I walked past the shops looking at my reflection in the windows wondering if I had made the mistake of not dressing up for the occasion. In retrospect, it sounds a bit funny but really, how was I suppose to know what to wear while ring shopping. I mean, in every major event of my life someone has told me that I should be tucking in my shirt or wearing a tie or nicer shoes so it wouldn’t be a stretch to think maybe I should be dressed a little nicer when spending thousands of dollars.
I opened the door to the jeweler and began looking around without knowing what I was looking for. Like the day after a serious party and not knowing where to even begin to clean. Eventually, a woman approached me and asked what I was looking for. After almost apologetically explaining my intent, she seemed to be more than happy to help. Possibly in the way you just want to help a newborn fawn learn to walk. She made me feel comfortable and after showing me a handful of rings in my price range, she asked if this was the first engagement ring I was planning to purchase. Something about that question knocked the wind from me. My eyes grew wide and I was suddenly aware of my surroundings. I played it cool but that question threw me off. Something about saying, “Yes,” shined a clarity on the situation and all of a sudden I felt short of breath. I entertained her questions and thanked her for her time and walked out of the store. I still remember the weight of the worry as I took the escalator down to the street level.
What had I been thinking? I am not a man with money, especially one who has thousands to throw around. I didn’t even believe in the facade the diamond industry had forced upon society or the archaic concept of marriage in the first place – but it was what would have made her happy. I knew she wouldn’t think my love was real and lasting unless I put a ring on her finger. It really is a shame what the wedding industry has done to the expectation of people and their construct of modern love.
But I was so in love that I was willing to put aside my stance in order to make her happy. Because I loved her so much and so hard, with an intensity I had never felt before, that I was willing to offer up an entire year’s worth of rent money to demonstrate my love. Now, I could go on and on about how a ring doesn’t intensify anyone’s love and it is only an illusion of security because anyone can walk out of a relationship at any moment and if feeling trapped or the difficulty of divorce is less appealing than sticking around in an unhealthy relationship – well, again, we really need to reexamine our definitions of trust in the love we give and faith in the love we receive. But that is not what this is about.
This is about a man who was walking down Michigan Avenue, shaken to his core about what he almost did. He almost bought a ring for a relationship that didn’t have a solid foundation – which is probably the number one reason why marriages fail. Because you can’t build a house without a foundation. You can’t put the framework of a house on grass and dirt if you expect it to last. You need to pour and solidify a solid foundation before you can even begin thinking about window treatments and wall sconces.
Oh, there was no doubt that I was in love with her. More than anyone who had ever come before. My love was unwavering – to an unhealthy extent. I allowed her to continually make me feel less than. To make me feel unloved and unappreciated. I say that I “allowed” this because I stayed. People will always compromise in relationships – well, at least the good ones. But there is a difference between compromise and sacrifice, and no one should be willing to sacrifice who they are or what they believe in simply because they are in love. Because while we love other people, we should equally love ourselves just as much.
We would lie in bed and I would tell her night after night how I needed her to work on strengthening our relationship. I was so in love with her that I felt as if I had been sacrificing who I was and it had been making me depressed. My friends saw it. My family saw it. I saw it taking it’s toll in the mirror. I needed her help. I said that we both had one job – to make each other feel loved and appreciated every single day. And I had to ask her 38 separate times to work on holding up her end of the relationship. And she would make promise after promise and leave me disappointed week after week.
Eventually, I walked away from the relationship and it kicked a serious dent in my self-esteem, my faith in others, and my confidence in love. It took years to recover and I slipped in to a serious depression, but I did emerge much stronger and smarter. So with this newfound clarity, I can understand why I walked into that store. I walked into that store because I believed in the illusion of the love she wanted me to see. She said all the right words and made all the right promises with just the right amount of tears in her eyes and I fell for it every time. Well, until number 39. It took 39 serious moments of disappointment for me to finally walk away. And it crushed me. And I secretly cried for months. And I almost took my life.
So I guess what this all comes down to is – when do we stand and fight and when do we muster the strength to walk away. If no one is perfect, how do we figure out who is worth the effort and who is just dragging us down with them? This is possibly one of the toughest questions we will ever ask ourselves because the answer will directly influence the course of our life.
Truth is, I don’t know. But I do know that you should trust the collective opinions of those you hold close. Your friends and family – the people who know you the best will see the changes in you. They should be happy for you when you find someone who nurtures your soul because it will be reflected in your happiness. Conversely, they will also see the stress and drag an awful person will inflict upon you. Trust in their collective opinion. If they are all telling you that he isn’t good for you – listen to them. Ask them why they get that impression. If you find yourself constantly making excuses for his behavior, that is another red flag. You should be willing to gush about the love in your life at the first opportunity. You shouldn’t have to explain away his behaviors.
Listen, none of us like to feel fooled. No one is happy when we feel like we bought in to a person who turned out to be negative or abusive months down the line. Even if it’s glaringly obvious, oftentimes we will try to stay the course because we want to have faith that the person we fell in love with that first month will come back. And they will fool us with occasional glimpses of him – just enough to keep us invested. But there comes a time when we need to take a step back and ask ourselves if we have a solid foundation underneath our relationship. Is this something we can continue to build upon and is this worth fighting for. These are all hard, yet important questions that we should ask ourself as often as we see fit.
But if you have a solid foundation with the right person who nurtures your soul, you won’t need to ask that question. Because you will be too busy being in love.