For the most part, we all have at least one. At least one person whose memory is so deeply embedded in our psyche that they invade more thoughts than they should on a daily basis. Whether it’s been weeks, months, or years since you’ve seen them, whether they moved on or you moved on, their place in your mind’s eye is permanent. You can recall every detail of their face: the frown lines, the crooked smile, the birthmarks, and the way their eyes would sparkle when they laughed. And as well you should, since you’ve spent so much time gazing at them. I think we can all remember at least one person we’ve looked at with such intensity.
For so many of us, it was a right-person-wrong-time kind of situation. It sucks, and when you think about it, you start to wonder why fate decided to bend you over and shove it in with no lube. The questions come, like why the fuck did it have to be this way, and why couldn’t I fix it? Well, hindsight is always 20/20. It’s usually one of those “if I knew then what I know now” things. That’s easy enough to understand, but seems rather unfair when you find yourself comparing your dates to them and realize that nobody seems to measure up. That realization is usually accompanied by a paralyzing fear that you’re going to end up old and alone, with a multitude of animals and a bad temper, screaming at neighborhood children for being on your lawn. All because you lost the one that you believe was your chance at true fairy tale love, the type that is glamorized in like every fucking TV show and movie ever made (at least it seems that way when you’ve been single for awhile).
This is all inevitable, but it’s not all bad. Once you think rationally about it all, you start to realize it was a great learning experience. This is something that can teach you more than any class in any grade in any school. These are real life lessons, shit that will be applicable in the future…if you’re smart enough to apply them. Maybe, just maybe, by doing so it’ll provide a healthier foundation for you to build a future relationship on. These are 5 things I’ve learned after dwelling on the past and one that got away:
1. Not all love lasts forever, and it doesn’t have to.
Everyone longs for and believes in that undying love, the love that’s shared between two people as they grow old together. The love that brings tears to the eyes of anyone with even an inkling of romanticism. The love that makes you feel something fierce when you see an old couple holding hands, and you just know they’ve been doing that happily for 40 plus years. Yes, that is ideal and that is certainly true love…but who’s to say that’s the only type of love to cherish? I read something recently that really resonated with me, it was a quote from a book written by the world’s greatest pick-up artist turned self-help guru, Neil Strauss:
We have this idea that love is supposed to last forever. But love isn’t like that. It’s a free-flowing energy that comes and goes when it pleases. Sometimes, it stays for life; other times it stays for a second, a day, a month or a year. So don’t fear love when it comes simply because it makes you vulnerable. But don’t be surprised when it leaves either. Just be glad you had the opportunity to experience it.
This blew my mind and changed my entire perspective. I was so busy hating love and cursing it for the pain that it caused, that I forgot to be grateful. I’ve been in love 3 times. Some people don’t ever fall in love. I should appreciate the fact that I was able to experience and embrace the most powerful emotion there is, multiple times. Not to mention, every one of those girls holds a place in my heart and taught me about myself. For that, I will be forever indebted.
2. You’ll realize what’s right for you after you realize what’s wrong.
I’ve made mistakes in every relationship I have had, but so have they. Through it all, I learned what’s right for me. How I should behave, how I want my future significant other to behave, and what I can/can’t deal with. I’ve learned about the traits that matter most to me, and what doesn’t really mean jack shit. I can know, almost instantaneously, if someone is incompatible with me or if there is a chance we can develop into something. If I didn’t suffer through the wrong relationships, I would have no idea what the right one would look like when (if) the day comes that it’s staring me in the face.
3. You need to put the same amount of effort into keeping them as you did getting them.
This is true for everyone, but I feel it’s especially true for guys. Ladies, do you have any idea how many hoops we’ll fucking leap through to get your attention? Or the way we’ll bend over backwards to keep it? We have a history of doing crazy shit in pursuit of the opposite sex, and we put so much thought into every move we make. The problem is, once we do all of that and we hooked someone in, we get lazy over time. The good morning texts become less frequent, the flowers for no reason thing happens once in a blue moon, and we start to take for granted what we have. That goes for everyone, men and women. We become complacent and stop putting in effort. We stop focusing on making sure the person we’re with feels special. We stop looking at our partners like they’re the only person in the room, no matter where we go. That is one of the biggest downfalls of most relationships. Think about it, what if we kept up with the same gestures that made them fall head over heels in the first place? Would the romance ever really falter then? I know that life gets hectic, I’m well aware that shit happens, but if we could manage to even put 80% of that original effort in I think so many relationships could be saved. If you want something to happily last, never stop trying to make them fall deeper in love with you.
4. Don’t settle for the sake of settling down and don’t fall in love with the idea of love.
These two go hand in hand, so I consider it one thing. Especially now, this time of year, a couple months after the major holidays and a week after Valentines Day, people start to analyze why they’re single. Some people are willing to dive headfirst into any relationship just to feel that validation. If you have ever even thought you found “the one”, possibly multiple times in your life, you’re able to see that a relationship destined to fail from the start is worse than no relationship at all. In fact, it’s been said that a relationship shouldn’t be considered a failure because it doesn’t last forever. It’s a failure when two people stay in it for longer than it’s working.
When you’ve been in the trenches of this love shit, fought the losing wars, made it out alive but not unscathed…you get a sense of clarity. You understand how powerful the emotion is, why people are in love with THE IDEA of love, and you understand that you will never let that happen to you. You refuse to settle for less than you want, less than you’re worth, and less than you need in a future partner. You can’t lower your standards and settle for someone just for the sake of settling down. You know damn well that you’re waiting for that person that makes your heart skip a beat when you see them. When you fall in love next, it’ll be with the deepest parts of that person and their soul, not just with the idea of being a happy couple that single people envy. In other words, you know next time you’ll do the shit right.
5. Don’t lose yourself in the process of finding them.
I’m guilty of this, and I’m certain so many others are as well. You get so wrapped up in finding out about your new partner, their interests, and trying to prove your compatibility that you start to lose focus. The focus on your passions, drive, hobbies, and the things that shape you as an individual get deterred until your world becomes about their world. As much as I do believe in the “two souls become one” notion when true love and marriage occurs, I can never stand by and let myself lose the things that make me the way I have in the past. I was a shell of who I am when I was so wrapped up in a relationship. I didn’t write the way I need to, I didn’t make music consistently, I was worried about my artistic content offending them, and I couldn’t take the solitary time needed to do what I needed to without fear of bothering them. That’s no way to live and no way to love. I don’t blame anyone but myself for this, and if you’ve done the same shit, neither can you. The bottom line is everyone needs to find the median, and work on balancing being someone else’s other half while still being 100% YOU.