Learning to Love Again
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by Mel Krantzler
Category: Self Improvement
Description: From Mel Krantzler, a licensed marriage and family counselor, the nationally-acclaimed, bestselling author of CREATIVE DIVORCE, and Director of the Creative Divorce/Learning To Love Again Counseling Centers comes another insightful, helpful and energizing book that brings hope to those emotionally devastated by the loss of a love. What happens next? Just when you thought it would never happen again, love comes back into your life. You can survive the explosive realities that losing love brings but how do you know when, and if, you're ready for love again. Are you having trouble finding the "right" man or woman. Are you afraid of making another "mistake"? Do you keep getting involved in short-term relationships? Are you beginning to think that finding love is a matter of luck? Mel Krantzler has led ongoing seminars on the subject of finding love and LEARNING TO LOVE AGAIN and provides clear guidelines and challenging steps that lead from loneliness to love. --The Remembered-Pain Stage--absorbing a blow from the past --The Questing-Experimental Stage--surveying the possibilities --The Selective-Distancing Stage--a cautious step forward --The Creative-Commitment Stage--where enduring love begins Mel Krantzler draws on the real stories of real people who are learning to love again, to live together, to marry, to be step-parents and to build satisfying new lives. He shares his experiences in applying the principles of creative commitment to his own remarriage. LEARNING TO LOVE AGAIN is the best guide for married, single or divorced men and women. Here's how you can create a new beginning by learning to love again today!
eBook Publisher: E-Reads/E-Reads, 1977
eBookwise Release Date: February 2011
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [309 KB]
Reading time: 206-288 min.
INTRODUCTION: BEYOND CREATIVE DIVORCE
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Seven years ago I joined the ranks of twenty million other divorced men and women in our country who were trying to shape new lives for themselves. I was totally unprepared for the explosive emotional realities of the first year of my divorce experience. Later I found out that I was not alone but one of millions in the divorced community who were living in the same kind of stunned disarray as I was.
Out of my experience as a human being in pain and my professional experience as a counselor in human relations, I established Creative Divorce Seminars in colleges for people like myself who wished to learn from their past in order to improve the quality of their present life. To "create" means to make something new--to put to effective use the inborn abilities each of us possesses in the form of intelligence, capacity for survival and risk-taking, and ability to transform self-defeating habits into constructive behavior. A "creative" divorce, therefore, meant opening up the possibility that divorce could be more than just an ending, a downhill slide to nowhere: It could also be an opportunity to create a new beginning for oneself.
My Creative Divorce Seminars, which I established on the West Coast in 1971, were designed primarily to help people like myself who were in the early throes of the divorce experience, the men and women who were separated or divorced for less than two years. My book Creative Divorce: A New Opportunity for Personal Growth, published in 1974, shared the results of my work and was written to help people when they needed help the most--when things were falling apart inside and outside themselves during the early stages of their divorce.
But what happens to the people who have pretty well come to terms with their divorce after two or three years of living a single life, the people who have used the trauma of their divorce experience to grow from a half person into a whole person? The need for "something more" begins to enter their lives. This was best expressed by Janet, a woman in her mid-thirties, who recently told me in a half-apologetic way: "You know, I've been divorced three and a half years and it no longer bothers me--that's truly in the past now. My life is in pretty good shape. I like my job--I'm a department store advertising manager--and my kids aren't hassling me like they did. They've accepted our new life and we really enjoy each other. I've made a number of good new friends, so I can't say I'm lonely. I've had some short-term affairs, which sort of dribbled away even though the sex was very pleasurable. But something seems to be happening to me recently. I'm beginning to feel as if there is a real lack in my life; it's sort of like a dull ache inside that won't go away. What I'm saying is that I'm number two or three with lots of people, but what I also want to be is Number One with just one person. But that seems like a hopeless wish."
Janet's remarks struck a chord of remembrance in me. She seemed to feel just like I had felt in the third year of my divorce. The pieces of my life, by that time, had been formed into a newer and brighter pattern. However, that same push of feeling Janet was experiencing suddenly began to demand attention inside me: A shiny, look-to-the-future kind of feeling that had funny-peculiar, anxiety-ridden, apologetic overtones surrounding it. And the "dull ache" seemed to deaden the glistening promise of that need to experience a new kind of relationship, a trustworthy, unique, intimate relationship with one special person of the opposite sex--a lasting love relationship.
