Love doesn’t start off difficult to believe in.
The first, even the second time you love someone, you’re starry-eyed and openhearted. You rush into relationships with the unshakeable eagerness of a toddler trying their first solid food. You’ve been starved for real love all of your life and suddenly there it is – available to you in abundance!
So you give and you take and you want and you demand so much from those first few relationships. You want the love story you have been waiting for. You want the partner you truly deserve. You have a laundry list of everything you cannot wait to do, see, experience and become through loving someone else. You have so much to give! You have so much to receive!
If your expectations fail to be met, you just pretend and invent. Your first love story takes place largely inside your own mind and in many ways, you’re fine with that. Even the falling apart of the relationship possesses a certain poetic tragedy. The good things cannot last forever and you know that. And so, you try again. You fall in love again. You hope again. You feel again. You have faith again, that this one is going to be it for real. And you repeat this process as many times as it takes.
Until somewhere along the line, something goes wrong. Something inside of you breaks in the place where it has always only bent and in a swift, unexpected instant, your heart falls cleanly apart.
The truth about these kinds of heartbreaks is that they don’t bring the raw form of pain that you’re used to. It’s not the excruciating hurt, mind-numbing disbelief or short-lived anger that you’re used to going through at the end of a relationship. It isn’t a fiery, passionate emotion that you can empower yourself back from the brink of. It’s something much quieter and subtler. It’s the acceptance of the idea – from some deep place within you – that maybe love isn’t what you thought it was.
That if you can fight that hard, for that long, with someone you care about that much and still have it all fall to pieces, maybe there isn’t much left out there to hope for. Maybe love doesn’t really conquer anything. Maybe it’s all just some grandiose idea we made up to sell jewelry and distract ourselves from the painful realities of living. Maybe none of it was ever built to last.
It’s like this quiet, certain part of you that believe in love for all of those years just packed up its bags and moved out in the middle of the night. You no longer feel guarded, apprehensive or excited about the prospect of meeting someone new. You just feel indifferent. You see the ending from the starting line and the race no longer seems to be worth running.
And the truth is, this happens to us all. Not a single one of us gets out of life with our hearts fully intact – we all have scrapes and jagged edges where the smooth parts used to be. Most of us have lost a love we thought would last forever. Most of us have felt disillusioned and spent. Most of us reached a point where we our hearts were too tired to keep going and we weren’t sure what the point was in trying again.
But here’s what you have to remember through those times when hope seems to be lost:
It’s not love that you’ve stopped believing in. What you’ve stopped believing in is the specific vein of love that you have always been quick to identify – perhaps the kind you saw in movies or the kind that your first partner gave you. You’ve stopped believing in a lofty, idealistic form of love that was born of made-up stories you would tell yourself.
And now, all that’s left is the real stuff.
Now that you’ve shaved away the fantasy and fairytale of how things were supposed to unfold, you can finally open yourself up to a quieter, realer version of love. One that doesn’t impose or demand. One that doesn’t expect or expand. One that takes things are they are – not as you imagine them to be – and works with that reality. That allows it the space to grow into something concrete.
In a way, we are all virgins of real love unless and until we first become jaded. Before this point, we were living in a fairytale of how we wanted love to be. And afterwards, we are offered the opportunity to accept love as it really exists: In all its flawed, imperfect glory.
And the beautiful part about that kind of love is that it doesn’t require the lofty idealism we once possessed in order to continue to exist. Because that kind of love is based on truth. It’s based on reality. It’s based on whatever we choose to work long and hard to build alongside somebody else.
And that kind of love doesn’t require us to believe in a thing.