What stops me from being able to love?

What stops me from being able to love?

I’m single and 35 years old and never have a problem finding people to date.  The problem is that after a few months all my relationships fall apart no matter how great they are at the start.  My most recent relationship ended after 3 months and it followed pretty much the same pattern of every relationship I’ve had since college.  We met through mutual friends, enjoyed getting to know each other and then as things between us became more intimate I did the same thing I always do—found fault and blew up about little things and looked for evidence that I couldn’t trust and became distant and rejecting.  I think I want a committed relationship but whenever things seem to be moving in that direction I behave in ways that push the other person away.  I long for a loving relationship but deep down I don’t think it’s possible for me.  My parents were both alcoholics and split up when I was 7.  They continued to fight with each other and create chaos in my life until I left home.  I wonder if growing up watching them fight and destroy each other has ruined my chances of ever having a normal life with a loving partner and family of my own.

Alex, West Loop

Dear Alex.

Sounds like your yearning for a romantic relationship is motivating you to figure out what’s getting in the way.  It also sounds like you’ve given some careful thought to observing your problematic behavior patterns.  It is likely that what you experienced in your family, watching your parents fight, has left you with some doubts and limitations in your capacity to form and sustain romantic attachment.   As humans, our brains are wired for connection but trauma rewires them for protection.  That’s why healthy relationships are difficult for people what have been traumatized. 

Two books I’d recommend are:  Wired to Connect by Amy
Banks, MD and Loving Bravely by
Alexandra H. Solomon, PhD. 

Both books can help you understand yourself and guide you to make changes that will enable you to be better able to give and receive love in healthy relationships. 

Therapy can help you overcome the effects of childhood trauma in 2 ways:  by talking through your past and healing the relational wounds you sustained in your family and by the experience of creating a healthy growth producing relationship with your therapist.  A good therapy can actually re-wire your brain to recover from the trauma so that fear won’t block your desire for connection. Your past doesn’t have to stop you.  Find a therapist who can help you learn to love bravely.  If you’re ready to get started, give me a call.

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