This article was written by Australia Counselling member Shushann Movsessian.
Jodie is the regional manger for a large clothing chain. At 38, life on the whole, is pretty good, except for that constant gnawing feeling that she is missing her soul mate. She feels she is finally in a really good job that pays well and is very satisfying and diverse. She’s close to her mum and talks to her on the phone every week, has great friends, has finally saved enough to put a deposit on her own home. Like many women her age, she lives alone and coming home into her empty flat after a long day at work gives her a sharp tight, pang in the pit of her stomach. It’s a familiar feeling that she’s had for sometime now. She recognises it as loneliness.
She sits down and turns the TV on and contemplates a glass of wine. Her reward, she tells herself, after a hard day’s work. She feels a wave of longing move through, she would dearly love someone to come home to, someone to ask her about her day, give her a hug and maybe even share a glass of wine with her.
She’s been single for over three years now after a series of hits and misses with guys who weren’t really there for her. She couldn’t understand this because she spent so much time trying to work out what they wanted, trying to please them, trying to be the woman they said they were looking for. The last guy she was with really knocked her confidence and trust in men when she discovered he’d been surfing the Internet dating sites while they were going out. She felt she was always the one calling or texting trying to meet up and connect. It seemed the more she did this the more distant he became. She really couldn’t understand the stuckness she felt.
She was an intelligent, good looking, financially independent woman. All her friends knew her as an incredibly generous person. So what was going on? After the last guy, Jodie decided it was time to take a look at the recurring pattern in her relationships with a counsellor. It became quickly apparent that, like many of us, Jodie had a big inner part of herself that was highly critical of herself. She didn’t find herself very loveable.
If she didn’t find herself loveable how was it that she expecting someone else to? She’d spent a lot of time giving to and pursuing relationships with guys who weren’t really interested. Hoping that, one day, someone might give back to her. She was hoping to meet someone who would love her in ways that she wasn’t able to love herself. Naturally, how she felt about herself, and treated herself, was often reflected in the partners she was attracted to. They simply mirrored how she felt about herself, which got in the way of her beginning a new relationship.
How Jodie began to change her love map
The first step for Jodie was to stop and notice when guys weren’t really into her. To notice this earlier rather than later and stop the constant giving and pursuing cycle. Next, Jodie started to consciously work on addressing the critical voice inside of her that believed she was unworthy of love. She started to learn to listen to her vulnerability and neediness with a more compassionate ear. This was the beginning of loving from the inside.
Listening to her needs with compassion and responding with kindness and love, rather than dismissing them. She also started to take risks and reach out for the support of friends who loved her and allowing them to give to her. Strengthening this compassionate, self-caring part of herself on a daily basis meant that Jodie was being the loving, kind, attentive partner that she was longing for.
Jodie started to love herself for the first time
Initially making time for her own pleasure felt selfish. Her counsellor had to agree with her – yes, she did need to be more self-ish rather than other-ish, given that her focus on others’ needs was way out of balance. She needed to even things out. There was a deficit in her self-care bank. It was running on empty. Too many withdrawals and not a enough deposits. Jodie starting to explore and get to know what her needs actually were. What was it that gave her pleasure, nurtured her and made her happy?
She decided to make a special vow to herself that she would never leave herself, especially when she was down, hurt or vulnerable. She would listen to her needs and take her needs seriously. She was learning to open her heart and soul to herself and see her own lovability. When she got home she didn’t go straight for the TV, she lit some candles instead and put some beautiful music on.
She bought herself flowers every week and started to go to yoga classes rather than working back late all the time. She was actually having more fun in her life and she wasn’t always thinking about missing out and needing a partner. It wasn’t surprising then, when she met a new guy at her bush-walking club. He genuinely seemed to like her and really wanted to hang out with her. In fact, he seemed to be initiating the phone calls and the texting. It was a huge change to have someone pursuing her. There was quite a long courtship and, difficult as it was at times, Jodie really allowed herself to be cared for – and allowed herself to be pursued a little.
Loving ourselves is the essential non-negotiable ingredient for every soulful journey in finding our beloved. To love another is the ultimate expression of grace. Who we choose as our love partner is probably one of the most important choices of our adult lives. It is a decision worthy of our utmost attention, self-awareness and intelligence. I believe that the yearning we feel from the depths of our beings for our beloved is our soul speaking.
