It’s easy to become self-centered in the midst of heartbreak. We find ourselves wondering why we weren’t enough or why someone who was once so caring and careful with us would treat us this way. We sift through the small moments that seem big now, looking for where it all went wrong.
Could we have done something to change the outcome? Should we have seen this coming? How could we not see this coming? The happy memories turn painful because we’re now looking through the lens of what feels like betrayal. But what if it was never about us? What if the person we chose to love didn’t know how to accept the type of love we were offering? What if they felt unworthy of that love or incapable of reciprocating? What if the reason they left was because they were sure they’d never be enough for us or good enough to deserve us? What if their fear of being left prompted them to do the leaving?
It’s easy, natural even, to assume a person’s choice to leave was based on some imagined criteria we didn’t meet. Love is rarely that simple.
If someone wants to be with you, they will. Wouldn’t it be nice if life was straightforward enough for that to be true? If we were all so undamaged that we could follow our hearts without a second thought?
That’s not a world we live in.
Life is messy. People are messy. The older we get, the more likely we are to encounter people who’ve been betrayed and traumatized by their own hearts. They made themselves vulnerable, they loved with reckless abandon, and it wrecked them. They might not know what love looks like anymore. They’ve bought into society’s cheap portrayal of love, and they’ve come to believe that this cheap love is the only type that exists. If a shallow, selfish love is all that’s left for them, they’d rather be alone.
Maybe they’ve grown so accustomed to guarding themselves that they’ve forgotten how to open up. They crave connection, but they don’t know what a real connection feels like anymore. When they find something remotely real, maybe it scares them. Maybe they recognize the emotion from that past heartache, and they know that it can break them if they let it in. If they let you in. Or maybe they don’t recognize it at all.
If you happen to find yourself choosing to love one of these people, understand that loving them won’t be easy. They’ll require reassurance, but they’ll never ask you for it. Every time they let you in, they’ll try to shut you right back out.
Don’t let them. Show them you’re willing to fight for them because they’re worth the effort. You’ll question their motives and think they’re playing games or leading you on. You’ll wonder if you’re not enough for them and why you’re not enough for them. You might try to convince yourself that you’d be better off distancing yourself from them because they must not want to be with you. Sometimes you might be right, but more often these people are the ones who are worth the risk of heartbreak. They’re worth the patience, grace, and understanding that are the most difficult parts of unconditional love. Loving this person will require you to cast your own fears and anxiety aside and to understand that their emotional roadblocks locked into place long before they met you.
Be gentle with them. Push when necessary, but accept that they need to move at whatever pace feels safe for them. If they let you in, you’ll see how beautiful their heart is, and you’ll understand why they’ve guarded it so diligently. You’ll see that the emotions they try so hard to deny the existence of actually run terrifyingly deep. Maybe you’ll catch a glimpse of the version of themselves they pretend doesn’t exist, and when you do, you’ll love them all the more for it.
It won’t always work out because life doesn’t happen that way.
Maybe you’ll give them the unconditional love everyone deserves, but it still won’t be enough to draw them out of the darkest part of their heart where the betrayal and trauma of past loves reside.
It’s okay if you start this journey with them but decide it hurts too much to continue. While unconditional love requires you to be selfless, it doesn’t require you to neglect your own wellbeing. If it takes you to a dark place instead of drawing them out of their dark place, it might be time to let go. If it ends, it’ll hurt, but just know that it didn’t end because they didn’t want to be with you or because you weren’t enough. It ended because they haven’t yet learned how to accept a love that’s based on “I love you even if” rather than “I love you only if.” They don’t understand the love you’re offering them, and because they can’t understand it, they don’t know what to do with it or with you.
Maybe that intense love feels like too much for the broken pieces of their heart to hold. Maybe you can show them that unconditional love doesn’t end just because a relationship ends. You can show them that their brokenness doesn’t have to keep them from finding happiness, even if that happiness isn’t found with you.