As if navigating the modern dating world isn’t hard enough, add the baggage of being a child of divorce.
My parents had a very messy divorce when I was 12 years old. It was a very impressionable and vulnerable age when I was just starting to piece together my ideas about relationships. Long story short, my dad cheated on my mom with a woman he worked with.
He chose her over my beautiful and kind-hearted mother who had been a dedicated wife to him for almost 16 years. (To a 12-year-old, that decision is incredibly confusing.) To make the situation even worse, we soon found out the woman’s two-year-old son belonged to my dad.
It suddenly all made sense. He’d turned cold toward us the moment he started a family with someone new. My world was shattered as our once picture-perfect family of three was completely destroyed.
This is where my idea of relationships changed. I experienced the ultimate form of rejection and deception which shattered my trust in all people, even myself. I believed that everyone who loved me would eventually abandon me because I wasn’t good enough and there would be something better out there for them than me.
I began weekly therapy sessions when I was 14 and continued until I was 17. I felt like we just went in circles dealing with my abandonment and trust issues but as I got older I started to see value in what my psychologist was saying, especially when I entered my first serious relationship at 18.
The first year with him was bliss. I never thought love could feel so happy. We were (and still are!) each other’s best friends. But after a year I started freaking out. Things were getting serious and I gave him more and more power to hurt me if he decided he was bored with me.
I ran back to my psychologist and asked her why I wanted to bolt when he was the nicest guy on the planet. Was I crazy? I was starting arguments for no reason to get him to dislike me, and I kept up that destructive behavior for months.
It was only after we started unpacking my feelings that I realized I had serious unresolved trust issues. My psychologist told me I had a very negative love script, and much like a sad movie, my love life would end in tragedy if I kept it up.
Love script? What on earth is that psycho-babble? I let out a little snort of ridicule when I heard the term for the first time but now it makes a whole lot of sense.
Your love script is the little voice in your head that tells you what love should feel like, look like, and act like. You play out scenarios in your head like a movie and when reality deviates, you react — often not positively. In short: my love script was really warped.
Because I’d suffered such hurt and rejection, I wanted my relationship to play out like a Hollywood movie where we were always happy, never disagreed and he did the dishes without asking. I saw his deviations from this unrealistic script as deal-breakers and my instinct was to flee. Rationally, though, I knew that was silly.
He made me so happy but I just kept picking him apart. But as soon as I realized why I was doing what I was doing, I made a concerted effort to make positive mental and behavioral changes.
Here are a few things that helped me change my love script:
- Seek professional help if you’re struggling. An outside person’s perspective can help you see why your behavior is unreasonable.
- Understand that the perfect relationship doesn’t exist. This isn’t the movies. You will have disagreements and you will need to handle conflict through compromise and reasonable discussion.
- Read articles about the psychology behind your actions. Sheryl Paul has some amazing views and advice; start there.
- No person is perfect. So don’t expect your partner to be perfect. Everybody has flaws. See them as quirks and learn to love them (or at least, live with them).
- Argue with that little voice in your head that makes you doubt yourself and your connection. If you’ve dealt with rejection issues in your past, that little voice of doubt is very likely to rear its ugly head. Tell it to go away.
- Have your own interests and hobbies. It isn’t healthy to be dependent on someone for your happiness so keep life interesting by participating in activities you enjoy.
- Understand that love changes over time. That obsessive, lusty kind of love at the beginning will fade but with time, you’ll be left with an even deeper kind of love. Don’t confuse this with discontent. Love becomes about choosing your partner every day despite their flaws.
- If your partner is abusive, your feelings have nothing to do with a love script. Abuse in any form should not be tolerated.
Since I changed my mindset and did a lot of professional work on myself, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. My boyfriend and I have a very close and strong connection, and I can’t imagine my life without him.
Michaela West is a life coach and communications specialist from Durban, South Africa with a passion for helping women become the beautiful humans they were destined to be by connecting to women all over the world through her writing. Follow her on Twitter.