Father Tony

Sowing the Seeds of Love

Filed By Father Tony | October 28, 2010 10:30 AM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: boyfriend is leaving, sowing the seeds

Dear Father Tony,

plantinglove2[1].jpgI can feel my boyfriend is slipping away from me and my stomach is in knots. I have been through this before. This is my third boyfriend so I know this feeling when it happens. He's not interested in someone new (I think) but it's like he is losing interest in me. Now every time I am going to see him, I am sick with panic. My friends tell me I'm a hottie and fun to be with. I do everything I can to make him happy but I can feel the difference now from how it was when we first got together almost a year ago. All day long I wonder what is wrong with me.

I don't want to sign this like this but it's how I feel.

Loser

Dear Loser,

Your letter makes me sad. Because I don't know you, it's almost impossible for me to pinpoint why this experience has been yours for a third time. I sometimes wish there were a counselor who offered a service called "Am I lovable?" where you sign up for three sessions in which you do all the talking and a final fourth session, in which the counselor does all the talking and gives you a ten point plan to avoid repeating a pattern that makes you unhappy. Absent that, perhaps I can say something helpful.

All relationships change over time. Some last and some don't. Some are short and some are long. You know, I'm not much of a bible thumper, but I sure do love the parables Jesus told and here is one from the fourth chapter of Mark's gospel that I think is wonderful.

Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: "Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times."

This is just a guess on my part, but did you identify with the seed that fell upon a rocky place with not much good soil, springing up and then withering under the hot sun? If so, your task is to improve the ground in which you are planted. That might mean picking a better boyfriend, or it might mean polishing your personality in order to derive greater nourishment from the ground in which you find yourself.

Did you identify with the seed that sprouted among thorns? In other words, do you feel that other people and the circumstances of your life are to blame for your lack of success in finding love? If so, it might be time to take a sickle to those thorns.

The good news is that you are a viable seed. You are able to sprout. Many people bemoan the fact that they can never even initiate a relationship.

One suggestion. Go back to your friends who say you are a lovable hottie. Share your anxiety with them and ask them for the hard and brutal truth. They may share some startling opinions about you. Be prepared to receive their words graciously, but remember that most friends will never tell you the truth simply because they are your friends and they probably won't want you to return the "favor".

Share your anxiety with your boyfriend. I'm guessing that he will say that he feels you are smothering him with attention and solicitude in your efforts to keep the relationship alive, and that if you'd just relax and stop worrying, everything will be fine. Did your previous boyfriends say that to you?

Finally, keep in mind the fact that you cannot control love or a lover. You can control only you. You can be the best you possible and if love comes your way it will be because you loved yourself enough to make yourself irresistible to someone whom you also find irresistible and admirable and lovable. Whatever you do, do not compromise by accepting the attentions of someone whom you do not love. That would make you a loser.

When I read a letter like yours, I wonder about percentages. If we were to take a poll of all the people alive today, how many would honestly say that they have found love and how many would say that they have not found love?

One final note. If you enter a new relationship and once again feel your stomach in knots, relax and just shrug and realize that all relationships go through phases. It's natural. I'm guessing you are a tense and nervous person. Do you live in a place that isn't freaky about pot? Why not make a date with your boyfriend, rent "Fight Club" and light one up. I'm guessing he'll appreciate it and you may be surprised at yourself.

(PS: OK, so that last bit may be a bit of a reach , but you get my point. I hope.)


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Dear Loser,

Father Tony gives you some very good advice, and I have a point or two to add.

In your letter, you don't mention your age, but you do say that your current boyfriend is your third one -- so I presume you are young (in your late teens or early twenties).

Many young people don't know the difference between "love" and "falling in love". Love has the possibility of lasting a lifetime, but the "falling in love" feeling is invariably temporary. You say you have been with your current BF for nine months, and if you and he managed to got the "falling in love" phase of your relationship to last nine months, then actually the two of you did pretty well. The "falling in love" flame often runs its course even faster than that.

If your discomfort has to do with the "falling in love" high winding down, you should relax -- sooner or later, "falling out of love" is inevitable. But that does not mean that you have picked the wrong boyfriend, or that he has, or that anything is wrong with your relationship. It simply means that the "high" of falling in love is over, and that the two of you either need to begin paying attention to the relationship consciously (taking the relationship off "auto-pilot" so to speak), and that from here on the relationship will require a certain amount of work and deliberate attention if you want the relationship to continue. If the relationship is not worth the work for one or both of you, I can almost guarantee that it will end. If that turns out to be the case, let the relationship end as graciously as you can, and be on your separate ways.

An additional point: I can't tell if this applies to you, but some people are reliant on the "high" of falling in love, the same way that an alcoholic relies on alcohol -- "falling in love" gets you high similar to the way alcohol gets you drunk, although the two methods have different timelines. But check yourself that you are not becoming disappointed with your current relationship as well as your previous relationships merely because the high is wearing off. There is such a thing as "relationship addiction" and this is one form of it. A relationship addict needs to go through recovery similar to the way an alcoholic does. If you suspect that this might be your problem, then if you have any friends who have gone through a 12-step program, they might be a good person to discuss this with first. Or if you can visit a psychotherapist, that would be another way to begin addressing this problem.

I would also suggest you hunt down a copy of The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, and read the second section entitled "Love". Peck, an accomplished psychotherapist himself, writes a lengthy exploration of the "falling in love" process, and explains why "falling in love" and love itself are two very different things. His treatment of this subject is so outstanding that it is one of the reasons this book has become a modern classic.

Good advice, Tony. Even if the boyfriend is fleeing fast, that doesn't make the letter writter a loser. It just means that this isn't the perfect relationship for them. It takes a while (certainly more than 3 boyfriends) to find the perfect mate usually.

John Rutledge | October 29, 2010 11:27 AM

I love Father Tony's advice, as always. Picking up on asking friends, which helps you grow by finding out how you come across, here is an exercise. First, they must be enrolled in having a conversation with the understanding they can say anything, it is a growth exercise and whatever they say will be received without moving to deny or defend. You really want to know, to grow. Note this must be one-on-one, with at least 5 people to really take it on. Then say I am going to ask 3 questions. What do you like about me? Listen, respond in that spirit. What do you not like about me? Listen, respond in that spirit. Then,what do you really not like about me but do not want to say?

This is wise advice, something I've come to expect from Tony. But I would add a caution about asking friends' opinions. Yes, you want them to be honest so that you can learn. But to ask "what do you not like" is like handing them a loaded gun and asking them to shoot you in the most vulnerable areas.

Instead, ask friends who have your best interests at heart how you come across to them. Ask them to describe you honestly in, say, five ways and to explain why. Do you see yourself differently? Ask them what leads them to that conclusion. Learn how others interpret your behavior and words. If they're close to your own image of yourself, then unintentional behavior is not the problem.

Perhaps you're choosing the wrong guys. There are perfectly delightful people with whom I can spend only short amounts of time due to who I am. Nothing wrong with them or me; it's just the way it is. I arrange to have time with them on my limits, and it maintains our friendship. The trick is to know yourself well enough to be able to choose the right friends and circumstances. And that's pretty much what Tony said in a far more eloquent fashion.