I Fell In Love And It’s Been Fucking Hard


Henri Pham

Not that I wasn’t looking for it, praying for it, and writing poems about it.

That turned out to be the easiest part. The part where you are single and writing lists of what you want in a partner. Or even daydreaming about sharing this ocean view bar bottle of wine with that someone who gets you.

I also prepared myself for the challenging parts: the anxiety at the beginning of a relationship that stems from childhood abandonment trauma. I read books on relationships including Gottman’s classic 7 principles of making marriage work, and If the Buddha Dated. I processed all my previous relationships with friends, my therapist and on Medium. Over and over.

But when love storms through your protective walls, you are left with no choice, but to fall and rise. I did not choose who to fall in love with, and how and when it happened. It just happened despite the circumstances that were not ideal at the time.

And I freaked out. Like literally. Embarrassingly.

All my learning, awareness and maturity faded in the mud of my fears. Basically, things got messy in my head.

I became hyper-sensitive i.e. if he did not return my text I would assume he found out I am not good at love and has immigrated to another continent. Yes those crazy stories, became the norm.

I cried uncontrollably. Like a child. In front of him. which means…

…I was in shame about my uncontrollable tears for they were disproportionate. Example: we went to a concert, and he would not dance with me or look at me, or give me attention. Tears streamed down my face, and I felt the urge to want to run away.

I pushed him away. When he did not give me what I needed, although he did not know what I needed always, I expected him to read through my lines of poetry, I told him why we are not a good match, and how he should be with someone else.

I showed him my jealousy. Yes it is normal to feel jealous from an ex who is texting. I stalked the ex. Had him explain everything about their relationship to me. Questioned his words. Fought with him about it. Compared myself to her. Drove us nuts.

All the relationship no-nos became instant yes-yes.

Until we hit a point, where we both knew this can’t keep going this way. Here is what I learned from that short time of reflection:

1. Abandonment trauma is REAL and very COMPLEX. There is a reason they call it complex PTSD. Basically, when you are abandoned as a child emotionally, or abused verbally or physically, or neglected, you do not develop a secure attachment and therefore it is very hard to trust people or feel safe in general. When we fall in love we get very close very quickly with someone. Which means we get scared they might hurt us, by leaving us. In my case, my trauma was so intense, that it took over in the form of flashbacks into my traumatic moments of abandonment, which involved almost being murdered (More in my upcoming book). My tears were tears of a child, who was so very alive in me.

2. Which means, explaining this to my partner was key in getting him to support me when I was having these PTSD flashbacks. Continuing the healing process is necessary with or without a relationship. I recommitted to my therapy work, and self-love habits.

3. It is the dynamic stupid. It is important for the other person to examine how they are contributing to the insecurity. There is you, them and the dynamic. It turns out that we were playing in a dynamic where the partner would distance, which would trigger my fears further. Each person taking responsibility is key.

4. Mourning is precious. With every relationship comes the opportunity of mourning what we did not get from our parents, or what we expected from a relationship. This person in our life becomes as close as our parents are. We have the tendency to project on them our anger, shame and grief. Remembering that mourning is liberating and it is ok to cry. So take the time to love and mourn, they are sides of the same coin.

5. Staying humble. This experience has been showing me that despite all my self work, I am still a very messy human, and it is important to keep loving myself in my lowest. It also taught me that I can learn a lot from a partner, even if they are not on an explicit personal growth path.

6. Recognizing my light. I reflected on what I bring to someone’s life in terms of joy, laughter, excitement and passion. On how far I have come. The voice of shame tends to take over. I started developing the voice of the moon, the mother in me.

When I started looking at our relationship as a place for me to heal, and also allow myself to enjoy giving and receiving love, being cared for and caring for another, things started shifting. I do not know what the future holds, but I am committed to sticking around even when things get hard. Because they will. And then they get easy again. TC mark



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