What I subsequently learned from my own experience (and what Janet is currently learning) is that this feeling of "a real lack" in one's life meant I was ready to open myself up to the possibility of loving and being loved again. It was the beginning of a new beginning for me, which led from the hope to the reality. And since I am no more and no less a human being than anyone else on this planet, I know my experiences are more frequently the rule than the exception for the many, many other men and women who have faced the same dilemmas and struggled toward the same solutions. This book you are reading is being written for people like Janet and the person I was--for you men and women who are beginning to feel the want and need of a special love relationship in your life and yet may be conflicted and confused about acknowledging that want and need to yourself and others. You also may be sensing a readiness in yourself to experience a profoundly satisfying intimacy, yet somehow believe intimacy may be unattainable.
It is no accident that this desire for a trustworthy love relationship edges toward the center stage in our lives after the first years of our divorce. For this new readiness inside ourselves for a mature, intimate connection with a person of the opposite sex is the natural next step in our growth as human beings. This desire for love is quite different from the poisonous needs so many of us felt in the first two years of our divorce--the need to be needed because you feel you are worthless. The need to get married again immediately for the sake of the children or for economic security or to end loneliness or to satisfy the desire for decent home cooking. And the need to convince ourselves that this mixture of desperation is love" when we meet a presentable-looking person who might prove to be a willing receptacle for our impossible demands. Nor can a mature desire for love blossom in those of us who believe in the initial stages of divorce that love is a betrayal of yourself, a snare, and a delusion. At that time we are experiencing the overwhelming pain of love turned sour and are convinced that any and all attempts to love again will inevitably lead to a new curdling of our soul.
The recently divorced people who jump quickly into pseudo-intimate relationships out of a fear that they cannot survive alone--and the others who lock the door to the possibility of establishing new, authentically intimate relationships out of a fear that they will be "destroyed" again--are mirror-images of each other. They need the space and time and self-understanding that is necessary to fertilize the barren soil inside themselves. The fertilizer for that soil is freely available for all who wish to obtain it, as I demonstrated in Creative Divorce. It is learning to accept the fact that each and every one of us is a person of value and competence in our own right. It is experiencing the reality that we can connect with, love, and trust our capacities to survive in this world as sensitive, caring, capable human beings.
To learn to love yourself, perhaps for the first time in our life, is to end one vital and necessary stage in our development and to begin a new stage in our growth. It is the precondition for learning to love others again and learning to love in new ways.
When we reach this stage we find it is both an ending and a beginning. It is an end to our own false belief that we are not decent and capable persons in our own right. And it is a beginning or our realization that we have the capacity to love and be loved again by others and want and need that kind of love. Small wonder the well of mixed feelings (the sense of being pushed and pulled and empty and anxious all at the same time) that stirs inside of us! New adventures in life are awaiting us and we simmer with uncertainty over the dangers as well as the opportunities that perhaps are lurking around the next corner of our life.
Yet deep inside us, we know that what we want is right for us and that no apology or denial is needed. It is neither shameful nor hopeless, neither fairy-tale fantasy nor romantic foolishness to acknowledge the desire to reach out and love again. The healthy part of yourself is searching for a special kind of enriching fulfillment that is not afforded by other options in life, no matter how valuable those other options may be.
It is no accident that four out of five divorced men and women eventually remarry, and more than one million of them each year make that choice. Dr. Helen Singer Kaplan says:
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"Most people would probably be happiest in a gentle, committed, intimate relationship that is also sexually satisfying. I think human beings are a bonding species--not all species are. Some species bond for only half an hour during the mating season; others, for a lifetime. We have no way of knowing what our natural bonding pattern is--what we are actually programmed for--because economic and social pressures have always demanded lifetime bonding....
