Remember the first time you knew what love was? The innocent, no hesitation kind of love. The one that had no frame of reference for heartbreak, but literally survived on 'this is what life is meant to be'. Then the terrible, awful happened. Some level of disappointment seeped in and changed the game; heartbreak found you and it altered what love, trust, and maybe even self-worth looked like.
How do we get back to that innocent, fearless love?
As I examine the residual layers of my experiences with trauma — insecurity, worthiness, and brokenness, I am learning that there's no getting back to fearless love because it never left. It's just deeply buried and waiting to be activated. Underneath hurt and shame, there's a deep well of love that could never fully be tapped into because my heart was once mismanaged. I found it hard to trust someone else to handle the most fragile muscle I have. I knew that I had holes in my heart that I wanted filled but trusting someone to pour love into those holes meant that I'd have to trust them to hold my heart carefully. That was not something I could handle.
As a young girl trying to find peace within discomfort, trauma held my hand and guided me into survival mode.
My therapist pointed out that years of holding onto that trauma and not properly processing its pain left me with no capacity to embrace, or even adjust, to my current environment. One that is safe and ready to be filled with love and trust. Instead, I'd trained myself to become emotionally detached from anyone that showed signs of wanting to love me or showed signs that they could be trusted — an avoidant attachment style (sounds so cold-hearted, doesn't it?). Friendships included, your girl was not interested in being close with or loved by anyone! I'd learned to live my life with one foot in and the other foot out of all relationships that way I'd have an easy escape from the mere possibility of being hurt.
Romantically, I'd even gone so far as to believing that if we did not have a label on the connection, then its ending would be painless. Eventually, but still immature, I began to believe that even if we put a label on it, I could give just enough of my heart away to show that I'm committed but not enough to leave me hurt should the relationship not last.
This unhealthy, fearful love has had a pretty lengthy shelf-life in my marriage.
Keeping people at a distance doesn't work; I've hurt myself, possibly more than someone else could have but also the person I love. Allowing fear and insecurity to lead how I love, it's impacted my marriage in a way that periodically has my husband ask if it's his fault that I find it hard to love him as much as he loves me.
That's painful. I can't protect us both. I can't protect me from a possibility that may never happen, and I can't protect him from being hurt as I occasionally pull away. The more I do the work required to heal old wounds, the more I realize that the ones that broke my heart are not going to be the ones to heal me. It won't even be the love of an amazingly patient life partner that will mend my broken pieces.
It is the love I feed myself that will fill those holes. It's an inside job of setting a standard for what love means to me, instead of a fierce avoidance of pain being my compass.
It's being able to accept all of who I am, as I am; knowing my worth and being patient with myself on the journey. Once that is secure, then I'll be able to discern who is deserving of all the love I have to give, instead of closing everyone out.
In a recent conversation with my Pastor about love and trust, she explained when they don't come naturally, we must intentionally make the choice to love and trust others until it becomes our default setting. It will mean making the tough decision to be vulnerable when I'd much rather be guarded and merely survive; it's up to me to choose to receive and give the deepest love I have to offer. For many reasons, but most importantly, it's what my heart naturally wants to do. No matter how much pain my heart has felt, if I'm honest, I still have a strong desire to love so freely, it has become the only way I know how to live.
Just like all muscles, our hearts must be exercised.
Of course, we want to limit the pain our hearts may encounter, but by trying to section off access to our hearts, we're also taking away the light it needs to flourish and the joy it needs to feel. We're most alive when we allow our hearts to do its job — to love completely. Didn't you feel free when you loved and trusted wholeheartedly, instead of the time(s) when you tried to love with one foot in and the other foot on the gas, ready to cut all ties at the first sign of trouble?
The second time around may not feel as pure as the first time, but it's up to us to allow it to be as pure as possible. When we add our past traumas, we begin to diminish the possibility of loving fearlessly.
A healed heart makes room for fearless love.
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