I remember reading a great book by Harville Hendrix years ago, Getting the Love You Want. The point he made so well was that we tend to marry our lost self – that part of ourselves that may have gone underground because of past wounds from our childhood. He also made the point that whatever mistakes may be made in a first marriage, these tend to be repeated in the second. The underlying reason is the unconscious motivations that lead us to choose the partners that we do. Tragically many divorces could be avoided if we understood this.
A good relationship in marriage can certainly be very healing…but we have to be careful not to confuse it with therapy, if that is what is really needed. In order to have a happy and healthy marriage, we need to first work toward becoming happy and healthy individuals. This means seeking healing from past events that may have hurt or traumatized us. We also need to work on becoming the best version of ourselves. This is an ongoing process both before and after marriage. One key is awareness. Another is knowing your goals.
As we approach Valentine’s Day, we tend to focus more on our romantic relationships – or our hopes to find the perfect match. It’s a great time to do an assessment of where you are. Are there hurts from the past, either from childhood or past relationships that still come up for you? Some inner vows you’ve made; like “I will never let anyone close enough to hurt me again”? Are there unresolved issues in your marriage that should be addressed? Believe it or not, marriage doesn’t tend to just magically wipe these away. It may seem so in the beginning, but invariably they become obstacles. There’s a saying that our childhood defenses become our adult life problems. If you find yourself tripping over the same issues, talking to a counselor is a great investment in your future…that is, if you’re serious about changing it.
Set some goals for what your heart truly desires. Or I should back up…first take some time to pray for God to show you His will. I know for many of us that can sound scary…we’re way more comfortable telling Him our will and hoping He agrees. But I’ll let you in on a little secret…God really wants you to be happy. More often than not, He will first give us a desire for what He desires. He’s not one to force His will on anyone. But, we need to be open to listen. We need to pray and ask Him to show us. Ask Him to give you a desire for what He wants for you. Once that’s in place, things run much more smoothly. A spiritual director or spiritual Life Coach can be very helpful in this process.
Once that’s done then set your goals. Do you want better communication in your marriage? Read some books on communication. Go to Marriage Encounter. Consider marriage counseling to resolve problems or relationship coaching to take your mediocre marriage to the next level.
Are you waiting to meet that special someone? Make a list of the qualities you’re looking for…and those that are deal killers for you. We so often forget that second part, and it’s critical. If someone with an alcohol or drug addiction is a no-go for you (and they should be!) be sure to write it down. When we have a clear picture of what we want and what we don’t, it’s easier to pick them out of a line up. The sooner you can do that the better.
Just as with any big project, we need to break it down to bite-sized pieces. Things rarely just happen spontaneously. If you want to meet someone, don’t be shy. Let others know. See if they have friends they can introduce you to. Join an online dating site…they’re not as creepy as they sound. I know many people who met wonderful spouses that way. But just like renovating a home, it may be a longer term project. You need to devote time to it but you also need to continue living your life and enjoying those things that don’t require a partner…hobbies, time with friends etc. This is the time to focus on becoming all that God created you to be. When you’re happy with you, the right partner will only enhance that. It’s an amazing journey if you have the right attitude.
Above all, keep praying. God does reward those who persevere.
Allison is also the Founder and President of www.CatholicTherapists.com, a nationwide network of dedicated Catholic therapists.
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