LIFE, LOVE, & MEANING
Making Sense of It All
October 22, 1999My life has been better than most. I shouldn't complain. I bounced back after a less-than-ideal teenage phase. I managed through awkward college years. I made a scary decision to go on to graduate school far away from where I grew up. I made some more decisions after that, not all of which I agree with when I look back on them now. But all in all, a good life.
So when my most recent relationship ended, I couldn't help but wonder, when does the relationship end? How and when do we meet the person we were meant to settle down with? And is that necessary in this life? Is marriage the goal? Should there be a goal at all? After talking more and more with my married friends and looking at other people's marriages, I'm beginning to wonder.
What I did find immensely helpful, however, in dealing with my own feelings of loss after this relationship ended was a book a friend bought for me when she saw how much pain I was in. I'm not usually into reading in an effort to deal with my feelings. In fact, reading is usually one of the furthest things from my mind. But it was a gift from a trusted, long-time friend, and she highly recommended it. How could I refuse?
The book is John Gray's Mars and Venus/Starting Over A Practical Guide for Finding Love Again After a Painful Breakup, Divorce, Or the Loss of a Loved One. Boy, that's a mouthful for a title! Usually, I'm not a big John Gray fan. I don't own any of his other books, but have read some of his first Mars and Venus book in a bookstore. It was interesting, to some degree, but I thought that many times he oversimplified the differences between men and women. But not so with this book. This book was just what the doctor ordered in terms of providing some new ways of looking at feelings, looking at pain. And concrete ways for dealing with grief.
Now, once you get beyond the corny language and Gray's tendency to warm over things a little too easily, there's some good stuff in here. My favorite chapter is Chapter 4, Grieving the Loss of Love. The four healing emotions Gray identifies are:
This chapter, which describes these four emotions and examples of each in-depth, and the next chapter, Getting Unstuck, help explain how so many times we get stuck in one of these emotions and never deal with the other three. I'm not sure I agree that all four do need to be dealt with equally, but he makes the argument they do. You'll have to decide for yourself.
This book taught me things I already knew, but often forget. Especially when we're hurting, we tend to forget things that are important to healing. We focus too greatly on the pain, on the negative, on the end. We turn it over and over in our minds. Gray's book helped me put things back into perspective and led me a step further... It gave me some things to think about and explore about how past relationships and experiences directly relate to current ones. Patterns in relationships are important to note, because if you recognize the pattern which may be contributing to the dysfunction, you can change it. But if you never look, you'll never know.
I've decided that for now, I don't need a relationship in my life. I've also just found it easier to live life with few expectations... The fewer, the better. I have to rely on myself for emotional support, and my friends and family. I disentangled my feelings of dependency on her and recognized that I will always remember the moments of joy we shared. I smile now when I think of the good times we have, and hold no hurt, no bitterness, and no pain about this relationship ending any more.
It was for the best.
Until next time...
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 27 Jan 2007
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.