I think we’ve all been there.
Caught up in a torrent of emotions that we seem powerless to control; hardly able to think of anything else, barely able to function outside of the situation. We lose ourselves in ‘love,’ in what we believe love is supposed to be and how it is supposed to feel. We’re desperate to have them, to create an ‘us,’ sure that we’ve found the ‘one.’ How could it be anything else when we’re so utterly consumed?
All our lives we’ve been battered and engrained with the ideal that, unless you’re insane and addicted in your feelings for someone, it isn’t real and it isn’t going to last.
I’ve had that ‘love,’ and now years later, I hesitate to even call it that. Love is not obsession; it does not require you to give yourself wholly and completely at the expense of yourself. It does not ask you to be something you are not, it doesn’t ask you to be better or more. It does not ask you to give up on and forget those things that matter to you. That visceral, violent love that seems to burn through your life will dwindle and fade and once it’s over, you’ll be left with nothing but ashes.
I’ve had that flash burn, I’ve been caught up in that lie, and when it was over, I was left trying to pick up the pieces of who I thought I was. Without even realizing it, I’d set aside everything I truly cared for. My dreams, my career, my friendships, my family; it had all drifted away before I could even actively realize what was happening. It wasn’t healthy, it wasn’t good or honest or true. In short- it wasn’t love.
I made a commitment to myself after that. I made a commitment to myself and those things that mattered to me and swore that I would never give them up in the name of ‘love’ again. If love meant losing my identity, then maybe it wasn’t for me. But what I was really doing was making a commitment to love myself instead, and when you honestly love yourself; despite the flaws and mistakes, you’ll find that other people will love you too. They will offer you real love, though. The kind that is quiet, that is patient, and that is understanding.
I’ve found that a healthy love is a love that asks no more than you can give, and never takes without returning in kind. It isn’t perfect, but it is apologetic. It doesn’t take away from you, but bolsters you up and leaves you with a sense of self that doesn’t detract from what you want. A healthy love leaves you with the sense that, if it should come to an end, you will be left with more instead of less. You consider a life without them, and while it seems less bright, less happy and less appealing, you can see yourself there and know you would still be you at the end of it. This inner strength and affection allows for equal understanding and support; it allows for separation and difference of opinion. It does not require constant verification and doesn’t teeter on the whims of jealousy. It does not seek to possess or control, but to empower and uplift. Your lives are better together, but you still exist separately and uniquely.
The idea of an all-consuming passion and devotion might seem romantic and appealing, but I believe it is highly over rated. We so often sell the idea of comfort and companionship as ‘settling’ or as something benign and boring. What we should really be selling is the idea of a self love and inner strength that is capable of existing outside the affections of another person, even someone that we love. We should seek after an emotion that balances between the selfish and selfless and creates an atmosphere of growth and honest companionship.
Love shouldn’t change you or unmake you. It should merely bring out those things within you that are good, that are better. Love should not break you down, it should build you up.