Why We Fail In Love

It is a nice and quiet evening. I am sitting at the dining table in my living room, watching the beautiful fire burning in the fireplace and pondering about love. Why is it that we so often fail in close relationships? Why do they bring us pain, suffering, loneliness, and heartache, when it is exactly the opposite that we yearn for?

I have been on a journey of self-discovery for over 20 years now and have been in various relationships for about the same time. They all start the same way, don’t they? We fall in love. It’s a weird word, isn’t it? Shouldn’t we rise in love instead of falling. But indeed, we often do fall, flat on our faces, many times over. In the beginning it is the feeling of utmost joy and happiness and pleasure and then at some point, it all changes. So I would like to share here a few ideas that I have discovered over the span of my 20 years of relationships and 11 years of working with people.

Every year when I teach my therapist training, I can observe different dynamics happening in people’s lives and relationships. This year particularly, I have two amazingly sweet men who have shown me a really important part of the things we  do in order to be loved. They are both handsome, smart, and generous men, but they both don’t believe that they are worthy of love deep inside. So what they do is they “buy and earn” love. Making nice gestures, giving gifts, and putting in their best effort so that the women opposite them would just love them. But the women can’t love them because they have to project them, what they truly feel inside. The women can not show them love or respect, because the men, don’t respect or love themselves. The thing is, that when we start to “buy and earn” love, it often ends up that the person is loving the feelings we give them and not loving the person behind it. You start to like the effort they put in, but not the person themselves.

So, let’s rewind a bit. Let’s explain it like this: When a man and a woman meet for the first time, their eyes meet somewhere, in a friend’s place, a bar, or some other social gathering, or maybe just on the street. Their eyes meet, and they check each other out. If they like what they see and what their minds interpret from that, they are likely to make contact. Our minds play a crucial role from this moment on. Our mind’s main goal is to gather information from the outside world, mainly through our five senses, and scan the data stored in our subconscious mind to keep us safe and give us a feeling of being loved. That’s what most people want, right? They want to be loved and feel safe. And these are exactly the two things that most of us have never truly experienced. So our minds project a story onto the person we just met. We know nothing about them, but we unconsciously project a “fairytale” that we have been dreaming about our whole lives: the “Happily Ever After” we heard as children in many fairytales. I think this especially applies to women, but men too, envision the handsome prince coming to rescue the fair maiden, usually from an evil stepmother. So we are already programmed to see relationships in a certain way. We need to be saved, the other person has to come and make us happy and before they arrive, we are miserable. We need to be saved mostly from the harsh experiences of childhood, where love was often absent and fear and pain were dominant. So we meet this new person, and before engaging in any conversation, our mind has already built a story in our head. We observe how they are dressed, what kind of watch they are wearing (or for women, their handbag), their shoes, hairstyle, walk, and posture. From that, our minds immediately construct a certain projection that we project onto that person now. When we engage in conversation, our minds build on top of that. And as everyone always tries to present their best selves and showcase their most amazing sides and achievements to ensure a match is made, the mind constructs a pretty magnificent projection. Our savior has arrived!

Now, as we enter the dating phase, the same story still continues. We show off with everything we can, hiding away all the shadow sides of ourselves. We don’t yet feel comfortable with the other person, so it is not safe for us to show our negative sides. How long this continues really depends on the people. This can last up to two years sometimes, but at one point, the shit usually hits the fan. And the place where the hardship comes is when we don’t get filled enough anymore from our partners. We don’t get the same amount of attention or lovemaking, or something else. And one may still be giving as much as they can, but only because their giving hides a price of taking and hoping to get. And if one partner doesn’t respond the same way anymore, the complicated times start. Because now there is a space again where our own pain starts to surface, because in the honeymoon phase it was covered up with all the nice feelings and pleasure. So now You know also, why it gets hard when a couple has a baby. Most divorces happen within the first 3 years of marriage. And that is exactly why it happens, because people can’t “fill each other’s holes” anymore, because of the baby and all the pain and emptiness that resurfaces.

A friend of mine once told me that if you want to tell someone you love them, tell them you love the way they make you feel. I pondered about that sentence for a long time until I finally understood what it truly meant. Because it is that feeling that our partner gives us that allows us to avoid our pain and emptiness. As I was teaching the last module of my therapist course, I wrote on the board: “The biggest freedom is when you don’t have to run away from yourself anymore.” And I believe that this is why we mostly fail in relationships and other areas in life. Because we use the outside to fill the emptiness inside and suppress the pain and fear that are there for many of us from our childhood. So that means that we make the other one carry the burden of making us feel good. And if they don’t do that, we start to blame, judge, and criticize.

