To say that I’ve had a very difficult love life would be an understatement. To begin with, I grew up in a family in which the prevailing emotional climate was one of coldness and distance. So naturally I was a pathetically needy kid, starved for affection, riddled with anxiety and feeling as if I were wandering alone in an emotional wasteland.

Over the course of decades I had a few love relationships. I wasn’t looking to have a lot of relationships, I was really just looking for a stable, long-term relationship with one woman. But most of the women whom I became involved with over the years turned out to be, after I had gotten to know them, deeply troubled people. Even more troubled than me! I was confused about all this because I had grown up being aware that I was kind of neurotic, and assuming that everybody else was sane and self-confident. I was the only one who was screwed up, everyone else must be fine, right? I urgently sought a woman (I knew she had to be out there somewhere!) who could provide me the kind of emotional stability that I had been lacking all my life. It took me a long time to realize how wrong I was.

Part of my problem was that I had a tendency to throw myself headlong into a relationship and commit too quickly, where being a bit careful and judicious in the early part of a relationship would have been the much wiser way. I didn’t stop to think that other people might have hidden depths of great emotional distress that wouldn’t be apparent to me at the beginning. Looking back now on the course of my mostly-disastrous love life I see a long line of women for whom anxiety and anger turned out to be the dominant forces in their lives, overshadowing all else and making intimacy extremely difficult if not impossible. For a long time I agonized over this, wondering what I was doing wrong. What was I doing that was driving most of the women I had known crazy? It became an obsession with me. I reached a point in my life where I thought about this issue constantly. I imagined the failed relationships in my past as forming a chain, a heavy chain of shame and failure that I was forced to drag around with me. And as I got older the chain got heavier.

Eventually it occurred to me, after much long and agonizing soul-searching, that whatever mistakes I had made (and I knew I had made a few) were not nearly as significant as the fact that I had become involved with several women who were just deeply and tragically wounded, emotionally. This realization gave me a different perspective on people in general. I started to look at other people with greater compassion. I realized that there must be just an enormous amount of emotional sickness out there in the world, that it must be a universal tragedy of the human condition, for both men and women. People suffer grievous emotional trauma, and they don’t know what to do about it and they hold that trauma in, and eventually they pass that suffering on to others.

That isn’t the whole story, fortunately. For reasons that are very complex, it is clear that some people suffer a great deal and pass that suffering on to others, whereas others suffer a great deal and thereby learn lessons of love and compassion. When I was 58 I met a woman whom I fell in love with and then married. It happened because she was there and because I was ready. She too has suffered a great deal, but somehow she has been able to resist the emotionally debilitating effects of all the difficulty she has experienced. She lives a life of sincerity, the life of a true human being. Without trying, she has changed my life with the subtle power of her naturalness.

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