I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
The older I get, the more I realize just how little I know. More specifically, how little I know of myself. I mean, let’s think about this realistically for a second. I have been madly in love three times in my life. Sure, I have loved plenty of women along the way but only three times has someone captivated me in such a way where I almost felt powerless. Where you’re so IN love that it borders on, and oftentimes crosses into, unhealthy. The kind of relationship where you begin to lose everything. Your independence, your friends, you goals – and while these things do change in varying levels throughout your life, when you’re so deeply in love, sometimes we happily walk away from the things that make us who we are. Compromise and sacrifice. There is a difference. Compromise is doing what we need to do to make our lives better or easier. Sacrifice is giving up a piece of your what makes us who we are.
Some of you know what I’m talking about. The time where you were so deeply invested in a person that there isn’t anything you wouldn’t have done for them no matter how unhealthy. But understand, that is a wildly irresponsible notion taught to us through books and movies because the truth is, anyone who would willingly stand by while you sacrificed any piece of the light that makes you the incredible person you have fought to become, was never responsible enough for your trust in the first place. I have been there. I know what it’s like to not only lose myself but to intentionally run away from my goals and aspirations. All because I thought what I was doing was for the betterment of the relationship.
And I was in love. Purely and genuinely IN love. Even decades later after that “in” had faded, I can’t and won’t deny the pull those relationships had on me. But what I came to realize was no matter how hard I tired, no matter how much I compromised, and no matter how many pieces of life I sacrificed to make those relationships work – they all failed. My love wasn’t strong enough to save us. I have literally never tried harder at anything in my entire life than I did while I was at the end of those relationships. I just wish someone had sat me down and said, “Your love is not stronger than the damage of those you love.” Because you can not, nor will you ever, love someone’s pain away. God knows I tried and almost died in the process.
I guess one of the most important things I took away from that realization was that, I had what the books and movies told me I needed to attain happiness and really, it didn’t matter. I brought these amazing women into my life because they were everything I had ever wanted and I fell in love with them. That simple equation should have been enough. It should have been the right combination to never make me want to walk away from them – but it wasn’t. And I did.
Have you ever seen that episode of the Simpsons where Homer goes to hell and his punishment is to continuously eat donuts over and over for all eternity? The idea is to torture him with what he loves most. And that was what those women were to me. They were everything I had wanted and loved the most yet I still couldn’t make it work no matter how much effort I put into us. I had wished for perfect boobs, and amazing legs, and a wonderful ass and sense of humor, and good taste in music, and a woman who hated all the same things. I had all the donuts I had ever wanted and in the end, it made me sick. Because it was what I wanted – not what I needed to make us healthy.
It took until I grew into a middle-aged man to realize that clearly I don’t know what I’m doing. But I take minor solace in the fact that I don’t think many people actually do. I look around at the relationships I see and it’s all just a futile series of trial and failure. And when we ask each other what we’re looking for, we always have an answer. A definite answer. As if we would even know what to do with someone that was our ideal list of wants. And clearly, we don’t.
The truth is, we need to redefine what we NEED, not what we want. What does our soul, our character, our trust and faith – what does it NEED to thrive? I don’t know about you, but mine NEEDS a strong-willed woman. One who isn’t easily controlled by my whims. One that knows why to say thank you and show appreciation. One that will tell me when I’m being disrespectful or neglectful. One that will not allow me to walk all over them. I have no use for a relationship that doesn’t challenge me to become a better person.
And worst of all, we keep looking for people who fit this list of “wants”, instead of concentrating on the truly important list of what we have to offer. We need to constantly refine how we love people because every person is different. We have to stop projecting the faults of others upon new relationships because it’s not fair to make someone else pay for the misgivings of those who came before them. We need to pay attention, to listen, and to learn what puts a smile on their face then go back and make a list of new ways to make them happy.
I still don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m trying. And that’s the difference. None of us are perfect and every last one of us will have to actively work at a relationship to maintain the health of our happiness. We can’t just replace a body with another attractive body and think it’s going to continue to work. We need to stop looking for what we “want” and concentrate more on what we “need”. We have to stop lying to ourselves about what makes our heart truly happy and we need to work on ourselves to understand what we are willing to compromise and what we are no longer willing to sacrifice.