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The Courage to Love

Losing one’s mother or father at a young age, whether it’s by abandonment, parental divorce, or through death can be especially painful and has a long-term impact on many children who have the misfortune of going through this experience. The fear of risking a repeat of another unbearably painful loss has caused many to avoid committed partnerships and intimate relationships in general. Yet some survivors of early loss have chosen a commitment to having a fulfilling love life, rather than to avoid the risks. Consider the case of Janice.

Janice’s father died when she was six years old. Unsurprisingly, she was devastated by the loss. She writes: “Losing a father can skew a girls relationships with men, a bit of an understatement! Having a mother who distrusted all males didn’t help. I inherited her discomfort around the opposite sex, and combined with my low self-esteem it exacerbated the normal awkwardness of being a teen-aged girl.”

But despite her trepidation, Janice did manage to get into the dating scene in her twenties, but “I found myself making some astoundingly poor choices”. She concluded that it would be better to withdraw from the search for a partner, not because she didn’t want a relationship, but out of a sense of despair over ever being successful in the world of relationships.

On the occasion of the 35th anniversary of her Dad’s funeral when Janice was 41 years old, she drove back to her hometown where she had lived as a little girl, sat at his gravesite and wrote a letter to her father explaining the impact that his death had had on her. She read the letter to him aloud and then drove home feeling at peace.

Exactly one week later, Janice met a “kind, respectful, funny man who was captivated by me”. They shared a brief, delightful romance together until he was killed in a car accident. The shock and disappointment of this loss was a big setback for Janice. It was several years before she felt sufficiently receptive to accept a friend’s offer to go on a date with a man whom she would be in a ten-year loving relationship that ended when he experienced a fatal heart attack. At this point, Janice, not surprisingly, began to feel that “the men in my life were doomed”. Then, after accepting what seemed like the inevitable fate of being alone, Janice met a man at her gym with whom she currently shares a supportive and mutually adoring partnership.  

Janice is now 71 years old.  “I’m in a relationship with the man of my dreams. Is there a possibility that he will die before I do, and I’ll be left alone again? Of course! But I am committed to making the most of every minute that we have together.”

They say that true love ain’t for wimps, that it’s not for the faint of heart and that it takes great courage to open your heart, especially when one has so intimately known the pain of loss. Janice knew that all too well, having undergone it several times. Yet she chose to stay true to her deepest longing, even when she knew that the only way to be sure that she would never again experience another unbearable loss would be to permanently close her heart to love. Janice chose to open her heart and take her chances. That takes commitment and it takes courage. Interestingly, the root of the word “courage” is “cour” which means “heart” in Latin.

Fortunately for most of us, our commitment isn’t tested as severely as Janice’s has been, but her story reminds us that even those relationships that are “meant to be” and do last a lifetime inevitably have their share of commitment tests, and even those that have exceptionally difficult challenges can be worth the risk and the effort, even if they are cut short of our expectations. Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote: “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” I think that Janice would agree to that. Would you?


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The Courage to Love


Bloomwork

Linda Bloom LCSW and Charlie Bloom MSW are considered experts in the field of relationships. They have been married since 1972. They have both been trained as seminar leaders, therapists and relationship counselors and have been working with individuals, couples, and groups since 1975. They have been featured presenters at numerous conferences, universities, and institutions of learning throughout the country and overseas as well. They have appeared on over two hundred radio and TV programs. Linda and Charlie are co-authors of the widely acclaimed books: 101 Things I Wish I Knew When I Got Married: Simple Lessons to Make Love Last (over 100,000 copies sold) Secrets of Great Marriages: Real Truth from Real Couples about Lasting Love, and Happily Ever After...and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams. The Blooms are excited to announce the release of their fourth book, That Which Doesn't Kill Us: How One Couple Became Stronger at the Broken Places. They live in Santa Cruz, California, near their two children and three grandchildren. To view our upcoming events and to sign up for our free newsletter, visit our website at: www.Bloomwork.com


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APA Reference
Bloom, L. (2018). The Courage to Love. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 16, 2019, from https://blogs.psychcentral.com/relationship-skills/2018/12/the-courage-to-love/

 

Last updated: 26 Dec 2018
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network (blogs.psychcentral.com) prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.