“Think of life as a terminal illness, because, if you do, you will live with joy and passion, as it ought to be lived.” — Anna Quindlen
How’s that working for you?
As we age, we may get tired of taking care of everyone else, and never getting our own needs met. Can we learn how to be different? Can we change?
Only if we’re ready for something different than the same old codependent routine, and finally ready to see life in a very different way.
The most common reason for “helping syndrome” is early childhood training which leads to gigantic feelings of inadequacy when we’re not helping others. We feel we don’t deserve any of the good things in life just for being ourselves. That would be selfish. Instead we should be constantly helping others to earn the right to be admired and loved. We feel fundamentally unworthy of love without first paying for it with care for those we “love.”
I know. I spent years feeling inadequate unless I was “helping” everyone around me. I now appreciate the saying: “Codependents don’t make friends, they take hostages!” Oh boy, someone new to manipulate into needing me and loving me. How can I convince them that their life will never be the same until they admit that they need me?
But let’s try a different approach now. Try to image yourself as completely lovable and adequate just being the wonderful person you are right now. Could others love you just the way you are? Why should you have to prove to them you are worthy of their love?
Very scary stuff, huh? No fooling anyone or manipulation involved. And if they end up not liking you, so what? There are millions of others out there who are mentally healthy enough to not want to be manipulated into codependency, masquerading as caring or love.
Now that you’ve taken care of others your whole life, isn’t it time to take care of your own needs for a change? Isn’t it about time someone showed you how to save your own life? It takes a lot of courage to admit that past patterns aren’t working and have never really worked. Do you have the courage to ask for help this time?
You can change your life and finally start receiving love from those who have the ability to give it to you freely, no strings attached. Please let me know if I can help.
To learn more about a brand new way of life, click here.
To gather wisdom to change your life, check out: Find Your Reason to be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife, Midlife Magic: Becoming the person you are inside!, and the Midife Change Workbook.
Although my new book: Find Your Reason to Be Here: The Search for Meaning in Midlife is mostly about the changes we all go through as we realize we are solidly in the middle of our lives, I do have one section on how midlife relationships change. Here’s an excerpt:
“It has always been true, and is especially so today, that the middle years can be tough on relationships. In 2010, about 33% of American adults from age 46 to 64 were divorced, separated, or had never been married, compared with 13% in 1970.
One possible explanation for this major demographic shift is that long-married couples often look at each other in midlife and say, “You’re not the person I married,” and they are right. But that is because they never were.
We human beings have an amazing ability to decide what we want and need in a relationship and then unconsciously project all of that onto someone we have just met. We may convince ourselves quite nicely that this person, whom we don’t really know, is exactly what we want and need right now. And in online relationships this projection process is even easier to achieve.
On our wedding day, few of us are conscious of the enormous expectations we are placing upon our new love partner, expectations like: “I’m counting on you to make my life meaningful. I’m sure you will anticipate my every need. Would you please complete me and make me a whole person?” Then, over the next few years or decades, we may come
to realize how disappointed we are in this mere human being, who does not and cannot live up to our unrealistic and elevated expectations.
But then, who could? Did you know that in our earliest love relationships we actually fall in love with the missing parts of ourselves? If we feel particularly self-critical, we may fall in love with someone who seems to judge us less harshly. If we feel inadequate in the responsibility department, we may fall in love with someone who seems overly responsible.
What do we do when our loved one disappoints us? We often blame the person and then move on to other relationships, hoping to find someone who is more perfect, someone perfect like us.
Or, if we are a bit more self-aware, we may do a little emotional excavating to discover those missing parts of our own psyche.”
First I heard on a PBS special about pets, that many of us today have had longer relationships with our dogs than with significant others. Then this morning I heard that many are so in “love” with their ipads, that they would rather break-up with their significant other than break their devices!
What’s going on here? Dr. Randy Gunther, a psychologist writing over at Psychology Today believes that our apparent addiction to ever newer technology may be causing us to also be constantly seeking novelty in our intimate relationships. She says: “The multiplicity of connections and continued motivations that great, long-term relationships require are hard to come by and easier to leave behind, especially when another new and more exciting experience is easy to find.”
It is always easier to give up than to make any real commitment to a more long-term liaison. New love is always exciting at first, but I do not want to live in a world where commitment and loyalty are not valued.
I have noticed that even those who struggled with love and commitment in their 30s and 40s, often mature enough in their 50s and 60s, and finally learn how to truly love others well.
I personally found new value in true love at age 49. In fact, after much consideration, I decided that finding genuine love was my most important goal in life. For what is life without love?
I wanted so much to believe that there were still great love stories, and I could be a part of one of those. I found the first step was to find new ways to simply believe in love again, even after decades of bad relationships. I needed to find ways to let go of my past negative experiences, and find renewed faith that love could be beautiful, strong and selfless. When I did that, I finally did find another who felt the same way about love and about me.
Aging has it’s advantages, and one is the certainty that none of us get out of this alive. Accepting that fact is the first step towards finding new value in enduring love.
After all, who doesn’t want to believe in a love that lasts “til death do us part?”
