We are not held back by the love we didn’t receive in the past, but by the love we’re not extending in the present ~ Marianne Williamson

As a writer of romantic women’s fiction, this statement catches my attention because it speaks to the internal conflict attributed to most characters in contemporary love stories.  Regardless of the subgenre, characters’ mental/emotional barriers to, or fears about, getting involved in a romantic relationship typically stem from some deeply-rooted past hurt (abandonment by a parent, betrayal of an ex-lover, and so on).  The painful experience changed the character’s beliefs, thereby affecting his or her ability to be vulnerable to new love going forward.images-1

In real life, many people also blame past betrayals for an inability to find new love (or build friendships or healthy familial relationships).  But this is where the truth in Ms. Williamson’s statement is so obvious.  Allowing an old hurt to inhibit us keeps us from extending ourselves.  By withholding our own love, we weaken opportunities to foster new (or strengthen existing) relationships.  In other words, we promote a self-fulfilling prophecy of loneliness and isolation.

Of course, ultimately the quote perfectly articulates the character arc of most heroes and heroines in well-developed romances.  The character begins the story in fear, creeps close to vulnerability, experiences a setback and retreats, and then finally moves fully into courage.   I think this is one of the fundamental reasons romance novels enjoy such popularity.   As readers, we root for those characters to find the courage we ourselves seek, and when they do, it gives us hope that we, too, may find our wings and fly.

If you’re holding onto a past hurt, perhaps 2014 is the year to let it go and move forward with an open heart.  Anyone else have suggestions for New Year’s Resolutions?