How to heal past relationship hurts
We heal our hurts from past relationships by having healthy relationships today. But it's vital to heal our relationship with ourselves before we search for love. Otherwise, we'll keep getting the same painful results.
Our hurt happens in relationship.
And our healing happens in relationship too.
When I understood these two truths, everything changed for me.
I finally understood why all my relationships had failed and how to make them work going forwards.
Many of us experience our first relationship hurts when we are very young. We love our parents or our caregivers with every bone in our body. We depend on them for our very survival. They are our world. Our everything.
And then something goes terribly wrong.
They leave us or they let us down or they speak unkindly to us and our world falls apart.
This isn't their fault. They are doing the best they can with the tools they have at their disposal.
Nevertheless, we get hurt.
We decide in that moment that love equals loss, that love equals pain, that love equals hurt, that love equals abandonment, that love equals rejection.
And, deep in our subconscious, we decide that we're never going to love like that again.
So we avoid relationships, burying ourselves in compulsive work or isolating ourselves from others in order to stay "safe". Or we repeatedly get into relationships with people who aren't ready, willing or able to love us. We fall for commitment-phobes and unavailable types; people who are addicted to alcohol, drugs, work or religion; people who are attached to someone else; or people who live on different continents.
I have done all of the above. I dated unavailable people because I wanted to avoid the pain I feared a close relationship would bring.
Then we hear the second truth: that our healing happens in relationship too.
And we realise that we need to walk towards the thing that scares us the most - we need to open our tender hearts to love and get into an intimate relationship in order to heal our deepest wounds; we need to put down the work, get out of the house and start getting to know people.
But ... and it's a big but ...
We need to check our foundations first.
Do we have a good connection with ourselves? Are we feeling our feelings? How is our self-esteem and self-confidence? Do we have a strong emotional core? Are we aware of our patterns in relationships? Are we aware of our fears? Are we taking steps to change our patterns and face our fears? Have we let go of old relationships, harmful patterns or negative core beliefs?
If these questions sound familiar, you may have spotted them in Psychologies' Editor Suzy Walker's 'My Slow Year' column in the July edition of the magazine, in which she refers to my book, How to Fall in Love, and to her experiences of dating her boyfriend via Zoom during lockdown.
For me, these questions - and our answers to them - are the foundations of everything. They are the stepping stones to a happy, healthy relationship, first with ourselves and then, if so desired, with another.
If we don't have these solid foundations in place before we go dating, we'll keep repeating the same mistakes and getting the same heart-breaking results.
I know this from experience.
We'll keep dating commitment-phobes or people who'll abandon us, confirming what we always thought we knew: that love is painful, that we are unlovable or that we're a disaster when it comes to relationships.
We'll get burnt. We'll get hurt. And we won't want to try it again.
But if we date with healthy self-esteem and confidence, with a strong connection to ourselves, an awareness of our feelings, our fears and our patterns, then we can enjoy dating.
We can navigate the ups and downs of the dating experience, without hurting others or getting hurt. We can choose partners wisely - finding emotionally available people attractive at last - and we can let people go if they're not right for us, instead of clinging on for dear life.
Dating isn't always easy, but provided we date differently, we can date successfully.
So pause for a moment and join me as we step inside.
Place your hand on your heart. Close your eyes. And look inside yourself. How is your heart? How are you feeling, deep down, deep beneath the layers of busyness and stress? Can you connect with your feelings? If there's hurt or pain, allow those feelings to come to the surface so that they can heal.
Now place your hand on your tummy, on your core. How is your core? Is it strong? Do you feel resilient? Do you feel grounded and centred? Are you standing tall? Do you believe in your inherent value and your worth? Do you believe that you are lovable?
Repeat these short exercises every day and see how you feel after a week. You may find that you are hungry for more - for more connection with yourself and for a stronger emotional core.
If so, keep going. If not, keep going.
This is your relationship with yourself. Keep deepening it. Keep strengthening it. The more you do this, the more equipped you will be to form a healthy relationship with another.
If you'd like to do this transformational inner work with me as part of a small, supported group, please take a look at my How to Fall in Love - Laying the Foundations course that begins July 27. Limited places.