I noticed the Amazon summary about my book says:
“If you wish to gather a deeper understanding of why you fear love so much, and then search out those experiences in your past that have kept you feeling stuck for so long, this book can help.“
This would suggest that you must focus like a laser on your past experiences and how that experience made you feel, to begin to change how you feel about love today.
This is all true, but not the whole truth. I have learned the hard way, that focusing for too long on past pain does not serve the purpose of believing love again.
Focusing on your past needs to be a temporary state of mind. Focus on your past only long enough to understand how bad experiences like betrayal and abandonment make you re-experience traumatic childhood pain.
When a lover betrays you in the present, this often brings up major feelings of rejection from your past. So you are not just experiencing the present rejection, but re-experiencing some terrible feelings from before.
It is essential that you understand this, because you can then begin to separate your present experience from your past. When you were young and felt betrayed or abandoned, you could not defend against such rejection, but now you can. You can defend with deep self-respect and love. You can give yourself new compassion for all that has happened to you, and decide that it will never happen again!
Then you must let go of past pain to be able to truly live in the present. The present is all there is for you. Worrying about the past too much will keep you from enjoying anything today!
We are learning so many new things about how our brains work lately. We now know that we make conscious or unconscious choices every day about what we focus on, and what we focus on grows. It seems we have much more control over our brains than we ever thought possible. We can now consciously choose a more positive perspective.
One skill I have been working on lately is the simple practice of living in the moment. I say to myself:
“Everything is OK right now, and there is only right now.”
I find this very reassuring!
So here it is Valentine’s Day 2013, and the purveyors of cards, roses, and candy are making out like bandits. Let’s hear it for American business!
That they could take a pagan Roman holiday involving whips and young maidens, and convert that into a big guilt trip placed on all who do not buy something expensive for their loved one — now that is business acumen!
For me Valentine’s Day means very little. I have no need for my lover to prove himself today, because we live love everyday of the year.
I do fondly remember our first Valentine’s Day back in 2005, when Mike did it up big with roses and candy. It meant so much because I knew even then how much he loved me. And in the eight years since I do not remember one moment when I doubted Mike’s love for me, or wondered how important I was in his life. He shows me everyday.
Too bad so many of us can so easily mistake roses or candy for love. Why not take the time and effort to send your lover a love poem this year. Do you have it in you? It would cost you nothing, and might mean so much more than money spent to prove your love. How I treasure every card and note Mike has ever given me.
Perhaps this has the most to do with being older and wiser. Love is not about Valentine’s Day anymore — it is a way of life now. It is appreciating every day I have with a man who knows me so very well, and loves me anyway. It is a celebration of the fact that I finally realized exactly how important love was to me at age 49, and decided my highest priority was finding genuine love for once in this lifetime.
You can do this too, if it is important enough to you. If you have the courage to take the risk, forgive yourself for past mistakes, put it all out there, resolve past pain, trust your inner wisdom, and open to love again, love can happen anew in a beautiful, mature and all-encompassing way.
Resolve to live a new life, and that life will arrive right on time! Feel the fear, and do it anyway…
I have a new friend named Lisa who is a marvelous writer!
I don’t want you to miss her new post: Be Your Own Beau!
“Share the love. Share it like a kid, joyously, openly and with abandon, and then watch as it boomerangs back to you, multiplied again and again in its loving power.”
With Valentine’s Day coming right up, a few of us might be wondering exactly what love means.
Sure, when we have it, we generally know it, but then it changes through the years, and sometimes it dies. This is often called a “midlife crisis” when one or both partners decide that love either never really existed, or else it has simply disappeared for no good reason.
Some get angry because their husband or wife does not love them anymore, or does not want to try to work things through somehow. There are so many different types of problems in relationships and each is unique. Some can be worked on, others cannot. But nothing will change if one partner blames the other for all of the problems.
What I hate to see is a husband or wife who insists on trying to shame or guilt the other partner into staying, when love is so obviously non-existent. In general I believe that we all know when it’s time to accept reality and move on. Do you really want a man you have “guilted” into staying with you? Why not believe in yourself enough to move on to something better for both of you? Grow up and leave the nastiness behind.
Unfortunately, leaving a bad relationship behind does not solve any of your own problems. Often we lose faith in love eventually, after a number of bad breakups, but there is a very good reason for this. We finally realize we will continue to attract the wrong type of relationship unless we change something inside of ourselves; the broken, mean, negative feelings we hold against ourselves.
If you think this might be you, ask yourself this question: “Would you want to marry you?”
Most of us go out looking for someone to save us in our relationships with others, but we attract what we are now, with comparable levels of generosity, caring, insecurity or self-hate.
The first rule of love is you get what you are. So who are you when it comes to love? Are you a victim, a martyr, someone who is trying to save others? I found that personal change was the only solution to my love problems.
Learn how this works with: How to Believe In Love Again: Opening to Forgiveness, Trust, and Your Own Inner Wisdom.
Give you and your friends the perfect Valentine’s Day gift, for those who really want to get it right next time!