Being a “couple” offers rich opportunities to know ourselves more deeply and grow personally and spiritually. We are better in relationship, when they are healthy. When not, we may have deliberately chosen to live alone for a time after a breakup, sometimes a long time. In the aftermath of divorce or other painful periods of adversity, it can be spiritually nourishing to choose living alone, without a lover or partner. After a bitter divorce, I found myself beset with grief and longing that seemed to have no bottom and no end. I cried a lot. I endured uncomfortable therapy sessions. I felt awkward a lot, especially dating. Making new friends, post-divorce felt about like pushing a mule backwards up a ladder. Although I instinctively knew that I’d chosen best to end the marriage, I was still reeling from the breakup. It was the end of a dream. I questioned myself profoundly. There were painful and lonely periods. My self esteem was below zero. “Better to live 10 years without anyone that 10 months with the wrong one”, my therapist and mentor Jo Blake would say. This drove me crazy. I did not want to hear that I still needed to learn to live with myself. Jo was a skilled and colorful expert in family therapy at HAN Counseling in Delray Beach and student of Virginia Satir. With Zen-like clarity, Jo guided many of us through the dramas of “white hot” relationship difficulties to more gracious and peaceful journeys of discovery and self-recovery. Tears flowed freely in marathon sessions with 40 people circled around a “hot seat”. We helped each other immensely. Jo was quick to illuminate any evidence of the insidious “co-dependency” that can infect us like a virus when we’ve grown up in chaos, alcoholism and uncertainty. She confronted us when, unwittingly, we’d confess bending ourselves like pretzels trying to get along with poisonous, unhealthy partners, this a fragment of early learning we sought to heal. She taught us to trace the core energy of our confusion and pain to threads of our early family relationships, and there, helped us find ways of healing. We grew stronger under her watch. We learned to respond differently to old, charged, familiar feelings that would rise in daily situations. Many of us chose to love again, in spite of its’ risks. After many stumbles, I chose successfully again. Not easy. I had to learn to adapt in this new relationship as I’d never done before. I learned to speak my truth. I learned to negotiate with my lover. I felt free, and strong and confident in my quiet power. My personal boundaries were stronger and more resilient and more able to tolerate the “porousness” that genuine love requires. Not without pain. Not without help. Not without the skilled guidance of some other competent therapists along the way.
Hardly anything can bring to us the range of strong emotions that emerge when we encounter a partner who has real potential to be a suitable mate for us. We are thrown back on ourselves in sometimes painful “re-encounters” with our childhood selves. These can be the greatest catalysts for self discovery and a life of peace we can know. As long as we don’t turn our backs. More later.