"I've seen people happy together for a lifetime. I have also seen people who tired of one another after three or four years. I don't know the answer. But my guess--and it is only a guess--would be that most people are comfortable as married couples."[endnote 1]
The disturbing world you and I live in, by negative example, validates our desire for fulfillment and growth through a loving relationship. We all feel a lack of trust in our society's leaders and institutions. Who and what can we count on? Instability is king when a stable job might disappear next week or next month and the prices in the supermarket won't even remain the same next week. Hypocrisy, lies, ripoffs, double-talk, and double standards seem to be the only certain definition of our times--all combining to create a sense of isolation, disorientation, victimization, and powerlessness inside us. But feeling every person is an enemy until he or she proves otherwise makes us less than human. Distrust, apathy, hate, frustration, and bitterness are qualities that will starve and destroy us if we allow them to be our daily bread. It is no solution to become the evil we react against to allow that to happen violates the desire for positive growth that inheres in each of us from the time we were born to the time we die. We want to become more human rather than less, as Bertolt Brecht writes in a favorite poem of mine:
* * * *
On my wall hangs a Japanese carving,
The mask of an evil demon, decorated with gold lacquer
Sympathetically I observ
The swollen veins of the forehead, indicatin
What a strain it is to be evil.
The disarray in our society is telling each of us that when we lose our faith in the values we have lived by but have taken for granted, life becomes less than bearable. We may never have concerned ourselves with how much we need trust and stability, honesty and dependability, self-respect and respect for others, commitment and love in our lives until these values were almost bludgeoned to death by Watergate, Vietnam, depression, and big-brother government I see this jolt to our complacency as a healthy learning experience because it has forced us to realize that a life lived without these values is little more than a vegetable existence.
In today's world these basic human values rightfully assume paramount importance in our lives, since they are the means by which we can prevent the menacing forces in our society from transforming us into ciphers without the will to improve the quality of our lives. Each of us has the potential to live the reality of these values because they reside within us; they are as much a part of who we are as the heartbeat in our chest. If society is attacking these values, we can build a fortress within ourselves to withstand the attack by taking as our starting point that which we have the power to do something positive about, namely ourselves. For we can improve our understanding of ourselves. Our greater understanding of ourselves then enables us to change our reactions to the world around us, the way we relate to ourselves and others, and in doing so change our personal world for the better.
Nowhere is the truth of these statements more in evidence than in the lives of those of us who have experienced divorce. We find ourselves, after the earlier painful years of separation, surviving effectively in ways we had never thought possible, proving in practice to ourselves and others that we are separate individuals of value and capability. However, after that proving-time takes place, something else happens. It is the "something else" that happened to Janet and to me--the emergence of the need for something more in our lives. And that need is for a monogamous love relationship, a need that has nothing to do with our divorce as such. But it has everything to do with the next stage in our growth as human beings. For it is through this kind of love that the values that create vitality and promise in our life can flourish. Trust and stability, honesty and dependability, self-respect and respect for others, commitment and caring, all become possible in a sharing love relationship.
However, this need is a blessing that comes in strange disguises for the divorced because it opens us up once again to the possibility of pain, vulnerability, rejection, and the loss of personal identity. Indeed I found that I had opened up an unexpected Pandora's box of anxiety-provoking feelings. Arguments that were trying to protect me from scary feelings of vulnerability kept racing through my head. Perhaps you too have heard or are hearing those arguments inside yourself. They go like this: Why take the risk of loving again since the last time that happened the relationship ended like an open wound? To love again would mean more pain, since loving deeply is a loser's game. Living together means being swallowed up, devoured or dissolved, doesn't it? Besides, where is there a person around to love? The chances of meeting someone are less than zero. And if by some miracle, meeting that someone should happen, the love couldn't last. Everything ends in game-playing manipulation or apathy. Better by far to close the lid on the Pandora's box of love....
I recall that at that time those arguments sounded inside me as if they were true, but even so I couldn't quite believe them. For no matter how plausible they seemed, they also felt curiously unpersuasive, cold, and discomfiting. I felt they led to a dead end, for they buried hope and possibility in my life. I was killing off a part of myself, indeed the best part of myself, when I denied the possibility that loving and being loved might enter my fife again.
