Push / Pull

Dear world,

I came to a difficult realization this morning, that I have difficulty when it comes to loving another human being. I can actually love very well and have made great strides in this area, in terms of being affectionate, communicating proactively, listening and attending to the words and needs of another, and even in opening up the pores of my heart so that another can be absorbed in and bathed. My difficulty, however, lies in the fact that there is a push/pull game that gets played out over and over in my life. I will want to be close with someone, and then once I am close to them, there will often arise a desire to push them away, to be separate from. Once they are sufficiently away, then there is room for my wanting them again.

I’ve realized in the past that to assuage this demon within me, I have often become a master of keeping women at an optimal distance. Not too close, not too far, and have many skills and tactics with which to accomplish this. Lately, I’ve been more open to a deeper closeness which I think opens up the capacity for a stronger push away. The push away doesn’t need to be in the form of a complete separation however, just some space, some time alone, some time in my own individual world.

Women who are a little more aloof or independent are easier for me for they often may be creating that distance themselves so that I needn’t do so. Also, relationships where the end is in sight can actually be safer for me and allow me to put myself forward more easily.

I started having an insight this morning into how perhaps to heal this, or live with it, or somehow make it through this so that I don’t continue to catch others up within this behavior. The idea has to do with awareness. I have learned in my life the skill, the capacity, to sit with a feeling and not have it run me. Simply watching the feeling, really. This particular one is a little trickier for me because the feelings that arise aren’t just emotions such as fear or anxiety, or sadness, but they actually affect my feelings towards another. For example, after too much time or closeness (“too much” here is very subjective and can be very difficult to predict or measure), the urge for space can arise within me. When it arises and I am not actively conscious about it, my tendency is to separate somehow physically, either just pulling away subtly through quietness or busyness, leaving the proximity of the other, or emotionally disconnecting to create that space on a more inner level. If I am not careful, it can also cloud my perceptions of the other person completely, moving me from love and appreciation one minute to some degree of disregard or dislike the next.

At the moment, I’m thinking that it might be possible to really be with these feelings as they arise and simply witness them as feelings, rather than identifying with them and having them control me. It would take a lot of effort, for as I mentioned earlier, these feelings cloud my reality and make me believe and see the things that they whisper in my ear. It would almost be akin to ignoring the cold outside and forcing yourself to believe that it’s warm as you walk through the street.. Not completely, of course, but in a way it would be like that. I truly want to be aware of all of this as its happening, and heal it through gentle loving attention and awareness.

This is a big piece of what I’ve lately been so hesitant to write about on this blog. It’s obviously very personal, but it’s also something I really want to change, so I’m finally taking the step of putting it out here. I want to bring it to the light of day, for myself mostly, but for anyone else who cares or is curious enough to read. I really want to love another well and I’m not as good at is as I’d like. While I have developed a deep capacity for loving others in my life, which brings a great richness to my everyday experience and hopefully to the lives of others, and while I truly strive to love everyone and every living thing on this planet, when it comes to more intimate relationships I have this push/pull handicap which has haunted me and others close to me for too long. Wish me luck in cultivating a greater moment to moment awareness of this as it arises in my life and the courage to address it rather than acting it out.

7 replies on “Push / Pull”

Hi there, I'm Diane's friend Sally, married 15 years almost, and I just call it the ebb and flow of love… I am sure you aren't afflicted but absolutely human .. when you are an individual in a relationship its like two full balloons pushing together in a box, sometimes you need to lift off the lid and escape for a bit of space, other times that coziness feels, well, welcome… the ocean waves and tides should remind you of this cycle… take your cues from nature, after all you're a natural cat. Peace.Love. Sally xo

Oh, now I have to re-create my comment after signing in — Ok, so Ted, I am also Diane's friend, Eileen.
Am on week 6 of a 10-week break from a fellow who is 'run' by these terrors, and has the greatest ideological 'reasons' for eliding 'definitions' but ultimately feels like an eel to be with… Have been SO gratified by the experience that once I declared my utter clarity on the subject that no, I don't need unfun roller-coaster rides, and yes, ambivalence is inevitable, moments of hatred even an aspect of love, that i am not interested on 'workaholically' perfecting 'relationship' but AM absolutely committed to consistency of presence, or more precisely dedication to return to presence, including ability to cop to when i have been or am unable to be present – there be these MEN who “get it” and are on the same path. We develop these vestigial defense-systems for damn good reasons. AND it is safe to let light, space, choicefulness in. I am willing to believe that I can both 'be myself,' whoever that changing person is, and be always relating, whether to me, nature/'the universe,' , friends, a lover…And solitude is part of intimacy. And i suddenly feel shy-preachy(judgment) Main point: THX for being a brave guy, all best wishes esh

Thanks Sally, no offense taken at all. I appreciate your comments. I agree with you and love the metaphor of the balloons pushing against each other in a box. Hopefully like a crab and it's shell, we can keep shedding the box in favor of a larger one which contains our expansion.

Eileen, I love that you corrected yourself from wanting a “commitment to consistency of presence” in relationship to a “dedication to return to presence.” I couldn't agree more. We are human and all have our issues, idiosyncrasies, peculiarities, hang ups, even pathologies, yet can we be committed to being as conscious as we are capable of and always returning to that place, hopefully within our supportive “balloon box.”

I'm so relived to be talking about this stuff. So much easier than to just be wallowing in shame, or worse yet, in unconscious behaviors.

great post Ted. I was five minutes ago missing you & was going to e-mail you “what's up” & then I read your blog & had one of the most satisfactory exploration of the contents of your mind. I think I already knew all this about you anyway. I think you resemble every man I have ever loved and also I suspect the man I have been. Oh yeah, you don't believe in past-lives! Yet!
I am sure your meditation on all this will benefit us all immensely.
Perhaps the ebb and flow between men & women is the future and the end of co-dependence. Who knows.
Heh but I'm still missing you this exact minute, love willow

I've read this piece several times now, and it is very important that you recognize the tug, and are moving to find alternate ways to resolve it…

That said, the causal factors are missing, as are the reasons why you are unable to reconnect after you have taken your space.

Perhaps you have explored them and they are too personal… the push/pull was a perpetual part of my life (to some degree), for roughly 38 years of my life. My mother, with her many issues, was the master of it. I can remember getting sucked in; trusting; and then WHAM… inexplicable hurt.

I began dealing with the fallout from that after I moved away from Southern California where she lived… it took many years to heal the hurt, and it was only when she was dying that I spent 6 months with her realizing I had never really healed the hurt, but rather scabbed over it. Talk about facing your demons! :p

My time with her, coupled with my own 19 years of distance, allowed me to be more subjective. For her part, she had been abandoned as a child; never wanted to have children of her own; and seemingly felt a huge amount of conflict between her selfish aspects and her maternal instincts.

My being able to reconcile for myself that there was nothing I could have ever done to have “made her love me” as a child or adult, was key to being able to accept her for who she was… and it really added an important layer to the way I see people as well: less simplistic and with a much higher degree of love and acceptance.

What do you see as the meaning of the quote: kill them with kindness?

For me, it's a message to look for the underlying reasons why someone is mean; selfish; defensive; etc… not to change them or to make them feel like they HAVE TO be nice to you, but to experience a deeper understanding of their spirit, so you can accept them despite the fact that they are, in a sense, broken. When you can do this, they drop the rope they have been tugging on.

When you went on your train ride and made those conscious efforts to connect with people, did you find that your need for autonomy that day not only lessened, but that you had a stronger desire for the deeper connection of someone special?

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