Dr. G Hits the Spot: The truth shall set you free
Written by Gretchen Lambert-Wiltbank
Dear Dr. G,
My girlfriend recently broke up with me because she thought she liked another guy. I was heart-broken. Now she wants to get back together. I know I still love her, but I was really hurt when she broke up. I had no idea how she was feeling, and I was blind-sided when she told me. My question is: can I go back and get into a relationship again in a healthy way, or is there no way to build trust again?
Not completely broken
Dear Just Bent,
Wow, this is a great question, and it is very common. First of all, don’t let your emotions get the best of you. We are emotional creatures, and for most of us, when it comes to love, our heart overrides our brain. It isn’t a bad thing to have happen, and quite frankly, it is probably one of those evolutionary holdovers that helps us propagate the species.
That said, it is important to stand back and use your intelligence and critical thinking skills when making such a decision. Just like having opposable thumbs allows us to open doors rather than standing there barking in the hope that someone will let us out to pee, our ability to think through a situation, predict the outcome, and choose differently allows us to open other pathways through life rather than sitting there experiencing the same result while wondering why nothing ever changes.
I would be curious to know if this is the first time you have had this kind of situation in your dating life, or if this is a pattern you seem to follow a lot. Know this, everyone feels disappointed at one time or another (and usually far more than one time) with their significant other. There are small discrete indiscretions that we know about that may niggle in the back of our minds, and then there are huge faux pas that the whole world sees, the consequences of which seem simple and obvious to enact. In other words, if you ask your friends what to do, because they are not emotionally involved, they will most likely give you the cerebral answer to “never go there again”, with “done and done” at the end.
The problem comes because it is your experience and your emotions intertwined in such a faux pas…which makes the obvious answer seem a lot less obvious. We fall in love with people for so many reasons. Physical attraction, mental stimulation, spiritual connection, financial possibilities, social acceptance, and the like. People in love are like snowflakes, meaning, I have yet to meet any two people who give me the same reason for falling in love. We are all so different in what attracts us; what makes our heart skip a beat. There is often no rhyme or reason, just intense connection. We fall out of love for just as many reasons, but there is no specific way to pinpoint when exactly it happens.
If we were face-to-face in a session, I would certainly ask you to help me understand what it means when you say you still love her. How does that look on the outside when you are in love? Can you tell me what you will miss if you don’t get back together? What are some words that describe how you feel when you are in the relationship with your girlfriend?
The famous author Maya Angelou described love like this, “Love is that condition in the human spirit so profound that it allows me to survive, and better than that, to thrive with passion, compassion, and style.”
Survive. Thrive. Passion. Compassion. Style. What wonderful words to recount a way of love and life. Those words make up what would be a safe healthy relationship. Do you have those words in your vocabulary when you describe your partnership? If not, you may want to continue the search for a partner with whom you can feel safe, comfortable, and wanted. Trust is something that is almost sacred in nature. It can’t be touched, it is only felt. It can’t be demanded, it is commanded. It is a gift going both ways: we don’t put our trust in people, we give them our trust. And in doing so, they will (hopefully) respect it, and will treat it like one of the most valuable commodities in life. And for the record, it is in short supply.
One last thought that I wish so many adults would understand. There is no need to protect someone from reality. People are actually able to handle emotional disappointment. They really are able to do that. No matter the situation, most adults can function (albeit sadly or painfully) through truth.
There’s a quote from an old history book that says, “The truth shall set you free.”
In my mind, the idea behind that thought is that TRUTH from a person with whom you are in a relationship can clear negative gut feelings, the red flags, and the niggling thoughts that are brought on by doubt and questioning. So, is there a healthy way to heal and move forward in a relationship that has been fraught with less than stellar commitment? Yes, indeed. There is always hope. The key to doing it in a healthy way is to start with truth and disclosure and boundaries. It may not lead you to where you thought you were going, but it will always lead you somewhere better. When truth is ignored, it will eventually show itself. The closeness of your relationships is directly proportional to the degree to which you have revealed the truth about yourself. It can be painful, but it will definitely be worth it in the long run.
Billy Joel said it best: “Honesty is hardly ever heard. And mostly what I need from you.”