We all appreciate a good love story. Let me tell you about Bill (not his real name). Bill came to see me a while back because he broke up with his girlfriend, I'll call her Susan, a few months earlier and was now struggling with anxiety. The anxiety became the most evident whenever he started to date a new person. He started to worry about being hurt, being rejected, making a mistake. It didn’t make sense to him.
You see, Bill thought he had found the love of his life in Susan and they were very happy together for a year or more. Then Susan’s father had a health crisis and she got caught up in that and spent much more time with her family and also started complaining about what her family was and was not doing. Bill started to feel shut out and their relationship now felt strained and tiresome. Bill didn’t know how to deal with what he was feeling or how to talk about it so he felt it was best to end his relationship with Susan.
Each time Bill started dating a new woman he encountered the same anxiety and would end the relationship before it got going. As I coached him to understand his feelings and how to get honest with himself and others he got better at facing his anxiety and explaining his struggle. Yet the pattern continued and he couldn’t get past feeling like he had unfinished business with Susan. Finally he decided he needed to contact her and explain why he left and get closure.
Contacting Susan after almost two years stirred his anxiety but he was determined to face his fear and just do what he needed to do. He was surprised to learn that when he contacted Susan she met him with openness and kindness. She told him she always believed he would call. They cried together as he told her what he was feeling and why he left. It didn’t take long for them to realize they still loved each other, and what he thought would bring closure actually sparked a new beginning.
Is this a healthy, love of my life relationship? That remains to be seen but what is clear is that Bill has grown in emotional maturity and integrity. He has learned that he will no longer run away when things get uncomfortable and will face his fear with honesty and courage. I suspect Susan has grown through the pain as well. Even if they decide not to be together going forward they will not feel they left unfinished business on the table. I’m betting they have rediscovered what they have known all along, that they belong together. Never run from the truth within yourself!