It’s a truth universally acknowledged that when we love someone, we allow some leniency towards traits that would usually drive us up the wall. It’s a delicate balance to strike — we turn a blind eye to their faults, trusting it’s just minor stuff like “scrubs the sink about 1.5 times less often than me” and not “doesn’t do any cleaning, ever.”
These last few years, I pretty much lived the maxim that “love is patient,” and not just romantically. I embraced the fact that I have a wide extended friend family (almost as geographically scattered as my real one) and embraced the fact that sometimes, with some of them, I simply won’t be able to see them as often or enjoy the same kinds of intimacy with them that I used to. I accepted my part in shouldering the emotional labor, and maintaining the connection. Because if I don’t do it, who would?
As it happens, that was a mistake.
You know what happens when you turn a blind eye one time too many — you wake up one day, your life is garbage, and you can’t even rely on the people closest to help you pick up. It’s scrolling down your contacts list and not being able to find a single name to vent to. It’s searching through your chat history about the last positive thing you discussed and discovering it was three years ago. It’s holding back — on both good news and bad — because you know that no matter where you turn, you will find indifference and negativity.
Oh, sure, I was great at listening. But you can stretch yourself thin for so long. After a while, you start to tear.
My wake-up call came late last year, not through tragedy but a happy occurrence. I met a person who cared more about my boundaries than about what they wanted. Someone who respected the fact that I was an introvert, that I needed space, that I did not have the energy to talk, that I don’t open up like normal people. A small thing, perhaps. But it was shocking to experience.
Like everyone else, I thought I was doing the right thing. If I just put good things into the universe, if I was the sort of friend I wanted, if I was patient and kind, then the rest would fall into place. You know, like magic!
The problem with all that is that I had no boundaries. Or, if I did, I was shit at enforcing them. I couldn’t tell someone, “Enough of this already,” or “I don’t have bandwidth for this topic anymore.” I couldn’t switch my phone off after 10 p.m. or stop myself from reaching out to people I knew would make me feel bad about myself. Somewhere along the way, I lost the feeling that love requires self-respect as well as patience. I forgot that sometimes, you just have to let go and let people be.
This Valentine’s Day will be the first one I might actually celebrate as intended, and I’m getting my heart back instead of giving it away. I’m reclaiming my boundaries. I’m reclaiming my time. I’m committing to putting my health first, so that the next time I need to turn a blind eye, I can trust myself enough to trust them too.