My client wept down the phone as she asked herself – not for the first time: “How could he treat me like that?”
She’d met a man who led her to believe he was The One, and she’d fallen head-over-heels (or should that be head-over-Heel?) in love.
You know as well as I do what happened next. He was an abuser. He lied, deceived, hurt and humiliated her.
Months later - like all abused women - she was still asking: “How could he?”
The short answer is: he did because he could.
The long answer hinges on his inadequacies, and needing to hurt her to feel like a Big Man. But the short answer is more useful here.
Falling-In-Love stinks because…
Imagine it is the end of an unbearably hot day. You’re worn out, drained, crying out for a pool of cool water, so you can wash off the hassles of the day. And you’re a long, long way from home, travelling without a clear direction. As night falls, you come across someone who is walking in the same direction as you.
He strikes up a conversation. You talk about the day and you tell him you’re looking for a pool of cool water to bathe in. You just want to relax, let go, and feel the sense of peace and well-being that being immersed in cool, clear water gives you.
He not only seems to understand, he tells you that he knows just such a place. In fact, he’s heading there, himself.
He invites you to travel along the journey with him.
He’s nice enough, after all.
He wants the same thing you want.
He’s sympathetic to your feelings.
You prefer having pleasant company to travelling the road, at night, all alone.
By the time you finally reach the place he told you about, you’ve discovered you have a lot in common. He thinks as you think about a lot of things. He’s made you laugh, and lifted your mood.
You’re tired of being hot, sticky, and tired out. There’s something magical about the stillness of the place, the dying heat of the day, the darkness. It’s so dark by now, that you’ve let him take your hand to guide you.
He leads you to the place – a swimming pool, he now tells you, not a natural pond, but, hey, that’s all right, it’s still cool, fresh water – and he says to you: “Dive in. I’ll join you in just a moment.”
You can’t wait to shed the troubles of the day. So you do what he says.
You dive in.
And you hit your head on the bottom.
Because there was no water in that pool.
You hadn’t stopped to check, because you couldn’t see clearly, and you’d built up what felt like a relationship with him.
And you would never have imagined he could deliberately do something like that to you, because you would never, ever do something that nasty to another person…
And Falling-In-Love is exactly like diving into a swimming pool without taking the time to notice whether or not it is filled with water.
I have a lot of time for love. As far as I’m concerned, loving someone worthy and being well loved by that person is as good as it gets.
But that’s all about a mutually loving relationship.
It’s a far cry from Falling-In-Love.
Falling-In-Love, as far as I can see, is about leaping without looking.
Falling-In-Love lays you open to the whole unsavory pack of jerks, abusers, and narcissists.
I asked my client whether she would take a job without first finding out about the pay and terms of employment. She sounded surprised. She answered, briskly: “Of course not.”
Then she saw the connection.
You don’t have to fall in love on Day 1, Day 2, or Day 20.
Falling-In-Love is optional, not obligatory – although it is a neat way of silencing the little voice in your head that says: “Er… I don’t think so. This one is NOT for me!”
Falling-In-Love throws a thick blanket of fantasy over an unpromising reality… for a little while. It allows you not to look at your niggling doubts about the person.
Then the blanket dissolves leaving you with a very, very sore heart.
Even if you do feel yourself Falling-In-Love – it happens - there is no sense in diving into the relationship blind. First, you want to be very sure that you will not hit your head, very hard, on a concrete floor.
Abusive men often tell us they’re no good. And we don’t believe them!
Which means we fail to trust the evidence of our eyes, our ears – and our intuition.
Falling-In-Love is a wonderful, chemical ‘high’.
And it stinks.
You pay way too high a price for that high.
Because Falling-In-Love means you don’t take the time to really check out whether the man is an abusive jerk, or Mr Perfect-for-You.
So, am I saying “give up, or get a marriage broker”?
Not at all.
What I am saying is that giving your love, and trust, to another person is probably the most important investment you will ever make in your personal life.
Do it carefully.
Learn to love another person by inches – or centimetres, if you prefer.
And start to love yourself – IN SPADES – first.