Loving Yourself and Others Means Keeping Your Heart OpenBy Dr. Margaret Paul
January 22, 2018
Do you believe that others or circumstances are responsible for whether you keep your heart open? Loving is about keeping your heart open - no matter what.
Robyn and Dennis, together for three years but not married, consulted with me because they couldn’t seem to connect with each other. They loved each other but Dennis felt that Robyn had a wall up that stopped them from getting close.
When Dennis stated that he experienced Robyn having a wall up and he wanted to understand why, her response was that they both had a wall up. Dennis said he felt open to Robyn and really wanted to connect with her and that he wasn’t aware of a wall.
It was evident to me that this was true. I experienced Dennis as open hearted and Robyn as closed. As so often happens with many people, Robyn was projecting her closed heart on to Dennis.
“Robyn, there must be a good reason you are closed to Dennis. Would you be willing to talk about this?” I asked.
“He has to be accountable for the ways he has hurt me and he never is.”
“Robyn, are you saying that whether or not he is accountable is responsible for your closed heart? That he’s responsible for you closing your heart?”
“No, I’m not saying that. I’m saying that I don’t want to open my heart until he is accountable.”
“Dennis, how do you feel about this?” I asked
“We Hurt Each Other Even More…”
“We’ve tried over and over to talk about things and for each of us to take accountability for our hurtful behavior. But the problem is that when she tells me what I did that hurt her, either I can’t remember or I see it very differently than she does. And the same thing happens when I tell her what she’s done that has hurt me. So we don’t get anywhere and we end up hurting each other even more when we have these accountability talks.
“So a few months ago I decided to let all that go and focus on keeping my heart open. I decided to forgive her for hurting me, and that has been a big help in keeping my heart open. Robyn, I love you and I want to connect with you. I hope you will open your heart and forgive me for whatever I’ve done to hurt you, because I’ve never done anything on purpose to hurt you.”
Robyn looked miffed. “So in order to connect, we have to do it your way, is that right?”
“Well, I’ve been trying it your way and it isn’t working. Are you saying that you will open your heart only if we do it your way?”
“I can’t just open my heart and have a clean slate the way you want me to,” she stated.
“Robyn,” I said, “It sounds like it’s more important for Dennis to do things your way than it is to connect with him, is that right?”
“No, I want to open my heart and connect with him, but I can’t until he is accountable for his hurtful behavior.”
“You can’t or you won’t?” I asked.
Robyn was unwilling to be accountable for the fact that she was making Dennis responsible for whether or not she opened her heart. She was unwilling to take her eyes off him and put them on herself and her own intent to protect and control.
“We’re Not Going To Make It This Way”
I could see the sadness in Dennis’s eyes. “Dennis, you look sad,” I said.
“Yes, I am. I know that unless Robyn decides to open her heart, we are not going to make it as a couple. I feel too lonely with her to continue in this relationship. I don’t want to be with her if she is making me responsible for her closed heart.”
I felt sad too. I knew that these two would not make it as a couple if Robyn continues to keep her heart closed. I could see just how unloving it was to her to keep her wall up, but that she was not even open to knowing that keeping her heart closed was 100% her own choice. She was not open to seeing that she was not only being unloving to Dennis, she was also being unloving to herself.
As long as she was blaming her closed heart on Dennis’s lack of accountability, she was stuck being disconnected from both herself and from Dennis.
Join Dr. Margaret Paul for her 30-Day at-home Relationships Course: "Loving Relationships: A 30-Day Experience with Dr. Margaret Paul - For people who are partnered and people who want to be partnered."
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Photo by Qimono
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Today, notice what you do when pain comes up - especially the pain of loneliness and heartache when someone is being unloving with you. Do you get irritated, angry or judgmental? Do you resist or withdraw? Do you people-please and give yourself up? Do you numb out with food or other substances, or with activities such as TV? Notice the ways you might be avoiding your feelings rather than compassionately attending to them.
By Dr. Margaret Paul