“If you want more fulfilling relationships,” Oprah once said, “You must be full yourself. You can’t attract what you don’t have. Whole attracts whole. Love attracts love.”
Once upon a time, I didn’t understand what that meant. I used to look at my mentors, my trainers, my coaches with absolute confusion. My eyes would roll back in my head, after they had glazed over, and I would say, “Huh?” It made no sense to me that I had to love me first, that I had to be the very thing I was looking for “out there.”
I remember hearing a story of a young man in my neighborhood as I was growing up. He was of the marrying age and, in our religious society, there was an order in which things must be done. He had checked off all the prior requirements for his age group and was now looking down the barrel of the marriage gun. I remember him sharing the story of how he met his lady love. He shared it with a group of girls my age – we were doe-eyed, young teenage girls looking up at him adoringly, hoping sometime someday our prince would come and he would be just like this boy because… well… he was perfect! Or… so he seemed to be.
He shared how he had written a long list of things this woman must match. Things like height, hair color, education level, eye color, talents, wishes, hopes, dreams, attitude, behavior, etc. He rattled off all the things he wanted in this woman and I remember thinking that he had created a really narrow target and that, with that much perfection, there would be very few – if any – human women who could possibly match all the criteria.
I also felt confused because, while many of the talents, gifts, and education levels matched him really well because he demonstrated those “outwardly visible” things himself. So they were in him. However, some of the intangible things like “gentleness” and “humbleness” and “loving” and “compassionate” were not traits, at all, that I had experienced in him. Ever. He was harsh and often walled off, seeming to be calloused and conceited.
In the end, though, his Madonna did show up, being full of light and glory, and she brought him many children in her perfection. She was everything he had ordered. A perfect fit. And I watched, over the years, this man becoming more full of himself, more calloused, more aggressive, more ugly. I watched her shrivel to a whispery husk of who she used to be, empty, drained, haunted.
I wondered how this relationship had happened. How had a woman who was, by design, seemingly perfect in every way, chosen into a relationship that obviously drained her? How were they a match???
Truth is, she was a match for what eventually became visibly obvious because she was an energetic match for every part of who he was. That which he exhibited externally for all to see – the meanness, the conceit, the callousness – was within her. She was just less verbose about it. She had all the externals down that matched his list of qualifications. But, she also had all the qualities that were “secret” and matched him perfectly.
Over the years, as I’ve done my own healing work and also worked with clients who are healing from all manners of abuse, I’ve discovered that the first step of recovery is recognizing how the abusive relationship came to be. For me, I had to get really into the depths of who I was to uncover my own self-abuse that radiated out and attracted a partner who was just as internally haunted as I, but was also willing to bring that violence out into the world so that I could experience it.
For a long time, I wanted it to be “his fault.” I wanted it to be all on his shoulders. I couldn’t possibly want to be abused, could I? Why the hell would anyone want to be abused? But, when I got really willing to look at my part in the relationship and get accountable for how I “ended up” there, then I was able to see the gifts and the blessings inside the pain. I had to learn to love that part of me that called in the pain. And I had to forgive myself. While my husband had been the external abuser, I had to accept that I was abused by another person because I was abusing myself first. I was tolerating it because I was, ultimately, familiar with it.
Any victim of abuse can heal through forgiveness of themselves first. And then, by getting clear on what love really is, how it looks, how it feels, what it sounds like, and what it means, then accepting nothing less than that. And, the love comes from within them. It isn’t something that ever comes to or at you. It is born within you.
And… you always call in relationships that are your match. Always.
Given that, if you find yourself in a relationship – whether it be work, love, family, friends – that is causing pain, it is time to take a look at what it is that is being reflected to you. That relationship is only there because you are a magnet for it. Change yourself, you change your pull, and you change your relationships.
I always welcome your thoughts, questions, and comments.
Feel free to jot down what you’re thinking in the comment box below.