It means that I, alone, without another person, without things, activities, foods, drinks, stimulants, etc., am feeling all the bad things inside of me. And the more we feel this emptiness, pain, and fear, the more we need things from outside of us to fill ourselves. But it is an endless pit that never fills from outside in. It’s like a bucket that has holes in the bottom. No matter how much water you pour into that bucket, it will never be full. But we still try to do the filling with many things that are in our reach. We smoke and drink, use different kinds of substances, eat and have sex, or buy so much stuff that we drown in it. Some travel around the world to run away from ourselves, not noticing that we take ourselves everywhere we go. Others try to fill that hole with as much money as possible, believing that this is the way to freedom. Social media is full of “Andrew Tates,” in different shapes and forms, that teach how to become free, without realizing that they have never been free themselves. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with living a nice life, but if we are not happy without those things that we believe will make us happy, we will not be happy when we have them. I myself have been a master in that. At any given time for years, I used to have dozens of pairs of jeans, each costing hundreds of euros a pair, and I would travel to a favorite place of mine each month but none of those things that I used to escape myself, ever made me truly happy.

As you see, we all have different ways of “stuffing” ourselves in order to not feel what is inside. So now when we enter into relationships, we do the same thing. We want the other person to make us forget about the emptiness and pain inside. And it works for a while, but not forever. So we kiss and we cuddle, we make love, and we do things for each other to show the other person how amazing we are. But in truth, we rarely want to enter a relationship to make the other person happy; we do it to make ourselves happy. We are selfish beings who want to get our needs met, and we use other people to do so. But as it is said, what you reap, you sow or what goes up must come down. The truth will always surface.

But I would like to point out something imporant in this story. And that is the fact that we also never truly got to know the person in front of us. We were too busy trying to fit them into our idea of the perfect person that we needed to fulfill all our dreams and wishes. And along the way, we might not like the person in front of us behind the projection that covered them in the beginning. When the projection starts to fail and reality kicks in, we start to blame the other for all the ways they are failing to make us happy, without realizing it was never their job from the first place.

Also, the partner we attract perfectly mirrors our own self-worth and value. People say that we are in karmic relationships, but I feel differently about this karma story. I started noticing at one point how my husband made me feel exactly the same way as I felt at home growing up: an insecure little girl who was mostly afraid and doing her best by serving her parents so that she would be worthy of love. Cleaning and cooking and keeping everything in order so that I would feel safe and not be constantly criticized. Of course, it didn’t work then and it doesn’t work now. Because the problem wasn’t my husband, but the belief inside of me that this is what I am worthy of. So I realized that when we enter into relationships and get the same treatment as we did at home, it is because we ourselves are radiating it out. It is our belief system that creates the exact same experience as before. He can only stop mirroring me that belief of mine when I fully change it. Of course, it can also work the other way around. You have a partner that lifts you and compliments you and supports and believes in you and that would also change our belief, but usually it is hard to attract that because we radiate out something different. Let me explain.

I hope everyone knows how a submarine scans deep inside the sea if there are other ships around. It sends out an echo, and when that echo “hits” something, it is returned to the same submarine. We work exactly the same way: with all our beliefs, we constantly send out echoes into the energy field until they hit someone or something, and then that echo is returned to us in an experience. This gives us a chance to look inside and see what our belief systems are. If I always “hit” an emotionally violent or toxic partner, it is because it is the echo that I send out, and I believe also that this is what I am worthy of. This mirror experience also creates a chance to heal that pattern and help us change our lives. But these are the deepest patterns, and changing them takes effort and time. On top of that, we often have deep shame and guilt inside that make these experiences even more intense and harder to accept and start the journey of healing. It’s like a wound that is festering, and someone tries to rub salt in it. “Damn, I’d rather do anything else than look at that wound”: is what most people feel.

So if I grew up in poverty and was neglected by my parents, then that is the belief system I carry with me until I realize it and put effort into changing it. Our partners are there to show us our biggest wounds so that we can take responsibility for our own experience and start finding a way out. But the more we were hurt as children, the more pain we usually also inflict on others because often it is just unbearable to carry it alone. And we desperately want someone to see and recognize that pain. So we are not busy finding healing, but we are busy finding recognition for our pain. But the only person that needs to recognize their pain is ourselves, and from that, the healing can start.

But in order to create a different kind of experience for ourselves, we also need to start looking at relationships differently. Take time to get to know the other person in front of you truly. We shouldn’t put a nice and shining armor on top of them to make them fit your fairytale. I have done that a lot in my life. Because I was so afraid that no one would ever truly love me, I chose men that I could project my dream onto but never took really time to see who they truly were and if I actually liked them. We just go on looking for the things we are still missing inside from our childhood: our mother’s love or our father’s validation or both, and we start to demand from our partners, like little kids throwing tantrums. And that is exactly what we are at these moments. We are ricocheted back to childhood, where we start to experience all over again that same trauma, only this time it is put there so that we could see it, because as children, we are unable to do anything about it. Now as grown-ups, we have the possibilities to do that if we choose to.

And why does love keep hurting? Because if we were hurt as children by our parents, we form a belief system that that is what love is: pain and suffering. So we call in love that hurts and makes us suffer because that is the only kind of love we know. If dad was hurting mom and we saw that all the time, we learned that this is how grown-ups love, and we will continue the same pattern in our relationships. We learn by example, and we go out into the world mimicking all the things we saw at home and around us in society.

With Love,


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