Love is a Weird, Projection-Based Thing

It is often said about falling in love: the butterflies are a hormone induced crazy fling where we project all kinds of things onto another human being. Things that we either recognize in ourselves and desire more of, or things that seem the opposite of things in ourselves we desire to get rid off.

And it makes sense.

Tonight, we celebrated Sinterklaas, a Dutch national festivity where children get gifts from an imaginary Saint (which is the foundation of the story around Santa Claus). Me, my three daughters and their father. Someone I used to be in a relationship with for nine years.

Once, we thought the other person was the most amazing person in the world. Finally someone who understood us. Finally someone we truly believed we would grow old with, even though we both had the belief there wouldn’t be a single person in the world willing to take that position.

When I became pregnant, four months into that relationship, we had full trust we would make this work, together. And we did. Though things started to crumble slowly.

By now we’re pretty much on opposite ends, where we believe the other is annoyance personified. Conversations end up in frustration. And we stopped hugging each other months ago.

Did we really change that much? Or was it our projection that changed that much?

Projections and love

Photo by Andrew Neel on Unsplash

For the years in that relationship, I felt small and powerless. But when I stepped out of the door, I felt powerful and strong. The difference? The projections of the people around me (believing I was not so great at home versus believing I was great outside of home) as well as my own self-projections (believing I was a terrible human at home being versus believing I was pretty alright outside of home).

A similar thing with a different flavor happened again in another relationship. By that time I figured out that I attracted avoidant men, and that I leaned (quite strongly) towards the anxious side of things. I learned a lot about both power dynamics as well as attachment dynamics in relationships, and professionally coached people people in it all. I developed a strong sense of where on those scales people are moving.

The man I related with, he was definitely nothing like all that. He was absolutely available and not pressuring my boundaries. I was convinced of that. For eight months. Until someone from outside who knew him for many years unsolicitedly gave me feedback where they shared about my partners history, and what they recognized in the relationship I had with him: avoidance and a lack of commitment.

I was flabbergasted when the veil tumbled down. This feedback was absolutely accurate. I had been feeling pressured and triggered because of this dynamic between us. I didn’t see it. My projection onto him and the relationship overshadowed it all.

Oops.

Projections can – and will – f#ck up Love

Am I writing these men are bad persons?

No.

I’m writing that there were expectations created by the projections on all sides, that weren’t lived up to and that created disappointment and frustration in their wake.

One of the things I’m learning from tantra is to be with everything present both within and around me with as little judgment as possible. Judgments take us further away from what is really present. It adds up layer (‘I don’t like this feeling’) onto layer (‘I don’t like I’m feeling this about this feeling’).

Projections are judgments, even when they are positive as in the case of falling in love. They take us away from what is really present.

Can We Avoid Projections and Simply Enjoy Love Instead?

I don’t think I’m a superhuman, and I don’t think I’ll ever be. I may follow or facilitate hundreds of workshops, meditate every day, do my yoga, and still judge.

It’s a human trait!

Also, I think that trying to get rid of projecting is resistance, which is taking us away from the moment. And off we go, in a loop of judgment and projection.

So rather than trying to avoid projecting, I try to get better at noticing I’m doing it. Zooming out, focussing on my observer as if I’m watching a tv-show. Combining that with my knowledge of the human psyche as well as my personal history and its pitfalls.

And asking my closest surroundings for feedback.

Because, you know, blind spots are called blind spots for a reason.

We don’t see them.

And so, the next time I plan on stepping into a primary relationship with a person, my desire is to date them for a while first – to get to know my patterns and pitfalls around them. And then I desire them to meet my friends. The ones that I know won’t be all cheery alone, but who will not refrain from giving me crystal-clear feedback about my projections.

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