This week I have been researching how to open our hearts to love for my dream of finding a relationship. I’ve been single for 20 years. The thought of dating again and the possibility of falling in love with someone is pretty scary.
After years of absence from emotional attachments in relationships the body has a way of shutting down.
We all have walls of protection to push away love. We put up walls to avoid hurt, but the hurt we are avoiding isn’t outside ourselves, it’s inside. Instead of protecting us, the walls we’ve built actually push away love and bring us more hurt.
The question is how do we open up again? The only way to get there is to be open, vulnerable and communicate our needs.
The good news is there are behavior traits that can help us open up and be vulnerable to love.
We must –
- Take risks to meet people by initiating contact with strangers
- Be willing to be hurt, again and again
- Be open to receiving help and support
- Accept change when it comes our way
- Be vulnerable like a young child
- Let go of guilt or remorse over the past
- Let go of hostility, bitterness and resentment toward others for past hurts
- Accept our humanness, failures, mistakes and losses
- Be open to the possibility of love
- Be able to trust and have good communication skills
Having good communication skills is one of the top traits for being vulnerable and having a close, successful long-term relationship.
Sharon Strand Ellison, author of Taking the War Out of Our Words says,
From an early age, we’re conditioned to believe that to expose our fears, weaknesses and negative feelings at a time of confrontation is to invite trouble. The truth is just the opposite. The alchemy between vulnerability and honesty is the chemical reaction that can transform our communication.
In her book Ellison identifies the fundamental structures of our languages which can cause defensiveness in our relationships, even when we don’t mean to. She points out that we probably spend 95% of our communication energy being defensive.
The 6 most common defensive reactions –
We give in but defend the person’s mistreatment of us, taking the blame ourselves. For example, “She’s under a lot of stress with that new client. I should have known better than to ask a question today.”
We cooperate outwardly but undermine the person in some way. Passive-aggressive behavior falls into this category. For example, we agree to help our neighbor get ready for a party, but then procrastinate actually doing it and arrive late to the event — or make up a last minute excuse as to why we can’t attend.
We avoid talking to someone by not answering the phone, not answering them, leaving the room or changing the subject.
We refuse to give information as a way to trap the other person into doing something inappropriate or making a mistake. For example, we might not tell our spouse there’s something wrong with the car until it breaks down and then we accuse them of not caring about our welfare by allowing us to drive in a un-safe vehicle.
We let someone know she is wrong to be upset with us, explaining our own behavior and making excuses. For example, “I would have gotten that done sooner, but I didn’t have the money and couldn’t afford to finish it.”
We attack or judge the other to defend ourselves. We might say, “You’re always get way too upset for no reason,” or, “Why are you always in such a bad mood?”
Ellison offers a great summary sheet to Powerful Non-defensive communication that I recommend you print out and place somewhere if you are opening yourself up to new relationships just like me. The summery sheet is here and will open in a pdf format.
Getting our communication skills in order is an important first step in opening ourselves to love.
Keeping a journal can help this process by identifying our thoughts and feelings.
When someone has said or done something that bothers us, write it down in the journal. Question your reactions to what happened. Finish this process by writing down at least five things you are grateful for, and why.
Then write one thing you did to go out of your way to help another person that day. This is important because it helps you remember what is special about life. If you don’t have anything to write here because you haven’t helped anyone – then this is the place to examine if you are really ready to open yourself up to a loving relationship.
Keeping a journal can help fill your heart with joy for the things in your life that make a positive difference and help you let go of the petty things that get in the way of love.
Here are some other questions to ask yourself while writing in your journal –
- What feedback do you get from others in your life that indicate that you resist being placed in a vulnerable position?
- What are some of the reasons from your past that account for your avoiding being placed in a vulnerable position?
- Try writing a short autobiography, telling your life story from the perspective of another person, one who is closed off from others and is avoiding being vulnerable.
- Then write a second short autobiography, telling your life history, but this time from the perspective of you freely opening yourself, being vulnerable to grow.
- Compare your two stories and then answer the following questions:
- Which person is more successful in life?
- Which person is more appealing to you?
- Which person is more appealing to others?
- What are the benefits to being either 1) open to being vulnerable or 2) closed to being vulnerable?
- Which story is more true of the current you?
- Which story do you want to be more true to you?
- What steps do you need to take to make the more successful story real for you?
- What obstacles stand in your way of achieving the success story?
- From whom do you need help in order to achieve your success story?
- What changes in your life are necessary for the success story to become true for you?
I am beginning my journal this evening. If you are joining me on this journey of opening yourself to love again – be sure to share your experiences and let me know how you are doing with it all.
Veronica rotated off 8 Women Dream in December of 2010 after successfully completing 2 dreams.