Real love requires two authentic people who are genuine with one another. People bond most deeply when each of them is open to expressing what has really happened in their lives and how it made them who they are today.
Unfortunately, human beings have a kind of emotional Achilles’ heel. So many of us believe that we will be most lovable if we seem perfect. And this includes loving ourselves. So, we raise all kinds of shields against our internal truths. We cover up what we really felt in our families of origin, our deepest fears, our greatest dreams, the moments in our childhoods that sent our souls soaring and others that left us saddened or saddled with self-doubt.
When you don’t know yourself, you can’t find your match. You’re doing constant false advertising, so those who respond to you will either be people looking for something very different from the person you are inside, or they’ll be intent on hiding their true selves, too.
People connect more through what difficulties they have survived or continue to face as what achievements or hobbies they could list on a resume or a typical dating site. Sure, there’s some amount of discomfort when you look back with clear vision at your life, but it’s much less intense than the great sense of self that will make you love yourself and be compelling to others looking for love.
One of my clients was a man named Colin who had been bullied as a child. He was so intent on seeming tough and invulnerable as an adult, that he gravitated toward women who relied on him completely and who valued him for his physical strength. But what he really needed was someone who could understand that his tough guy persona was just a shield, that he was a sensitive and loving and vulnerable person who had been chased into a suit of armor.
Once Colin was willing to think about being bullied as a kid and feel his anxiety about that period in his life, he started to open up about that pain with others, too, including women. He began attracting women who were nurturing, as well as admiring of his strength. And he found someone to truly love who didn’t expect him to keep wearing his suit of armor.
How about you? What shields are you carrying that keep your true love from seeing you? Isn’t it time to figure that out and then put those shields down?
Dr. Keith Ablow