Heart in HandI’ve spent the past four years, since the collapse of my marriage, alone, sometimes feeling the exhilaration of freedom, and other times, the sting of loneliness. Being alone and feeling lonely are often bitter companions. I was mired in the sad, mounting defeat of “failed” relationships throughout my life, including a very lonely marriage – the pathetic irony of mismatched matrimonial cellmates.

Why are we so tempted to assign absolute and mutually exclusive terms to relationships – “failed”, when broken, and “successful”, when they culminate in a lifelong marriage? I’m realizing that what I perceived as “failed’ relationships from the time I began dating as a teenager, were not necessarily “failed”, as I once thought. I’ll admit that some were far from perfect; they did not last perhaps because of an attempt to fill some gap, replace something that was missing, or to complete the other half of “me”. Most of them were actually very loving, tender, and fun!  Others had a relationship half-life that fell far short of what we each wanted, exhausted of its energy too soon, but lasting far too long on practically nothing.

I feel as though I’ve been in something analogous to rehab for the past four years – a relationship rehab. I’ve been releasing myself from that steady soporific drip – sleepwalking through relationships, and somehow deriving my self-worth from them as well. Until recently, I thought a relationship required, demanded, and prohibited certain things. When relationships ended, I believed they failed, rather than having simply ended or naturally run out. I was wrong.

What I realize now is that healthy relationships require nothing but mindfulness and unconditional love. With love, naturally, comes respect, concern and attention. These aren’t the kinds of things that require “work” when love is naturally involved. When you love someone, you respect him. When you love someone, you are concerned about him. When you love someone, you give him your attention. You give all these things without ever losing anything. In healthy relationships, the ego steps aside and gives its space entirely to love, and that’s okay. When you are ready and capable of love, it won’t require anyone outside of yourself to fill a need, take up empty space in your soul, keep you entertained, nor to complete you. You will already be whole, and have plenty to offer and plenty to receive.

I might sound idealistic, but I have to say this. In my four years of what I’m now calling “love rehab”, I’ve realized that being alone has given me the opportunity to complete myself – to look back on all my past relationships with admiration, knowing they weren’t failures… just practices. Lucky for me, many of my former boyfriends are still very much a healthy part of my life, and, to this day remain dear, dear friends. Love is not a drug, as I once thought. Relationships, however, can be terrible addictions – a drug – when one or both people are lacking something, seeking it from the other.

I’m happy and I’m closer to “whole” than I’ve ever been.

© 2011, Christine A. Handel. The author retains all permanent copyrights. Rights for single publication on Web site, Satiama.com granted by copyright holder, Christine A. Handel. No other rights are transferred.

About The Author: Christine Handel is a freelance writer living in Denver, Colo. With a degree in English from Kenyon College, Christine has worked professionally as a journalist and artist for two decades.  In 2007, Christine lost the ability to speak when her recurrent laryngeal nerve was severed during a surgery. For ten months, Christine was silent, turning inward to ask a compassionate Universe to grant her voice back. Without her voice, her personal writing flourished, and became her passage of freedom. In that silent space, Christine found her inner voice. Through months of mindfulness, meditation, hypnosis, voice therapy and Chinese medicine, Christine eventually regained her ability to speak, but never lost her ability to hear the voice within – the same voice that, prior to its loss, was drowned out by the chatter of a busy world and the inner chaos of a mind consumed by the elusive hope of the future and drowned by the heavy regret of the past. She promised to never hurt with her voice or thoughts again.  Today she lives by the philosophy that a quiet mind and a quiet tongue can create beautiful art and deeply believes that hope and presence are the liberators of dreams.