I remember a time when meeting someone who was just as damaged was a bit of a relief. Everyone walking…
She had these odd weathered hand-stitched tapestries on her wall. Three different pictures of sad looking clowns on what was once a white background that was now beige with browning corners. Creepy and deranged, I couldn’t take my eyes off of them. She obviously had some kind of attachment to them but I didn’t want to be insulting. I looked back down at the sweat on her chest and couldn’t believe that I was lying next to someone so ridiculously sexy and thought, well, since I will probably never see her again…
“So what’s with the creepy pictures of clowns on the wall. I can’t imagine wanting to wake up to those every morning.”
“You know, it’s funny.” She said, “No one ever asks about them and they have such a good story.”
“My grandmother bought them at a tag sale when she was a little kid during the depression. The woman who made them apparently murdered her kids but they didn’t have enough evidence to convict her and she spent the rest of her life a shut in because the neighborhood hated her. When she died, no one discovered her body for weeks. Eventually her kids sold her life’s work for pennies. Whenever I look at the clowns, I imagine how much sadness is in that work and it makes me think about how much sadness is in the world.”
“Oh, sounds wonderful to wake up to.” I laughed.
“It makes me think of how much sadness is out in the world and how lucky I have it to have so much happiness. Her work gets to live on by reminding me to appreciate the wonderful life I have.”
And like that, I told myself I wasn’t going anywhere.
I slept in her bed that night. A rarity for a one night stand but we stayed up until four in the morning, talking about our messed up childhoods with our warped sense of humor. There was a commonality in her that I had never experienced. She knew exactly what I meant when I followed a story with, “You know what I mean?” She did. She “got” it and I didn’t want to leave out of fear that this would end up exactly as we had texted – “just a hook up.” But she couldn’t deny the magnetism and compatibility either and when we woke up the next afternoon, I think we both knew we were in love with each other.
It was undeniable. To our friends, our families, to everyone who saw us walking down the street quietly judging everything that annoyed us – we were made for each other. Even now, years after the messy break up – neither one of us could or would deny how deep and astonishing our love was.
So what happened?
The phrase “love is enough” gets thrown around so often but it is idealistic and childish. The truth is, love is not enough to save a relationship. I wish it was and everyone who knew us could see just how desperate we were to believe that we could survive on love alone, but we couldn’t. And we didn’t.
All of us have expectations. We expect to be respected. That someone will be mindful with our time, our investment, and our emotions. That they will treat us as if we are on the same team. That they will look forward to sharing their thoughts, and not keep things from us. We expect to be loved in return. And when we don’t receive the love we give, we feel like we are being treated unfairly. And when that happens, it causes resentment, secrets, and deceit.
I loved her more than any other woman I had ever loved, but I couldn’t love her enough to make the selfishness, irresponsibility, and abusive outbursts go away. But dear lord, I tried. I tried so hard. Gritting my teeth with tears in the corners of my eyes, I tried and tried and tried until I knew I had exhausted every effort and even then, I tried to plead with her because that kind of love is an almost impossible love. So I fought for it with everything I had – but she didn’t. And while I knew she loved me, it was just covered by so much festering insecurity and trauma and I never had a chance. So I walked away for the benefit of us both… because she wasn’t the one.
When my friends and family asked why things ended, I told them the same thing over and over, “She just wasn’t the one.” And they were surprised. They saw the undeniable connection and assumed I was just bitter. But I wasn’t. I was rational and explained, “Love isn’t enough to save a relationship. And while she may have been my ‘one’, I was not her ‘one’. And that’s the secret.”
Because what people don’t tell you is that while you might be lucky enough to find your “one”, the only way that it works is if they see you as THEIR “one” as well. You can’t be madly in love with a person and expect it to work if they aren’t madly in love with you as well. It is just that simple.
So many of us constantly beat ourselves into the ground, desperate to salvage relationships because we don’t want to throw away our investment. We don’t want to start over. Because we know how difficult it is to find anyone out there who inspires us, understands our weirdo humor, and still wants to sleep with us. I understand that more than anyone. But I now also understand that if someone isn’t willing to love me with the same intensity as I love them, well then our love simply does not match. And none of us should have to convince anyone to love us. We deserve better than that. Because the only way our love will ever truly thrive is when our love is equal – Equal in excitement. Equal in respect. And equal in desperation.