Apparently, being in love is tough. It’s filled with fears and insecurities, the pending pain of future loss, and the echoes of old wounds long since misperceived as resolved when they were only adequately compensated for.
I had forgotten this until recently when context forced a reappraisal.
Years after my last great love left us both in painful ruin, I thought I was over the past. All is forgiven now between this person and myself and I cherish our friendship, so the old hurt must be resolved, right? Yet, I can see the pain and fear from that heartbreak still remain, encroaching on my capacity to truly open to love here/now.
Almost every moment of knowing this fresh return of love with my new partner, I am invited into vulnerability. Conceptually, I understand the importance of vulnerability in bonding with another and I open with confidence and trust. But sometimes, something triggers and I begin to feel threatened by this vulnerability. I want to go on the defense, to protect my heart from this other person who is sure to leave me in crumbles… At least that’s what fear tells me, fear sourced in hardships long past and the trauma they have left on a soul whose deepest core is as tender now as it was when I was birthed.
My accidental fall into love exposes me beyond just the tender touch of my partner’s skin against mine, or how their gaze seems to touch that tender soul. It exposes me beyond the potential hurt of their mistakes, missteps and blatant fumbles with my heart. It exposes me to every ounce of pain my many-times re-mended heart has faced in its lifelong journey of learning through example, trial and error.
I may have once felt resolved in my past turmoil, and perhaps I really was. But it’s as though fresh love makes even the oldest scars of heartbreak open and raw again. So arises an autonomic call to protect myself, to close rather than open, to pull away rather than invest, for fear my lover’s actions will only salt and scar my wounds deeper (or worse, my actions will salt theirs).
But I know on a level that transcends my earnest call to defend, that learning to be soft when scars get raw and knowing the pain of too much tenderness, is to learn to truly love again. And I want to love. I want to love.
So, I do my best when faced with deep cries from my emotional pain body to stop and hide—cries that when asked for explanation are met with because I don’t want to hurt again, because it might be too much, because I’m scared—I do my best not to flinch, to stay honest, and open. I do my best to trust that beyond the fear is a pain whose hurting is actually healing.
This pain that opens a path to healing is not the pain of active abuse, but the transferred pain from ancient history—my own and that of my parents, passed down to me as unknowingly as it was passed onto them. This pain and the fear it is wrapped up in offers the hard lessons in what it means to love and be courageous with love. It has to be learned from, it has to be felt in softness and trust, or I doom myself to its repetition. The lesson repeats until the lesson is learned; relationships are our greatest teachers.
When the heart has closed down in pain, there is a fear of opening up again. Facing this fear is part of the release. It’s there because there is still unaddressed pain from the past that needs to be integrated; pain we know all too well and rightfully fear feeling again.
But there is far more to this fear than just being hurt again. In our first dealings with that old pain, we created (or inherited) behaviors that accidentally allowed it to be sewn into our identity. To heal and open back up to love again, we also let go of the behaviors that previously saved us from despondency. There is fear of the pain of the past returning, fear of new actions landing vicious blows upon a tender heart, and fear of the unknown.
For who will we be if we let go of those old defenses? How will we protect ourselves? How much more hurt will be inflicted upon us if we don’t just keep defenses up? Who will we be if we accept that perhaps those defenses are holding us back far more than they are protecting us?
But, if we can hold the courage to surrender our old defenses and allow whatever pain or possibility for pain arises in the moment to simply be, without allowing it to control us; just beyond surrender is a world of great potential for love. Yes, there will be more pain, but there will be pain no matter what we do. At least in surrender, there can be love, too.
I know it is with help that the heart closes down in fear and it is with help that it will open again. So I welcome help, and I offer help.
I support my partner in this process of healing by knowing myself, learning myself, taking responsibility for my feelings, and taking care of myself. I support them by communicating how and why I take care of myself, why I do it the way that I do, and what they can do to help me when I’m in need. In my learning, I can help them learn what I need, and in turn, they can support me in the same way. With practice, we can get so good at taking care of ourselves and communicating our needs, that when the dance of relating unfolds in real time and self-care offsets in one direction or another, we can take care of each other with an interdependent harmony. All the while going deeper, facing emotional territory uncharted, and discovering new lessons together.
And then, when it comes to those moments where the triggers are activated, the conflict is potent, the pain so real, and the bridge of love in vulnerability that has been built seems to be crumbling, I remind myself: have trust.
If there is trust, if there can be trust, if there is evidence of trustworthiness, then there must be trust, incremental but steady. Trust in myself; trust in my partner; trust in the relationship between us.
Sometimes, all we need to find the resolution the heart yearns for is to allow trust in the underlying love and commitment to healthy love that each partner is showing. This tender trust can soften the hyde (intentional misspelling) and bring down the defenses. And then, be in vulnerability together, express love and care, hold each other, and do your best to navigate, interdependently, cooperatively, what comes of it.
But what if, after all that, it doesn’t work out?
Eventually, everything changes. So, if from a place of having opened to love, ‘it doesn’t work out’, or something happens to bring about an end to the manner of loving we created, I know I did my best and learned to be courageous in my loving. Maybe then, even after romantic love fades and the relationship uncouples, perhaps we have each earned a friend whose relationship, though it may take time and politics, can be cherished for the rest of our lives.
 “To know the pain of too much tenderness” is a part of the philosophy of Shambhala, presented by Chögyam Trungpa. It is something intimately known to “the warrior’s true heart of sadness”, [a sadness not of lacking but of fullness, of richness. It is a heart so full, that a gentle breeze could bring it to tears].
 I don’t want to create a model to support putting oneself in a place of active abuse. Please, check in with yourself. If you are feeling the pain of abuse, reach out and get support. It is not ok to be abused and you do not need to allow it.
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