An excerpt from the book The Lime Green Plastic Covered Couch
The level of emotional maturity with which you relate to relationships is the one you learned in your family and your culture. In other words, you only love as much as you learned how to love. Imagine that you have your own personal love meter, like a scale that goes from zero to one hundred. We’ll call it a love-o-meter. The amount of love you get when you are young will fill up your love-o-meter to a certain level. If your parents level of love is at thirty, your love-o-meter will only fill up to thirty as well as that is all your parents would be able to teach you. If you had a great mentor in your life, or someone that was a good influence, it can fill up your love-o-meter an extra notch or two, but everyone in your family and surrounding community is at essentially at the same love level.
You will naturally be attracted to a man who has the same level of love in his love-o-meter. In other words, your capacity to give and receive love, or your level of emotional availability will match. Hence, we play our own role in the relationship that is equal in function and dysfunction to that of our partner. The degree to which we can get close to someone will reflect in our behaviour, to the same degree as it will reflect in our partner’s behaviour.
“What? Noooo! How can that be true? I would never behave like he does. I would not act like him in a million years!” I can hear the screaming now.
You’re not alone, girls. It gets especially confusing when you watch a man running around acting like a five-year-old and you can’t remember acting like that ever – even when you were five.
It’s not that we aren’t immature at times; it’s just that we are good at disguising it. We have perfected the art of making our immaturity look much more mature.
What is hard to see is our own part in the dynamic. Either we care-take, fight, shut down or be disapproving (my signature move). Or we smother our emotions by smoking, shopping, eating, having affairs, over working, etc. Each of us will have our own cultural brand of how we deal with difficult relationship issues. Our behaviour may look different from our partner’s, but it still keeps us distant from love at an equal level. Take Nancy. She’s the perfect caretaker. She thinks she’s willing and open and that it is her partner who is the problem.
“He’s the one who’s always rejecting me. I keep telling him how much I want our relationship to work and I’ll stay through thick and thin. But he’s in and out of our relationship
like a yo-yo.”
If Nancy weren’t invested in the pattern of ‘here and gone ‘here and gone,’ he wouldn’t interest her. She would feel no attraction and she would be in a relationship with someone who is available.”
When Nancy hears this, she defends: “But when I’m with him, it’s so amazing. I have never felt like this with anyone. He makes me feel so special.”
All of that may be true, as it often is with people that can’t sustain a long-term, healthy relationship. Men that do stay in your life aren’t as exciting because life isn’t exciting at every moment. With guys that flip in and out of your life, it’s easy to give a great impression. If he actually stuck around, you would get to see his own brand of faults and quirks. He’s afraid to show you the parts of himself that aren’t always switched on or perfect. I would bet there is also a part of Nancy that is scared to let herself be seen for who she really is, when she’s not always exciting or at her best. She is just as caught up in this emotional pattern as he is.”
Again, the good news is that once we start to recognize our own patterns, we get to learn to do something different, which ultimately fills up our love-o-meter and we get to put our head’s on our pillows feeling good about who we are. As always, the power lies with us.
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