The reality of a soul mate
Many of us speak of wanting a soul mate or soulful partnership, or a soul connection when referring to our need for profound love. The word ‘soul’ isn’t used here in any religious context, but within a more contemporary psychological framework developed by Carl G. Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. Jung’s description of soul refers to our deepest ways of sensing ourselves, others, and the world.
The soulful path is one of reaching our potential as unique individuals. When we think of soulful experiences that have stayed with us over time we may be reminded of those simple single acts we’ve experienced in life such as the first time we smelt the fragrance of a rose, our first kiss, or music that suddenly moves us to tears. Soul may also be experienced as a deep force within us that connects us to others and the world and that is slowly moving us along in life. Over the last 30 years the zeitgeist or spirit of the times has altered the reasons why we are entering relationship.
Both men and women no longer seek marriage just for economic security and having children. While these are important, there is a search also for depth of connection and emotional intimacy, for someone with whom we can grow emotionally, sexually and spiritually. Women have greater economic independence, are better educated, and are often involved in careers that are creative, stimulating and satisfying. Nowadays men are more attuned to their emotional needs, are interested in developing their whole selves, and desire equality in their relationships with women.
The essence of soul is love. Love makes it possible to believe in and create possibilities from the unknown, even in times of despair. To start with we need to change the focus we put on the language of love. Very often, love is spoken of as being ‘out there’, and that our job is to ‘find it’ in order that we can have some of it.
In seeking love we can come from the view that suggests we have a hole within us needing filling by someone else. If only we had found love or were loved by someone we’d be okay. This can feel elusive and even disappointing if we feel we’ve been searching for a long time and can’t find this love.
How to take a soulful approach to love
To take a more soulful approach is to start looking at love as something that is already inside of us. In order to nurture it we need to connect to it in ourselves consistently and live this experience as an outward gesture. The more we engage in the world through our inner experience of love, the more we experience love.
Taking responsibility for nurturing this love in ourselves allows us to move closer towards intimate, loving, soulful connection with another. This is easier than it sounds. Yes, you read right. Easier than it sounds. Many of us want love yet don’t have a clear sense of what it actually is, feels like, or requires of us. Getting clear is the first step and can lead us to more than one soul mate in our lives, although for many of us we’d be thrilled to meet just one person we were deeply compatible with.
Taking a soulful approach starts with our own profound experience of love and connecting to this requires use of our heartfelt imagination and inner work.
A soulful meditation
Take a moment now to connect to your own soulful experience of love by sitting somewhere quiet and reflecting on the following questions: Who would you be if you experienced true love in partnership? Where you’d be, what sounds are around you, how you’d look, how you’d feel. What would this love transform in you? How would you be different in the world if you knew deep abiding love? Take some time to go into this experience, let it infuse your imagination, your thoughts and feelings.
Begin to feel this love in your heart and allow it to radiate out through your whole body. With each in-breath breathe in love through your heart and with each out-breath let it radiate out through your body like a rippling wave in a pond. Feel this experience warm your heart and body. Feel the love flow through you and let it flow and expand out through your body into the world. Start by filling it into the room you’re in, then spread it to the suburb you live in, the city you live in, the country you live in, out and up into the sky, into our solar system, the Universe. Now breathe that back in. Connect to the love that is out in the Universe, in the world, in your suburb, in the house or block of units you live in and breath it back in. Feel the warmth, bathe in the feeling of love flowing from the Universe to you and through you. Allow yourself to lie or sit there in that feeling of love flowing through you and from the Universe to you.
When you are ready slowly open your eyes, gently sit up and take time to write down your thoughts and feelings. This is the groundwork for how we can operate in the world now. It is the starting point of living love as an outward gesture in the world. This is the first step, possibly the most important, on the soulful path to love. Most of us usually need to work consciously towards reclaiming or expanding our ability to love due to the many wounds we have sustained along the way, often from an early age. Our love and self-knowledge can be developed through a journey of inner reflection, therapy, being in nature, meditative practices, doing service.
If you are struggling with being single or finding a partner, you may benefit from working with a relationship counsellor. Australia Counselling has relationship and marriage counsellors in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and regionals areas of Australia. Visit our relationship and marriage counselling page to search for a relationship counsellor or marriage therapist in your area.