Our first relationships are generally formed with our immediate family members. These relationships, and those we observe at a young age, can affect our expectations of how interactions within a relationship should be. As we mature, we move onto more intimate relationships outside of our family, including those we hope will be with life-partners.
Heartbreak is a typical part of the relationship process as we date, eliminate, re-evaluate, and decide who may be a fit for our personality and lifestyle. While it is usual to experience a few false starts, eventually many of us find a partner we can build a life with. For some of us though, the process of finding a life-partner may be more daunting, disappointing, and significantly influenced by the results of our past relationships.
Why does this happen?
Many failed relationships are the result of having carried the unhealed emotional baggage from a previous relationships into the next one. We tend to hold onto prior expectations which can lead to current disappointment and feelings of rejection. If you have a history of blaming others, have experienced a series of failed relationships, or have a fear of intimacy, you may be grieving past romantic losses.
In order to have a different experience we must first complete the unfinished business of the prior relationship. Until we do so, many of us find ourselves in an endless cycle of what may be challenging, or even loveless, relationships. We can logically convince ourselves, and others, we are fine. We can blame others for our unhappiness without being aware our past love(s) are controlling our present chance at happiness.
Often those who are supporting us through our pain set an example, trying to offer support, by blaming the other person. They may say: “He was so selfish”; “She was not the right person for you”; “He never supported your interests”; or “She has never fully committed to you and this relationship”. While it can be difficult to accept responsibility for our own happiness, we must take responsibility for our part in a failed relationship in order to determine how to move forward.
While we wait for time to mend our heart, we put on a brave face and appear strong. We tend to isolate ourselves and grieve in the privacy of our home because our well-meaning friends don’t know how to offer what we believe we need as emotional support. Or we may rush into another relationship before we have really understood what went wrong with the last one, replacing the recent loss, and failing to tie up the loose ends of a failed relationship.
Whether it be a loss of trust, loss of control, or even a loss of self; whatever the cause of the broken relationship, the fear of repeating this experience can prevent us from fully stepping into a new relationship. The unhealed wounds from our previous relationship(s) can have us unconsciously filtering every word, habit, or action through the pain of the past. And without awareness we may choose to walk away to avoid being hurt again. Very quickly this becomes our new pattern or behaviour. At this point, the world may appear to be a very lonely place.
One of the first steps of healing the past is being aware grief does exist. Further, recognizing the symptoms you may be experiencing could be related to unresolved grief. These could include such reactions as fatigue, loss of concentration, insomnia, etc.
Grief is the normal and natural reaction to an emotional loss. It is also the conflicting feelings experienced when something familiar changes. Many deal with grief by convincing themselves, and everyone else, they are fine. However, this tends to lead to repetition of the same experiences without any resolution of the underlying causes of grief.
Relationships can be complicated. Getting to know someone, letting your guard down, and trusting can feel overwhelming – especially when feelings may be overshadowed by a past negative experience.
Love can be enjoyed again!
We can choose to open our heart and commit to a loving relationship once we take the small, and specific, action steps which allow pain to be healed. When we take responsibility for our own happiness, we remove the influence of past partners over our future.
Grief is almost always about things we wished had been better, different, or more. It is about unrealized hopes, dreams, and expectations. Grief is also about undelivered communications.
At The Grief Recovery Institute, we believe completeness is the result of being able to say the things we never said, or what we felt were never heard, with someone listening. Completeness provides us the ability to say goodbye to the pain.
It is not time which heals our broken heart but rather the actions we choose to take during the time we have. The Grief Recovery Method® is an education, action-oriented program which provides an alternative to traditional therapy and is a proven solution successfully moving you forward towards joy.
Tammy Adams is a Certified Grief Recovery Method Specialist supporting individuals Canada-wide in person or via the Internet. To learn more about The Grief Recovery Method please visit www.tadams.ca or contact Tammy for a free consultation.