I don’t know about you, but I’ve been duped by Hollywood and lied to by its illustrious writers, directors and cinematographers. I grew up with movies like Pretty Woman, Titanic and Jerry Maguire. Right about the age I began taking interest in the opposite sex, I started receiving these naive and even dangerous notions about love:
A man can save me from my miserable life.
It’s only in finding that perfect partner that we can become whole:
“You complete me.”
I can run from the pains of my past by jumping into the arms of another.
Only works for so long.
Now before you accuse me of being a cynic and attempting to kill the spirit of our beloved Saint Valentine, let me explain.
I can only discern the inherent fallacy of these messages because I’ve subscribed to every single one of them at one point or another, and often for years on end, oblivious to their damaging effects.
And as someone who would like to believe she is critically aware—heck I even have a degree in Media Analysis and Criticism—this is pretty sad indeed.
But these days, I know better. The truth is relationships are hard. They require us to work at it, sometimes it seems, continuously. I just so happen to be in one of those places with my significant other of two and a half years. And you know what, that’s okay.
The reality is, we are both committing ourselves to some pretty intense self-work right now and pursuing some buried passions and new dreams—scary stuff! And in times of stress, we’ve turned on one another instead of turning toward one another.
And yeah, we’ve fallen victim to that ugly enmeshment thing too.
It’s a lesson that’s revealed itself time and time again: If I make someone else my everything, what happens when they let me down, when they’re not enough?
We are human after all, and we must allow our mates to be, too.
If I’m relying on someone else to cure my loneliness, what happens when they’re not around anymore?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a 105 year-old widow (yes, I’m going to live a long time) who is so completely devastated to lose my husband that life ceases to matter and I die soon after as well.
I don’t find this romantic. I find it incredibly sad.
If and when that time comes, I want to grieve the loss (an immense one that I don’t pretend to know anything about), and gather close to my loved ones and my God. And then I want to get out of bed, brush my teeth, and live my life.
And this can only happen by putting myself, rather than the relationship, first. It’s the love-affair with the woman in the mirror that matters most.
One person will never meet all my needs, nor should they. What need would there be for any other meaningful relationship if this were the case?
And the more I can grow to accept this, ironically, the more love I allow in, and not just the love of my lover, but that of friends, family and even complete strangers.
And why settle for just one anyway?
I want to be in love with the whole world.
I want to be in love with time and space and the stars and every beautiful sunrise and sunset my beautiful bones have the privelege of seeing.
I want to be in love with those moments of levity and laughter that remind me what it’s like to be four years old and experiencing so much at once that all I know to do is dance.
And yes, I even want to be in love with those parts of my self that are hurting, stuck and confused. Because I now know that when I’m not afraid of heartbreak and not afraid to be me, I’ll have enough love to fill an ocean.
It’s from a place of fullness that I can best serve myself and those around me. Two halves don’t make a whole, except a whole lot of pain. Again, been there, I know.
Here’s what else I know: Every time I take care of me, I let my man off the hook. It’s not his job to make me happy; it’s mine.
And in case I’ve spent too much time focusing on what love isn’t, here’s what I’m learning love is:
Love is spending an evening apart, under the same roof.
Love is big hugs and quick kisses.
Love is having a horrible fight but still feeling safe.
Love is walking our dog together and laughing about how long he takes to poop.
Love is wiping away one another’s tears.
Love is unloading the dishwasher even before I ask.
Love is nestling into my boyfriend’s shoulder after I feel beat up by the world.
Love is tolerating one another’s unloving behavior because you know it isn’t about you in that moment.
Love is forgiving a lot.
Love is singing in the kitchen and cuddling on the couch.
Love is opening yourself up to all of it because you know it will hurt to do so, but it will hurt even more if you don’t.