How To Stop Repeating Your Past Mistakes & Move Forward Into Better Love And Friendships

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two happy couples hanging out
Love

With the added 'oomph' and catalyst of chemistry and choices for love’s longevity, you’ll find new elements to invigorate your relationships.

With a bow to the late architectural critic and educator Michael Sorkin’s words, you can see ways to even out the depths of desire and heights of folly.

Love and friendship play well together.

Whatever your situation, opportunities to appreciate the connection of friendship and love often emerge from the attention you pay to both.

Insight and meaning lurk in your own experiences and observations of others’ lives and choices.

RELATED: The Real Difference Between Chemistry And Love

How do you define love?

There's a somewhat stilted but sensible definition of love by psychiatrist and psychoanalyst Harry Stack Sullivan:

"When the satisfaction or the security of another person becomes as significant to one as one's own satisfaction or security, then the state of love exists. Under no other circumstances is a state of love present, regardless of the popular usage of the term."

Sullivan sure sounds adamant about love!

A more direct, expansive definition of love by Washington Post columnist David Von Drehle is "the spirit that seeks the best for everyone and the best in everyone."

I believe love’s longevity is supported by shared values and trust, as well as commitment to refresh together the predictable routines of daily life.

Friendship is based on mutual trust and support as well. Shared values and enjoyable experiences also enrich it. Perhaps the main difference between the two is the frisson of sex.

Yet, when sex is added to love, power and dependence could complicate the situation.

Maybe you know of situations in friendship and love where such complications distort the quality of a relationship.

Bring love and friendship further into your light.

There's also the astute advice of cartoon character Xavier Riddle on PBS Kids: slow down and look around.

Over time, writing about love and friendship in poems and articles, also helped me understand how one strengthens and enlightens the other.

So did reading a variety of endless sources, having open, heartfelt conversations, and learning with my clients.

How do you want to explore these themes to enrich your life?

It’s never too late or too early to keep learning about love and friendship.

Interest in love started early for me, captured in my only rhyming poem written when I was around 20 years old. Without experience, I based it on observation and looking around.

Finding Love

Where is love that’s been so courted

Until it’s life dies, aborted?

It’s traveling incognito

With trust, respect, concern, and ego.

How would you improve or write your version for fun?

Chemistry helps sustain longevity in both love and friendship.

The catalyst of chemistry promotes special connections between two people, leading to sex or not.

Its intensity, the feeling of closeness, is exciting yet can be another complication, especially if expectations are not discussed and addressed.

Helen Fisher’s recommendation for slow love holds wisdom for encouraging longevity supported by chemistry.

Similar rhythms may also create a firmer foundation for long-term friendship.

Personal stories provide keys to choices for love and friendship. Maybe some ideas from my own mini-examples will inspire you to visit your own.

As time passed and disappointing or truncated experiences forced me to look inside, I wanted to understand my own complicity in detours and questionable judgment, especially in romantic relationships.

Eventually, I noticed how I limited or trapped myself in relationships with "friends" who needed me. That investment often created a dependency that didn't help me or them because it postponed their eventual self-sufficiency.

Those wasted years and discomfort forced clarity and honesty about how to avoid such repetition of distractions, detours, and mistakes.

I had to keep looking around and especially continue my conversations with myself. In the process, I realized I had been avoiding unfinished business when I finally figured out why love did not sustain in my significant relationships.

The lock opened when I looked closer at the three adult men who were important in my life as I grew up.

Their influences imprinted me with expectations, associations, and needs.

One was an uncle who spoiled me, as a little girl, with generous gifts and later paying for a visit home from my work abroad. He was an alcoholic.

Another was my committed father who loved me, but, nevertheless, had difficulty expressing caring and approval until we both got older.

The third was my high school English teacher who appreciated my nature, spirit, and capacities better than I did. But, he expressed that so judiciously in a not-so-very obvious way to me, until writing some surprising phrases in my yearbook.

RELATED: What Happens In Your Brain On A Chemical Level When You Fall In Love

If you so wish, you can pause and reflect on your own life stories and situations.

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What patterns do you notice in previous unsustained or unfulfilled influences? What related themes are present in your current relationships?

How vibrant or renewable is the chemistry in your present romantic relationship? How fresh is the chemistry in your close friendships?

How might you modify and improve significant worthwhile relationships based on your insights from your answers?

For improvement, consider the quality of communication, openness, and trust.

What is the balance between giving and taking, over time?

When chemistry alone attracts, beware. The feeling of a close connection can be as enthralling as a deep, open conversation between friends as well as lovers, and as sexual as the frisson with a possible or current lover.

That energy in a sexual situation may emerge from unconscious previous associations of at least one person involved.

An automatic attraction to a "type" or resort to checking off your boxes of required characteristics can also be misleading.

Sometimes the chemistry is based on a hunger unexpressed, even to oneself, and other times, on unfinished business from the past. It can also be sparked primarily by one person’s strong, reassuring interest.

But, beware when an attraction feels overwhelmingly magnetic or even addictive. If you feel clingy and significantly dependent, that’s another sign of danger.

Shared purpose or passion helps sustain longevity in both friendship and love.

A connection that motivates growth or inspiration for productive, engaging action has the potential for sustaining the relationship ─ as long as there's a mutual benefit rather than a one-way street.

For example, raising children, nurturing others, making a difference in your world, providing a service or product of value, and becoming effective or useful at something.

None are mutually exclusive.

What fun and hope when there are shared interests, values, and focus, especially when the energy of chemistry is integrated and supports love’s longevity.

There are ways to avoid the unraveling of a worthwhile connection.

You can continue addressing issues honestly, investing yourself without self-denial.

Another is to agree on and sustain ways to avoid dulling routine and boredom, often part of the administrative aspects of the responsibilities of daily life.

In these often non-linear processes, you will ignite chemistry, friendship, and love’s longevity for you and your partners to enjoy, sustain, and cross-fertilize for mutual benefit.

RELATED: The Role Of Chemistry Between People In Real Love

Ruth Schimel Ph.D. is a career and life management consultant and author of the Choose Courage series on Amazon. Obtain the bonus first chapter of the upcoming, Happiness and Joy in Work: Preparing for Your Future. Use your invitation to a free consultation as well on her website.