I remember all the reasons I used to think it was so necessary to tell others that I loved them romantically.
Wanting to hear it back. Just “in case”. Just to say it. Because they “deserve to know”.
I was a girl who subscribed to the idea of fairytales. I wanted an epic love story like the ones I had seen in all the movies and read about in all the books – and I watched and read every single one I could get my hands on.
But I wasn’t ever very good at it. Loving someone else.
I loved myself too much to love anyone else more than I loved myself. I was stubborn. I hated to be put in a cage. When I would get into relationships I would feel terribly stifled, bored, trapped, more alone than ever, and so unhappy I would cry more often than not.
On the outside, I would tell the world I was so content and in love, I was in a perfect relationship that I had always wanted, because when you want it bad enough you mold it out of nothing.
In all my relationships, I was everything I never wanted to be – I was selfish.
And, over the years, that has been a tough pill to swallow. I was the girl who went to the gulf after the oil spill to help clean up; I was the girl who spent several paychecks to help rebuild a children shelter’s library; I was the girl who was sponsoring two sisters in Ghana while working through community college; I was the girl who ran fundraisers for every charity you could imagine; I was the girl who ran bake sales to raise funds for the local community; I was the girl who volunteered at soup kitchens and pantries during the holidays; I was the girl who championed for a million causes and always had something she was fighting for. But I was selfish in relationships.
I wanted to be loved more than I wanted to love someone. I wanted to be loved endlessly and helplessly, but I never loved that way in return. And I thought that I did. And I said it all the time. For all the reasons I always thought that it was crucial to say.
When you say it out loud it loses a little magic. Doesn’t it?
You say it all the time. It’s routine. It’s just something else that you say. And it doesn’t hold all that weight it did when you realized it. But it’s the same love, isn’t it? The same you that loves. The same them that you love. But it’s not as magical as it was before you ever said it.
Maybe that was heavy on my mind back then, but I still wanted to say it. And often. Though, I did wonder, if you didn’t say it and if you found this sweet spot, could you hold it in stasis? Could you stay right there forever?
I had many men over the years love me. I never loved them. Not one.
Sometimes it was more obvious than others. I have this, what I realized over the years to be an, inability to attach to other beings. But I wanted to so badly that I would, at times, fabricate a love that wasn’t there.
In my defense, I didn’t realize all this at the time. I was so disillusioned that I thought my feigning of love was true.
Then I went through an emotionally messy, devastating divorce. And it wasn’t so fun anymore. This idea of love.
This societal constructed idea that was spoon-fed to me since childhood. This thing that, I decided, didn’t exist.
I became aware of my incapacity to care for anyone in a romantic sense – or really at all, but I am still working on that. I noticed that my dramatic sense of deep adoration for others, friends, family, whoever, would stem from my need for them to love me back and nothing substantially more than that.
I decided to focus on myself, since it seemed I needed to really work on that, and my daughter.
I needed to love myself madly and rely on my own acceptance of myself rather than others.
And I decided I wouldn’t tell anyone I loved them romantically again. This “love”… this romantic love… had only been so unhealthy.
None of the reasons made sense anymore. They all seemed assumption based, or self-centered and self-serving, or for every reason other than actually loving someone. So, that was that.
Then he stumbled back in my life.
I didn’t plan for him. I didn’t want him. I wasn’t ready for him. But he happened.
And so did something absolutely magnificent.
Once I stopped wanting someone to love me, once I stopped wanting to live some epic romance that I had seen on my television screen, I actually engaged in something truly marvelous.
And over the next two years I found myself giving selflessly to someone else, effortlessly and instinctually, with little to no reward, endgame, or payoff. There are very few pictures of us, none public.
My need to showcase a perfect relationship all but deteriorated before my eyes when all that mattered was giving all I could possibly exhaust – in a safe, healthy, and productive manner – to this person who made me a better woman just by being in my life, encouraging my growth at the expense of my comfort.
I found out that I could not recreate love stories, I could not live an epic romance that I saw on the screen or in literature because mine had not been written. What I found was nothing like any of the ones that I knew of and I was happy for that fact.
I was happy to know I was capable of it, though. To love someone. To really love them like I’d always hoped I could. I was happy to know I wasn’t selfish anymore.
And I have not ever told him that I love him.
It turns out that you actually can live in stasis in that sweet spot forever.
Well, I plan on trying, anyway.