacy, the loneliness, the tenderness, the heartache, the fearlessness, the anxiety, the elation, and the depression.  The whole loopty-loop.

I know this to be true.

At least intellectually, I do.

But somewhere hidden in the core of my heart or buried deep in my subconscious mind, the experiences of those endings – like busy elves at Christmas time, completely invisible to all – are silently tinkering with my impulses, skillfully manipulating my defenses, and deftly programming my desires, so that I want only what I can’t have, denying me the ability to jump back in for real and make myself truly vulnerable to love’s magical ride.

Fear of the ending has plagued my current dating life.  I must admit, it makes me feel like a fraud.  I’ve convinced myself I truly want real intimacy and that’s how I present myself.  And I do want intimacy.  I want it desperately.  It isn’t a lie.  In fact, there’s nothing more true.  I guess I just don’t want intimacy as much as my unconscious fears, those expertly efficient elves, want to protect me from the pangs of intimacy’s inevitable end.

My fears are particularly frustrating because they’ve convinced me they don’t exist.  I don’t experience them as fear.  They manifest as avoidance and disinterest and rationalization and choosiness and infatuation with all the wrong things.  I’ve spent much of the last 5 years trying to understand this roadblock.  I’ve analyzed myself over and over, fastidiously scrutinizing my every thought, feeling and impulse.   I’ve cultivated a profound, extremely thorough level of self-awareness, which has been enlightening but has done little to fix the problem.  Some small, mostly microscopic gains have been made.  Maybe.   I’ve been feeling lately, though, that even my therapist is at a loss.

Yes, those elves are pesky little devils.  They’re well-intentioned but completely misguided.

I know this to be true.

I just don’t know how to circumvent them.


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