Internet culture has developed a ravenous obsession with finding the love that we deserve.
You can spot the phenomenon everywhere – articles list ’10 Signs You Deserve Better Than The Guy You’re Dating’ and online commenters urge one another to hold out for the person who is worthy and meriting of their affection.
And here’s the thing – I get the desire to be appreciated. There’s nothing worse than finding oneself in a one-sided relationship where you are constantly giving and rarely receiving anything in return. There’s nothing admirable about staying with someone who treats you like a human doormat.
And yet I can’t help believing that the phenomenon of demanding what we deserve has gotten a wee bit out of hand.
We’ve moved beyond the realm of ‘Stand up for yourself’ when it comes to relationships, and we’ve moved into the realm of ‘See yourself as a prize to be won, rather than an active participant in your own relationship.’
Because there’s only one real truth about the kind of love you deserve: it is whatever kind of love you’re prepared to give out yourself.
If you want someone who will text you immediately after a date, initiate hangouts, reach for the check every time and offer you a drawer of things at their place, you’d better be ready to do the exact same.
If you want someone who pursues you relentlessly, showers you with compliments, likes every Instagram photo you post and brags about you to his or her friends, you’d better be braced to make a few first moves yourself. You’d better be genuinely, hopelessly excited to make the person you’re dating feel special.
And it can’t come from a place of give-in-order-to-receive.
You know which place I’m talking about.
The place of ‘I’ll like his posts so he’ll like mine.’
The place of ‘I’ll tell her she looks great so that she notices the next time I do something different.’
It has to come from a place of genuine appreciation for who the other person is. The same kind of appreciation that you want from someone else.
Because here is the problem with the ‘wait for what you deserve’ obsession: It implies that the main purpose of love is to receive.
To receive praise, attention, adoration and acceptance from another human being.
And this is an entirely backwards mindset.
The point of love – real, genuine love – should be to give. To appreciate another human being, for much more than the attention that they pay you. The point is to learn from them, grow with them, to let them know that you’re ridiculously excited to be their person – you know, the one who gets to text them when they’re sad and compliment them when they’re insecure and take their pants off when they’re looking particularly saucy or cute.
The point of entering a relationship isn’t to have someone who’ll worship the ground you walk on. It’s to find someone who you think is the motherfucking cat’s pajamas. And then to love on them with absolutely everything you have in you.
And that love doesn’t get to be conditional.
It can’t be ‘I love you the way I want to be loved, so if that’s not good enough, you’re useless to me.’
It has to be patient. It has to be flexible. It has to be ‘Love to me means liking an Instagram post, but love to him or her means hanging out with their friends or running errands for them or laying off and giving them alone time on the weekends if they need it.’
Love can’t be about projecting your definition of affection onto somebody and then being angry when they don’t return it exactly in kind.
Love is an ongoing process of meeting one another’s needs. And if your primary concern is whether your needs are being met, you’re probably looking for a relationship for all the wrong reasons.
At the end of the day, there’s a simple rule for finding the relationship you want and it is this: you have to first be the kind of partner you’re looking to find.
The one who texts first. The one who doesn’t play games. The one who shows the hell up for another person, even when they’re being a little bit unreasonable or difficult.
Because the only kind of love any of us deserve is the kind of love we’re openly and freely giving out.
And if you aren’t ready to be the one who loves a little bit harder, don’t expect to find someone who’s willing to do the same.
Because quite frankly, if that person comes along, you might not deserve them.