What is all this drama in love relationships about?
The inspiration of this week’s column is inspired by the song I heard this morning when driving along Spanish coastal sceneries. ‘Love me! Love me! Say that you love me!’ were the lyrics booming out of the rather poor-quality sound system of my friend’s ancient car.
Huh! It’s fascinating how many songs are orbiting around love and how many of them tell stories of severely dramatic love relationships. And it doesn’t stop with the music we listen to. Hollywood has done a great job in repetitively teaching us about how love relationships are supposed to feel and look like. Take any movie you can think of right now. I am pretty sure you find some dramatic love in it. Let’s take the fourth highest-grossing romantic drama film of all times Jerry Maguire (1996) as an example. The movie sold tickets in the amount of 270 million. Consequently, we know that millions of people have watched it and love to watch romantic movies just like that one. Most of us know the scene when Jerry (Tom Cruise) enters Dorothy’s (Renée Zellweger) living room with a presence of misery and despair, begging her to take him back, speaking the renowned words: ‘You complete me.'
I am not sure what is more tragic, the scene itself or the fact that it made me well up.
We humans seems to crave drama and heartfelt pain in love relationships. It’s hard to tell what was first, the movie and music industry that painted a particular picture of love relationships or the human desire for it. What do you think?
I personally guess, it is the latter. Experiencing deep desire, lust, attraction and emotional attachment (to a certain degree) are profoundly natural to us and our human functioning. Yet, these intrinsic qualities don’t include the drama. And it is the drama that I want to talk about today. So, what is the drama about? What is Romeo’s suicide after Julia’s perceived death about? What is the dramatic running after the leaving train about while screaming your ex’s name? What is the grabbing onto her leg about while begging her not to leave you? It’s easy to mistake such behaviour for natural, bio-chemical processes, yet, it isn’t. That’s not our biology. It’s our conditions that become brutally visible in moments like that.
Over the span of our lives – starting in our early childhood – we learn things about ourselves. Through external judgments and validations, through own experiences, through thought processes, conversations, relationships and various encounters we maybe learn that we are pretty or ugly, smart or a bit dumb, desirable, invisible, too skinny, too chubby, too needy, overly attached, etc. We learn that we are good enough or that we are not good enough; that we are right or that we are wrong; that we deserve love or that we do not deserve love – and the list goes on. Often, we are not aware of our conditions. We simply accept that we find ourselves unattractive and undeserving of love.
That’s where the origin of the drama sits. It sits right within ourselves. We might believe that the problem is the beloved other who cheats on us. We believe that it’s them who make us feel so incredibly sad and hysterical, yet, it is not. It’s us and our conditions. Fact is, that it is you who feels intense sadness and is sobbing on the ground in fetal position, not the other person. Thus, these emotions are yours and rise from within you. These emotions were not ‘done to you’ by the other. They were brought out by the other and the presenting situation. That’s a crucial difference. It’s now your choice whether you want to blame the other for making you feel that way or whether you want to use this painful situation and dramatic feelings within you to better understand your conditions and therefore yourself.
To give an example, imagine Sara leaves her partner Benny overnight. Benny feels miserable and struggles to see any sense in life anymore. For days he stays in bed, curtains closed. When his colleague calls him to check on him, he starts to sob and shares his despair. “How can she do this to me? How can she make me feel that way? I want to kill myself. Life is fucking pointless without her.”
In this example, it becomes obvious that the way Benny feels has nothing to do with Sara. His feelings were brought out by her leaving him, yet, what he is thinking and feeling about the situation is purely him and his conditions. It’s apparent in this example that Benny does not take ownership over his own feelings nor does he show any openness to understand them and the conditions they are based on. If Benny was taking responsibility over his experience, he would be able to identify that he has a painfully low self-esteem. He would see that his pain is not a new pain but a pain that had existed long before Sara left him. If he was taking responsibility, he would be able to see that this is not the first time he feels abandoned, purposeless or not good enough. He would understand that the way he feels right now is just confirming what he had already believed about himself before. Sara possibly never told him that he is ‘not good enough’. Benny concluded that all by himself. In fact, his conditions concluded that for him. It might be that his mother used to make him feel insufficient; that his teacher used to judge his low marks or his first girlfriend called him an idiot. Such life situations – particularly if repetitively experienced over a longer period of time – condition us to perceive ourselves in a particular way.
Now, when we get caught up in our own conditions without noticing it, it gets loud, overly emotional, doors get slammed, tears flow hysterically, we scream, we run, we maybe even punch, we beg, we throw ourselves at the other, we cling, we break. It’s in the presence of unidentified conditions where things get dramatic.
Now, once we become aware that all the melodrama in our love relationships is a consequence of unidentified conditions, we can start to approach things in a less exaggerated manner. Instead of starring at your phone for days, hoping that he will text you so that you can stop feeling unworthy, you can become aware of your behaviour and needs and get to work yourself. It’s not the other person’s responsibility to make your life purposeful; to make you feel good enough, to make you feel capable, attractive and powerful. This one is one you.
Once you are aware of your conditions, any external situations – including any stuff that concerns your love relationship – won’t throw you off track anymore. You will still feel uncomfortable feelings such as frustration, sadness and pain, yet, you will not lose yourself in dramatic frenzy anymore.
...AND WHAT IS YOUR EXPERIENCE?
Do you identify with the dramatic feelings explored in this column? Are you aware of the source and roots of such feelings? While love relationships can hurt, it's often us who create the biggest pain for ourselves. You deserve to feel more ease. To do so, I encourage you to be open to explore your wounds and conditions. Only by identifying them, you can take responsibility and approach difficult situations with less drama and more understanding and empathy - for yourself and the other.