Since I believe that every person (and that includes myself and you who are reading this chapter) has the power to change and grow for the better at any time in life, regardless of age, I refused to let those negative arguments dead-end my life. The reason I am writing this book is because I believe that you too may be searching for positive rather than negative solutions. If you feel you want "something more" in your life, you are quite right in being unwilling to settle for something less. For it is possible and realistic to learn to love again in new ways. And it is possible and realistic for you to use that new knowledge to reach out, find, and experience a profoundly satisfying love relationship. This book explores these possibilities in detail. They are possibilities I had to learn in my own personal life.
Three years after my own divorce my need to love again surfaced inside myself and clashed with those arguments that counseled hopelessness. The way I resolved those arguments in favor of taking the risk of learning to love again and meeting, living with, and then marrying a woman named Patricia Biondi, who had experienced divorce after an eighteen-year marriage, is explored in this book. Pat and I found that we felt the same needs, hopes, desires, fears, and hesitations that thousands of other divorced people continue to feel and don't quite know how to handle, just as we didn't know at the start of our relationship.
As a result of our experiences, and because I am also a divorce adjustment counselor, I began to find that an overwhelming need exists among other not so-recently divorced men and women for help in dealing with this new development in their fives. They want to advance to the next stage in their lives, now that their divorce has been resolved in their feelings, and yet may feel blocked, frustrated, or at a dead end inside themselves. I therefore established Learning to Love Again Seminars three years ago at my Creative Divorce National Counseling Center to work with these people, just as I had previously established Creative Divorce Seminars to work with the recently divorced. In these new seminars, in which my wife and I are co-leaders, the not-so-recently divorced learn how to make fresh starts and to put into practice constructively their desire to learn to love again. In each of these seminars, six men and six women gather together and share their experiences in ten one-and-a-half-hour sessions. They come from all walks of life and their ages range from the middle twenties to the early sixties. They are the people who say at the start of these seminars that they can't find a special person to love, trust, and respect; that they feel frightened about loving again; that they have recently been involved in a living-together arrangement or a remarriage that turned sour; that they back away from an intimate relationship; that each new relationship seems to start off on the wrong foot. But they all agree that they want that "something more" in their lives that will make their lives more fulfilling and meaningful, and they are searching for ways in which to turn this hope into a reality.
This book is the product of these seminar experiences. In this book you will find the real-life stories, conflicts, dilemmas, and resolutions of people, including myself and my wife, Pat, who may have been in the same place inside themselves that you may be now. Many have taken one step further and I am writing this book in the hope that the perspective, ideas, suggestions, and guidelines it presents can be of personal help to you in taking that one step further.
As a not-so-recently divorced person you have found you are rich in resources for self-renewal in the way you have survived and come to terms with your divorce. But beyond the creative resolution of divorce problems lies a whole new world of challenges and opportunities which await you for the taking. Now is the time to once again put to use your capacity for making constructive changes, this time in response to your expanding desire to allow yourself to experience a reentry of commitment, sharing, intimacy, and love in your life.
The progress you will make toward establishing a stable love relationship will be dependent, to a major extent, on your recognition of the route that leads to such a relationship. Taking that route involves your coming to an awareness that there are four stages to learning to love again which not-so-recently divorced people experience. The living through of one stage sets in motion the possibility of progressing to the next and higher stage. However, whether or not you progress depends on your ability to identify the traps, detours, and signposts along the route of your journey. This book will present you with a detailed understanding of these four stages which I have identified as The Remembered-Pain Stage, The Questing-Experimental Stage, The Selective-Distancing Stage, and The Creative-Commitment Stage.
Each of you will respond to this new challenge to love again in your own unique way. I hope, however, that you will see something of yourself in the experiences of myself, my wife, and the many members of my Learning to Love Again Seminars that appear in this book. The perspective and guidelines you will find in the following chapters are not limited in application to the not-so-recently divorced. It is my hope that people in fundamentally sound marriages that need revitalization--as well as people who are single, widowed, or remarried--will derive equal help from this book.
I see this book as a sharing experience, with you sharing yourself with the issues and people I am writing about. In the process we both, perhaps, can enrich each other's life. And since I am asking you to share, I must take the first step. The starting point, then, begins in the next chapter which tells my personal story of how I began to learn to love again.