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I’m a love cartographer.
Each of us has our own internal landscape to navigate when it comes to loving another person.
Each journey into love is an opportunity to map out new territory, to discover and navigate parts of ourselves previously untouched by another, and perhaps untouched even by ourselves. Some of these territories will be blissful and others terrifying, but as we get to know our internal landscape, we begin to gain mastery of it, no matter what it is.
We learn how to work with ourselves in all of these places.
I spend my days helping others map out the landscapes of love and relationships in their own lives, and every day I expand and detail my own map, too. Every day I’m inspired by just how much adventure the land of love can provide, and at the same time, I feel a sense of urgency.
I see so many people with tiny little maps. I see so many people spending their lives never venturing out past their own backyards. I see so many who never risk finding out what’s possible.
Each time I sit down to write, I ask myself what I want them to know. I ask myself what I would want someone to tell me if I didn’t already know it.
Today, what I want you to know is that everyone has at least one spot where we always get lost.
We all have that spot where we’ve eventually gotten stuck in every relationship. We all have that empty space on our map; that unexplored, uncharted territory just waiting to be understood and filled in. It may be that a little corner of our map remains an empty mystery as we’ve struggled to get the lay of the land, or it may be that most of our map is still empty because we’ve never ventured to navigate outside the comfort of the world we already know.
We tend to have a hard time acknowledging that our sticky spot has anything to do with us. We like to think we just haven’t met the right person yet. But the truth is that no matter how promising a new love seems, no matter how different this one is from the ones that came before, we will always end up at the place again eventually. We can hope and pray that this time the road will lead us somewhere new, but the truth is it won’t because this is the map of how we navigate love and we haven’t changed yet. So when we get there (and we will get there), we still won’t know how to make it through the terrain.
After enough times, we begin to believe this is just how it is destined to be for us. We begin to accept the current boundaries of our map as our fate. We begin to assume that we’ll never make it any further than we did in the past, and when we believe that, it becomes true.
I lived inside of my patterns for so long. For most of my life, each one of my long-term relationships ended up with the same feeling: I felt bored. The respect and adoration I’d once felt was gone, and the spark in our sex had died out.
This was where all my relationships had ended, each one like the one before. This was as far as I’d ever drawn my map. For all I knew, this was all there was or would ever be for me. I didn’t see that my apathy was keeping me locked in a cycle that I completely had the power to break out of. I didn’t see that I could change it by changing myself.
No, I just saw the challenge as the end of the road.
I stopped trying, so I stopped getting feedback. Without feedback I didn’t learn anything new about my situation that could help me see solutions. And then, eventually, my feeling of hopelessness was validated by my failure. Giving up was a dead end.
Until I finally admitted I was stuck.
Being stuck isn’t the end of the road we paint it out to be.
Actually, stuck is a pretty good place to be. It’s a lot better than denial. As long as we live in the delusion of hoping for change without making a concentrated effort to change ourselves, the pattern will play on repeat forever. Being stuck, on the other hand, is quite a sobering wake up call. It’s an alarm bell telling us it’s time to do something different, and sometimes desperation really is a great motivator.
I got stuck and it totally changed my life. I reached a breaking point; a beautiful breaking point where I grew more courageous than I’d ever been. I realized that anything would have been better than the way things were and I decided that no matter how hard it was and no matter how much courage it would take, I’d do whatever was required in order to finally forge a new path for myself.
We all have that place we get stuck and the sooner we acknowledge that it exists, the sooner we are going to figure out how to get through it.
All those stuck places are actually beautiful opportunities.
They’re difficult for a reason. They stand guard to the deepest, most tender sort of love and they’re there to make sure we are truly ready.
Author: Summer Engman
Editor: Caitlin Oriel
Image: Leo Hidalgo/Flickr