Of course I want to hear it. Of couse I have stayed up for more nights than anyone would want to admit, imagining what it would be like when you would finally tell me that you reciprocate all of my squirming, embarrassing feelings. It would be disingenuous for me to say that I don’t care — even if it would make this easier for all parties involved. We always want to hear each other say “it doesn’t matter.” We want to believe that we can behave however we’d like without any effect on those around us, that we hold no responsibility to one another.
And yes, to be perfectly honest, we don’t really owe each other anything. Being forthright and not intentionally hurting each other would be a good start to how we should treat each other, but when you throw my feelings around with complete impunity — do I really have a right to hold your feet to the fire? Do I really have some territorial claim to your behavior? You never said we were together. You never promised me something you weren’t going to deliver on. Yes, you misled me with enough half-truths and vague semi-promises to love me that I filled in the blanks with what I wanted to hear, but that was my fault. It was my choice to give you my heart, and you breaking it is not something I didn’t anticipate on some level.
Still, despite the fact that I would love to hear you tell me that you feel the same, I’ve learned that waiting for it to happen — and for you to really mean it — is only an exercise in masochism. There have been plenty of times where you’ve called me, drunk, at some ungodly hour. You’ve told me that you want me, that you need me, that you miss me. I melt before these words, suddenly unable to recall all of the times before in which you have treated me like an unpleasant object on the sidewalk which got stuck to the bottom of your shoe and now must be pulled off. In those moments, you are everything I’ve ever projected on you. You are my Prince Charming, even if you smell like whiskey and slur your words. And, for at least a bit, that is enough.
But there is only so much I can convince myself about how you feel and what you think before I am making a fool of us both. I am not interested in being the person who follows you around, the embarrassing little girl whose inability to control her own emotions makes it okay to treat her however you want. As much as I look forward to your temporary lapses in judgment which allow you to tell me everything you know I want to hear, I know that they are not good for me. And I know that the time we spend together — even the time when I am naked, in your arms, resting my head on your chest — are little more than wisps of smoke that I am trying to hold onto forever. I know that I have been allowing this game to be played for far longer than I should have, and that there is nowhere positive for this to go.
So don’t tell me you love me. Yes, I want to hear it, but I am trying to put one foot in front of the other and walk towards a kind of emotional maturity which doesn’t tolerate this self-destruction. So I will fight that instinctive desire to be hurt and walk away. I won’t make dramatic proclamations about erasing you from my memory or wishing I had ever known you. You are someone I chose to be with, someone I chose to love, and these are the consequences. But I must learn to take away the power over me that I have given to you and put it towards parts of my life which aren’t so dead-set on hurting me. And even if my newfound independence inspires in you a renewal of your desire to exert your control over me (to sleep with me, I guess, just to prove you can), your efforts will be wasted. Because I love you — I’m not afraid to admit that, even if it isn’t reciprocated — but I love myself more. And I must start taking care of the things I love.