What can your anger teach you about yourself for better relationships?
Falling in love is awesome. And sometimes it’s awful. I’ve had a few pretty bad relationships in my time, and lately I’ve been able to identify certain patterns that have come up time and again. Many times I’ve chosen partners who aren’t willing or able to show up for me, and then I wait much longer than I should hoping they’ll come around. It seems to take me forever to let certain people go. In recent years, however, I’ve learned a secret superpower: how to break the bad love spell.
Over and over again in my life I’ve gotten the advice to “just get over it,” to move on, to find someone better. I’ve tried to follow that advice, but have you ever willed your heart to feel something it doesn’t feel? It’s not a thing. We don’t have control over how we feel, but we do have some control over our behaviors.
Often in our bad love spells, we’re replaying the dramas of our childhoods, trying to heal old wounds in new ways. It doesn’t work, so we break up and try again. We can break up with the wrong guy all day, however, but we’ll just end up dating a similar one all over again unless we change something about the self. What has worked for me is changing my behaviours within my relationships. It tends to either change the relationship for the better or end it altogether—which is also for the better.
The surprising sidekick I picked up along the way of becoming a bad-love-spell-breaker is my anger. We live in a culture that fears and abhors anger, and in many spiritual circles it’s seen as an unwholesome emotion that we should immediately transform into compassion. When we can work with, rather than against, our anger, however, it can help us let go of the bad relationships and become stronger in the good ones.
Anger almost always indicates that either a boundary is being crossed or that a need is not being met. My old pattern was swallowing my anger and never asking for what I needed. If I never acknowledged my own needs, I could stay, because maybe things would somehow magically get better one day. If I clearly stated my needs, on the other hand, and they still didn’t get met, I might have to look the truth in the face that this relationship isn’t working.
As scary as that can be, it’s exactly what I do now. I let my anger teach me about my needs and boundaries, and then I communicate those things. There’s no need to yell or accuse the other person of anything—no one is obligated to meet my needs, no matter how committed the relationship. It’s my responsibility to learn the difference between my needs and preferences and communicate them, making compromises on preferences and holding a hard line with needs. When that communication is clear as day, I’m no longer in a position to passively wait and hope. I can see with my own eyes whether or not my partners are willing and able to meet me where I’ve asked. If they don’t, I can walk away, no need to look back.
Getting honest with myself and my others about what I need has been empowering for me, and though it was scary at first, my relationships are more satisfying and less stressful now. Most of us want to meet our partner’s needs, but we can’t do it if we don’t know what they are. Needs and boundaries are about the self, not the other. I know how to take care of myself, and if someone doesn’t meet my needs it’s not so painful: it just is what it is. Everyone has their capacities and no one is obligated to do things the way I want them to. My responsibility is simply to ask. This simple boundary magic is, for me, the secret key to breaking the bad love spell.