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November 20, 2022

How our Addictive Search for “the One” is Harming our Relationships.

 

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The search for “the One” is an addiction that is widely encouraged in our society, conditioned into us from early childhood and perpetuated everywhere.

This craving for the anticipated “high” is also what keeps us from building healthy relationships with people who may already be right in front of us.

Married for 32 years, I once thought that I married “the One.” I felt happy and loved—until I didn’t.

Inevitable life circumstances toppled my husband from the pedestal on which I hoisted him. When my feelings turned from love to hate, I blamed it on him, and spent a good chunk of subsequent years wondering how I could be so stupid to have chosen him.

Many of us are not aware of the nature of our emotional arousal, so we tend to attribute our state of excitation—whether “positive” (infatuation) or “negative” (anger, irritation)—to the person we are with.

“He/she turns me on” is the opposite of what is actually going on. In reality, we turn ourselves on and we turn ourselves off, and we do it much more often than we realize in the course of every day.

Disconnected from our bodies and living mostly from our minds, we tend to project on our relating partners our needs, desires, wounds from the past, and hopes for the future. The people we are with act as projection surfaces for our own unconscious.

Most of us are not aware of this inner process, because it takes place in our “shadow zone”—what we have suppressed about ourselves as part of conditioning or post-trauma adaptations. And anything around attachment, attraction, and sexuality is more often than not hidden in our shamed and repressed parts.

It is this realm of the shadow that is activated during our search for “the One.”

This fantasy is not only unrealistic, it is also harmful, because it keeps us stuck in illusions and constant craving, and perpetuates our wounding.

Any time we project our desire on someone, coupled with unrealistic expectations about the future, we are in the realm of our psychic underworld. And whatever lives in the shadow is frozen in the past. Locked within, it does not get updated or corrected for reality through connection and neuroception, the attributes of relating in the light of day.

When we are consumed with obsessing over someone, we cannot be present for what is actually going on. Moving out of (mental) fantasy and into embodied present moment allows someone to show us who they are while we can actually take that information in. Our longing for “the One” keeps us stuck in the place that is the opposite of what is real, healthy, consistent, and clear.

A lot of my work is focused on how to untangle our mental fantasies from the way they are coded in our nervous system. Our beliefs are connected to specific emotional buttons and influence the resulting choices, feelings, reactions and experiences.

What I observe is that when I go beyond all the mental projections, illusions, romantic stories and conditioning, and descend into the body, pain and pleasure feel the same on the level of sensations. Which means that a feeling we crave in one circumstance may be the same feeling we run from in other circumstances. What changes is the story we have about what is going on—not the actual sensations in our body!

In fact, I also discovered that infatuation (and the following erotic arousal) is our nervous system in a state of distress. Our erotic response is coded in our nervous system and contains secrets of our idiosyncrasies, conflicts, and unresolved emotional wounds.

Ever wonder why people continue indulging in addictions despite the potentially destructive and often unwanted consequences? And the reason why affairs—while happening all the time—are still such taboo? It’s because they are securely hiding in the closet of our psyche, the shadow. Much of our collective indignation toward extra-marital activity is because, ignoring human nature, we naively expect people to always choose “the right” thing.

Well, the shadowed regions of our body do not care about our patriarchal, religious, and moralistic notions of good and bad.

Our continuous overriding of bodily needs, led by a collective crusade on pleasure, has completely disconnected us from the perfection of our intuitive knowing.

The body wants to rest when it is tired. And wants to eat when it is hungry. And is aroused when it finds itself in a situation that reminds it of a dynamic in which our original wounding took place. Or simply when something feels really good.

We have been trying to control our bodies (and our nature) for generations, but we haven’t succeeded in eradicating its needs. Our bodily needs do not disappear when suppressed, they just become distorted and exaggerated: hello violence and addictions…and affairs.

After three decades of relating, I am learning to love my husband.

I am not obsessed with him. I am not flooded with stress hormones we call infatuation. At times, the absence of chemical high feels like boredom for my post-trauma nervous system.

After thinking that a new man would be more adept at delivering my high, I turned to look within. With time, I began to see that holding my husband (or anyone else) responsible for keeping me high dehumanized him into a drug dealer that he did not know how to be.

Since I’ve been learning to regulate my nervous system, detoxing from the addiction to highs and lows of relating drama, I now look differently at what we call chemistry: our nervous system in a state of flux.

Because I no longer spend hours wondering where I stand in my relationship, I’ve freed up so much energy and creativity that I was able to completely change my life and build a business based on passion.

I no longer seek passion delivered to me from a romantic partner. I try to live with passion in every aspect of my life. I see that when I live in integrity with my values and in alignment with my soul’s calling, I am full of that feeling so many of us crave when looking for the elusive One.

Much relationship advice is still focused on love languages and how to get other people to fill our needs by behaving the way we want and need them to. That is why so many of us are still quite securely stuck in romantic la-la land, looking for that one person willing to enable our addiction and save us from ourselves.

When we are addicted to the cocktail of chemicals we call NRE (New Relationship Energy,) we get bored in long-term relationships, focusing on nit-picky flaws and lack of excitement. Expecting the excitement (and arousal) to come from other people, we ignore the fact that we are the only ones in charge of our body’s reactions to people and circumstances.

While we want the high, we also tend to run from the resulting overwhelm the strong feelings cause in our body. When we learn how to regulate our nervous system to go from stress cycle to a calm state, we can actually think clearly and make choices we will not regret later. When calm, we can consciously consider whether what we are about to undertake is consistent with our values and goals in life, whether we are on a path that will actually bring us closer to our dreams or farther away.

Learning to stay with the discomfort is the cornerstone of nervous system regulation.

My ability to tolerate the overwhelm of my own inner world without projecting or erupting my strong reactions on others was a turning point. Looking within to face my pain, my fears, my love, and my hate, slowly brought me to knowing myself. No longer looking outside for excitement or soothing, I was able to develop consistent and healthy intimacy with myself.

And now I can bring that intimacy, self-knowledge, and ability to self-regulate to all of my other relationships, including the relationship with my own husband.

Slowly but surely, after 32 years we are getting to know each other.

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