Running on Empty…or Just Running?

Most of us of a certain age are familiar with the 1999 movie “Runaway Bride” in which Julia Roberts portrays Maggie, a young woman who really wants to be in love and happily married, but every time she gets set to walk down the aisle to marry the man she thinks is the man of her dreams, she turns and runs away as fast as she can. In her wedding gown, leaving her bewildered fiancĂ© alone at the altar.

This romantic comedy, actually filmed in a small town a few miles from where I grew up, of course had a happy ending. After all, Maggie knew she wanted to be in a happy, committed relationship; it just took her awhile to find that right person who could ease her fears of rejection and give her the confidence to make a marriage work.

But so many times it doesn’t work that way.

Because we’ve been hurt so badly, and have so many scars and bruises, we form a shell around our heart that’s so hard, almost nothing – or no one – can break it.

And those scars, those terrible memories, keep flooding back to us when we’re getting comfortable in a relationship, when we finally think this one will work. And all of a sudden the bad memories outweigh the new happy ones we’re making. To the point we become so scared of being hurt again, we’d rather give up and be alone, bury ourselves in other interests, in order to avoid the slightest possibility of being hurt again.

Sure, our friends are happy with their husbands or wives, but we tell ourselves we’re happy just the way we are. We go places with them, have a great time, and then go back home, by ourselves, and wonder why we can’t find what they’ve found. Surely that happiness exists somewhere? But then we remember those other, really bad times, and grab a book and read til we fall asleep.

All too often men and women both are so afraid their past mistakes, their past hurts, will repeat themselves, they’d rather give up than try, because giving up doesn’t hurt as much as failure. Trust is hard to earn, and harder to give, especially when past relationships ended badly.

But running away isn’t the answer either. Running as a sport may be healthy, but running from problems or perceived problems isn’t. Facing them is hard; letting yourself trust and love again is even harder.

When I met my husband of 32+ years, I was just coming out of a second and disastrous marriage, and the last thing I wanted was another relationship. In fact, I’d decided I was done, and wanted nothing to do with dating, and certainly not another serious relationship. My trust factor was gone, and I didn’t want to revive it.

Fortunately my now husband eventually convinced me to trust again, to love again, and to stop running FROM and start running TO.

No, it isn’t easy. There are always going to be a lot of twists and turns!

Guarding your heart is a good idea, because you don’t want to give it away to just anyone. But in the same context if you hold on to it and never give it to anyone, your heart will eventually waste away. Love is meant to be shared with someone else, and no matter how badly you were hurt previously, your heart still longs to try again and take a chance.

It’s your head that’s preventing it. Your memories of those bad times you’d rather forget, and every time your heart ventures out of its comfort zone to possibly love again, your head grabs it and locks it up again. And eventually your heart gives up.

While your head wonders why you’re so lonely.

We weren’t created to be solitary people. We were created to be with someone we love. We make mistakes, and sometimes we get hurt. But that shouldn’t mean we don’t try again.

Because that person we were created for, we were meant to be with, could just possibly be standing there waiting to love us. And we miss it because of fear.

I could’ve missed it. Thank goodness I didn’t.

If this sounds like you, maybe it’s time to put those emotional running-away shoes away and let your heart venture out again. To give it a try one more time.

And instead of running away, run somewhere together. Take a short run at first, then gradually make those runs a bit longer.

You may be surprised at the results.

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