When I was fourteen, a well-meaning Sunday school teacher encouraged us girls to make a list of ten things we wanted in a future husband. She gave us each a piece of scrap paper and a golf pencil and let us have at it.
For me, it was an easy task. I’d watched enough Gilmore Girls to know what makes some relationships last and others end in tearful, infuriating season finales. Yes, some decidedly shallow demands somehow made the cut — swoopy hair, square glasses, good singer, taller than me. But at the top of my paper, I wrote in big letters:
LOVES ME MORE THAN ANYTHING.
I felt as though I had just swindled the genie, finding a way to wish for more wishes in one fell swoop. Because if my man loved me more than anything, he’d never cheat on me or forget my birthday or slap me or try to get me to watch basketball or even make me cry, probably.
If he loved me more than anything, what else mattered?
Fast-forward to age 15, when a boy (who had square glasses) kissed me on the bus on the way to a debate tournament. He bought me flowers for Valentine’s day, he celebrated every “week-a-versary,” he called me every night. And those were my favorite things about him.
Then, age 17, when a boy I’d barely spoken to (who had a beautiful voice) asked me to prom. He wrote me a song, he told me my eyes were the most beautiful in the world, he cried when he talked about how much he cared about me. And those were my favorite things about him.
Or age 19, when a boy (who was really tall) told me, “I should have kissed you under the waterfall” and kissed me on the futon instead. He wanted to spend every minute with me, he saw a future with me, he thought I was the most fascinating, prettiest, smartest girl in the world. And those were my favorite things about him.
I loved to be loved. So throughout my teen years, I let a lot of people do that.
Because my desire to be adored wasn’t really about some ideal suitor at all. It was about me.
I wanted to avoid heartbreak. I wanted to feel needed. I wanted to be a person worthy of love and adoration. And as long as some guy was fawning over me, that proved it.
It wasn’t until much later that I realized my list was incomplete.
FALLING IN LOVE
I met a man who I so admired, regardless of his relationship to me.
He asked me questions no one had ever asked me before, about my dreams and my fears and my future.
He set over a dozen goals each year, and actually achieved most of them.
He started a band with his little brothers.
He went to the opera with me when no one else would, even though he forgot his glasses and couldn’t read the subtitles.
He worked on a farm when he was in high school to save for college.
I think I had loved before. But here’s the thing: you can fall in love with anyone. And anyone can fall in love with you. You’re different and captivating and beautiful and utterly yourself — who could resist?
Everyone is worthy of love. But that doesn’t mean everyone’s a good match.
Not everyone can make you feel whole, or safe, or understood. And even if they could, it doesn’t necessarily mean they can be what you need in order to become the most fabulous version of yourself.
My favorite thing about every boy I ever dated was how much they loved me. Until I found the right person.
And I’m supremely grateful to report that he does love me more than anything. But that’s only one of the many, many things I love about him.