By Krystal Kuehn, MA, LPC, LLP, NCC
If someone were to throw a punch at you, you would likely try
to defend yourself from getting hit. And if you were to feel the
heat of a flaming fire, you would keep yourself far enough
away to avoid getting burned. Self-preservation comes naturally as no one wants to experience pain and injury. So threats to our well-being motivate us to distance ourselves from anything with the potential to harm us. It is a necessary and reasonable response in many situations.
Relationships are no different. When we feel hurt or unloved we pull away from people in our lives. We distance ourselves in an effort to protect ourselves from more pain and injury. We may do this in a number of ways. It is often very subtle to start. We might keep ourselves busy and away from the person(s) who hurt us. We might not open ourselves up to sharing what is on our minds and hearts anymore. We might withdraw our warmth and affection. We might stop investing our time in giving and nurturing the relationship.
In all this, what we are actually doing is crying out, “You don’t care about me.” “I don’t feel you love me.” “I just want to know I am important to you.” “If I pull away will you hear me and notice me then?” But often we do not recognize that our acts of self-preservation can end up pushing others further away. They may begin to feel you don’t love or care about them as well. So the emotional distancing pushes you even further apart.
As the hurt deepens, your needs for love, attention, and affection go unmet. When this happens it is common for people to try to meet their own needs. They divert their energies and attention to other things such as work, hobbies, parenting, socializing, shopping, and an entire host of addictions. Pulling away and distancing in relationships causes disconnection. Without connectedness relationships do not work. That may explain why many give up on their relationships. As a result, feelings of hurt, betrayal and failure keep them from believing that restoration is possible.
But there is a healing balm that can heal every wound. It soothes the sting of burns and takes away the pain. It comforts broken hearts and revives hope again. It provides a place of refuge where you feel safe and secure to share and give of yourself all over again. Where it flows in abundance, there miracles happen. It is the greatest gift of all. It is what relationships are meant for. It is the gift of love.
Love, along with honor, commitment, and healthy communication restores brokenness. If you have pulled away from a relationship in an effort to protect yourself from getting hurt, will you allow love to break down the walls you’ve erected? Will you make a decision to not accept failure for your relationships? Will you begin to draw close to others and communicate your feelings and needs to them? Today can be a new day to build and enrich your relationships as you begin to draw near to others in love, grace and forgiveness.