At Weston Super Mare the tide stretches out so far that you can scarcely believe you are on a beach.
A strange landscape marked by nothing and which seems to lead to nothing. If eternity is a destination it might look something like this.
When the sea turns on its heels and disappears over the horizon there is a vast expanse of mud flat, a sprawling dangerous ground in which you can sink and become utterly stuck.
The struggle is futile as the thick wet mud pushes you further down with every desperate movement. Exhaustion and hypothermia can follow and, if there is no one to rescue you, it’s over.
A client is describing desperation to pull their partner towards them at the point they feel they might finally leave, only to push them away again once they feel safe in the knowledge that they aren’t going anywhere.
The “pull” creates a feeling of safety, warmth and certainty, and the “push” doubt, instability and unpredictability.
Whilst apparently self-destructive, “pushing” fuels desire and desperation because we crave what we can’t have, even if we engineered it ourselves.
Why do we push love away?
We are naturally equipped best to survive in the place that we came from rather than where we arrived.
If you were brought up in year-round sunshine the endless days of an English winter might be a real test and so it is with emotion.
If there was anything dysfunctional in childhood leaving you with questions about your value, you may find it hard to believe that anyone can love you.
When love is offered you might start to question it,
“I’m not sure I’m lovable so how can you love me?
“What are you after?”
“Are you crazy?”
“I’d better get away from you.”
Love that you don’t trust probably feels boring. The chemistry felt for someone with genuine intention is no match for the tempestuous chaos of a love that looks thrilling but will remain forever elusive in one way or another.
If you do let love in, once the initial thrill of a new relationship has passed you may feel a familiar anxiety at the prospect of it ending and you being abandoned.
“How can this last? Nobody loves me like this?”
Agitated at the idea of rejection, convinced that it will happen eventually you may become terrified of your worst fears being confirmed and decide to bring about the very scenario you dread.
“I’ll wreck it before you inevitably do”.
When we don’t really believe in the durability of love we can be masterful at creating the conditions that prove ourselves right.
One way in which we do this is by seeing partners as some sort of emotional “pick & mix” rather than a beautiful but flawed whole.
We convince ourselves that we should be able to have all the parts we want and not deal with the bits we don’t until our pursuit of human perfection becomes so unsustainable that we discard everything in continued search of a utopia we can never find, and which will leave us as the lonely and unloved soul we believe ourselves to be.
A client tells me he hopes to one day meet someone with whom he falls hopelessly in love.
He is currently in a relationship and is generally happy but feels that he could experience a deeper connection.
He expresses guilt at being with someone he doesn’t believe he will stay with forever and wonders if he is being fair.
“Is it unfair to be committed and happy with someone all the time that you feel committed and happy regardless of what the future might hold?” I ask.
He worries that someone better is waiting in the future and so cannot find any satisfaction today, but perhaps this is another way of perpetuating the validity of a belief that he is unworthy of love.
The ideal relationship, if such a thing were to exist, is a combination of certainty and uncertainty.
The former provides excitement, spontaneity, and passion while the latter offers trust, dependability, and a solid foundation.
When we feel unlovable we want more certainty but don’t trust it when it appears so we test our partners by pushing them away to see if they come back.
If they do, we assume we didn’t push them hard enough and, if they don’t, we can safely assume we were right about ourselves and our value all along.
Only those that push can stop the pushing and no amount of pulling from the other will have any impact.
Back on the beach, the tide will always disappear over the horizon because it is pulled by the moon, while the shore stands still patiently waiting.
Someone once said, “It is impossible to love someone who does not love themselves.”
The unlovable move away with the tide and may choose to roll back in with it or not.
But if you are ever the one left on the shore watching the sea push away into the distance, it is best that you stand where you are and accept the leaving because trying to run to the tide as it drifts and turns its back will mean a treacherous journey through the mud, and we know how that might end.