I can see it clearly in my mind.
The gray, European-style castle. Impossibly high walls crafted from cold stone. The rolling emerald hills in the background. The murky gray sky matches the gray horse on a distant hill.
I can see him situated atop the horse, slowly turning away, then vanishing from sight. Sitting in the castle, fire roaring, drawbridge up, I am safe. Safe within the castle walls, I finally exhale as my spouse becomes my ex and I’m left deliciously alone.
I nestle into the comforts of this castle for nearly two years. Convinced that being alone in the castle is far better than being in a miserable marriage or out in the dating world. I declare I’ll never get married again. I soak in the quiet, the peace, the calm, the environment of my own creation. No outside voice dictating how the toilet paper roll should face, how I should be spending my time, if the food on the table is enough, if I am enough.
During my time in my castle, I learn by trial and error to honor the emotions that roll in. At first, I try to stuff them down and see that they come back with more ferocity, like dark rain clouds, demanding to pour water onto the earth. I learn to let the rain clouds in, to sit, to cry, to feel. The more I surrender to these feelings and allow them to wash over me, the more quickly they roll out.
As the storms become less frequent, the sun comes out from behind the clouds and flowers bloom. The realization that alone inside my castle is not what my heart wants washes over me.
Born with Libra rising, my soul intends to learn how to cultivate healthy relationships. My astrologer tells me that I may not get it right the first, or second, or third (?!) time, and that it takes experience to learn the intricacies of a healthy relationship. Hearing this news is comforting and alarming all at once—I’m not certain my heart can handle falling flat on my face that many times. I then realize that I’ve been falling flat in relationships since I began dating and perhaps it was time to turn a corner in this realm.
Relationships are often mirrors and help us to see our own triggers, our own wounding. I didn’t understand this in my teens or 20s. Never before had I been truly vulnerable in a relationship, nor did I feel emotionally safe with a man. I attribute this to my own lack of self-worth when I was younger, something I’ve spent many years working on healing.
As I started to see what my first marriage was mirroring, I amplified healing in myself. I took notes. I saw through new eyes. As I shifted, I started to wrap my head around the concept of dating.
Now, sitting atop the tower of my castle looking out, a new man appears and I realize in order to step forward, I must lower the drawbridge and move outside the castle walls. This act proves to be initially far easier than I realized it could be. I find myself openly sharing things about the most authentic and real parts of myself, convinced this man will likely turn and charge off as fast as his horse’s feet can carry him, over those rolling emerald hills, disappearing out of site. But the most amazing thing happens. He stays. He listens. And we continue on.
That first year of our dating still causes me to look back in awe. I had so many emotional bruises from a marriage gone sour—so many I didn’t realize were there until they popped up to be healed. This new man had a few of his own, and while I felt my own more potently, we healed and grew. We shared stories of our lives, previous relationships, and our children.
I see my own stories, and my own bruises differently now, more from a place of curiosity and understanding rather than deeply held emotion. But in those early months, I had to fight to stay outside the castle. The castle walls were so strong, so well developed and anchored, it was so easy to step back inside and pull up the drawbridge, to recreate the false sense of safety that only proved to be a barrier between where I was and where my soul wanted me to be.
Thank goodness this new man was patient and I grew to see my own habits for what they were, why they existed, and what they were trying to accomplish. I learned to thank them for trying to keep me safe, and then I let them go.
The energy that comes from authentic love is incredible. Strong and delicate, something to be honored and held. With time, healing practices, coaches and guides, the last bit of metal fashioned to guard my heart has fallen away.
Watching the last piece of armor fall away from my heart was incredible and the freedom in my heart is delicious. Now I can lovingly and authentically declare, “My heart is open, my heart is open, my heart is open!”
If you’re ready to open your heart, here are some steps that can support you as you learn to love more authentically:
1. Get curious about your own journey. What story are you telling yourself? Is it Truth? How can you look with curiosity about your journey and what you’ve learned?
2. Allow the lessons to teach you and allow your growth.
3. Feel. This is big. Our society is built on distraction—how to avoid your feelings and focus somewhere, anywhere else. Find a good counselor or coach to help support you if getting to know your feelings is new territory. Write about what you’re feeling and go back over your notes. You may be surprised by what you can teach yourself.
4. Surrender to the process. Trust that good things come from sitting down with your feelings and getting to know your most authentic parts.
5. Be real. When you’re authentic, you allow everyone around you to be their most authentic selves as well. The masks we wear don’t serve us. When cultivating new relationships, the more real we are right away, the more we will know if there’s a genuine connection with the person sitting across the table from us. This is true in friendships and relationships. You are amazing—share that light.
6. Avoid should. If you’re asking yourself, “Should I go out with that person?” the answer is no, end of story. If you want to spend time with them, your whole body will say yes. Wait for the full-body yes.
7. Like attracts like. Watch for the mirror effect in relationships. If you’re noticing something you don’t like in the other person, get curious about whether or not that trait exists in you. If it does, see it, heal it, and move forward.
8. Look for alignment. Not every date will turn into forever. But every person you can meet can teach you something about life, about themselves, and about yourself. Listen to your inner knowing. If the alignment is lacking, thank them for what they’ve taught you and move on. Every person we meet (even the hard people) teaches us something.
9. Go easy on yourself. You may find yourself needing to retreat to your castle, to breathe, to do the things that feel comfortable. Listen to those voices and take care of yourself.
10. There is no rush. Let go of the self-imposed timelines. You don’t have to date, get married, have babies, and so on by a certain age. Being coupled is not better than being single. Each phase of life delivers wonderful opportunities. Wait for the right person (and that right person may be yourself), right time, right place.