This is a very well known quote. We’ve all read it and most of us have hoped love would live up to this with those we dedicate ourselves too. But many of us know that it hasn’t. Many of us have been disappointed and left with broken hearts we will never quite fully be able to heal from. Disappointment leaves our faith in fragments and we are cautious when it comes to loving again. Those who find this true representation of love are rare and I respect each one of you because love isn’t always easy and loving takes courage and dedication and selflessness. Most of what I have learned of what love is comes from knowing what love is not and until now, love has been my most elaborate form of self-harm. But wait… It was never really love then, was it?
I have always been one of the many girls to believe in fairytales of love learned from Princesses in Disney movies. I have been one of those girls to dream of the big day in a beautiful dress and a long life with kids I already had names for. But I have also been one of those girls who learned the hard way that love is fire and at some point, you’re bound to get burnt.
It took one night of an impulsive delusional decision to make me realise what I had really known all along. A guy I fell for was strike 4 in my impeccable record of failed relationships and again I thought he was the last to cross my road towards the happily ever after. Just like all before him, it started off with the honeymoon phase of sweet talk where being with me was “easy and comfortable” and I was approached with sensitivity and gentleness and compliments galore and sparks were flying. Obviously I trusted him much faster than I should’ve, but I was attracted to his kindness towards others and the sensitivity that seemed to radiate from him. So, my infatuated mind made the decision to give herself away completely; mentally, emotionally, physically…
As time went on, his sensitivity, compliments and interest in my heart and head waned but his interest in my body grew stronger. I knew I had to walk away, yet I held on and I let myself go with the flow. I remember one day as I sat on his bed alone and he watched TV how alone I felt right in the middle of the relationship. I had never felt more alone and I no longer recognised myself. I changed. I learned to tell myself that sex is what love demands, that times had changed, that men not expressing their emotions towards you was a normal thing and that superficial talk was good talk – because who wants to be with an over-emotional girl? I had defied every belief I ever had and every rule I had ever made when it came to giving myself away. Why did I let things slip so far into a relationship that consisted of sex… I cared about him very much but I didn’t love him. How could I when he no longer saw my heart and he stopped opening up his to me too. I realise now that I craved a closeness from him and sex with him was all that made me feel that. As time dragged on I could however no longer take the emotional emptiness and knowing he didn’t feel much for me either, so we split up. I cried my heart out and ached and broke all over again. The most frightening thing is that feelings are not fixed. You can be everything one moment, just enough another and nothing at all the next.
Months went by and then not too long ago he started messaging me with smiley faces and seemingly interested conversation on how my emotional health was and videos of huskies which he knew I loved. He knew about my depression and hospital admission, but he never judged me for it while everyone else ran from it. Perhaps that was part of the reason I had trust in him. It wasn’t long before he told me he wanted to have sex with me again and we should go on a date. I wasn’t stupid. He was an utter asshole for blatantly telling me he wanted sex. I was the one who f***ed myself over… See, I missed parts of him and his reappearance resurrected a lot of intense, buried emotion. I ignorantly agreed to the date… And then after a movie which involved “romantic kissing” the sex came. It was about 1AM when he dropped me off at my car so we can both head home and he greeted me with the type of insincere, split second hug that has now become a common greeting in our society amongst strangers and the words, “Thanks for an interesting night.” He didn’t want to get back together.
I woke up the next morning trying to convince myself that it’s fine. He didn’t want to date me again and it was just sex, no big deal, I’ll move on now. But as I drove to the gym and saw my face in the rearview mirror and the expression of a totally lost girl with eyes being stung by impending tears I knew that it messed me up emotionally and mentally far more than I let myself admit. Sex is never just sex. You give parts of yourself away to a person and I realised I had disrespected myself and gone against all I stood for. Again. More so, I had been used by a man who might not have loved me ever but who I thought cared about me enough to at least regard me as a person with dignity. That was the worst part of it all. It was like that one night had negated every good moment we had ever shared. Everything that might have ever been true and an honorably agreed end to a relationship. All of that was negated the minute I was used as a thing and not a person. I thought if I continued to be a good woman, he would eventually return the favour and be a decent man. Or that if I stayed patient and understanding, eventually he’d realise his mistakes. But being a good woman to a man who doesn’t understand her worth only gave him someone to use. And being patient and understanding only gave him more leeway to continue hurting me. My mistake was, when his words hurt me I apologised because I felt guilty for making him feel bad.
I just remember feeling like I wanted to take everything back from him; my touches, my love, my kisses, my sex, my emotions, my loyalty, my time, my energy, my conversations, my compromises, my efforts, my vulnerability… Myself. I had moulded myself to fit him. And then, I absolutely hated that he was walking around happily on a daily basis with all of me while I was walking around feeling disturbingly empty. And in that moment I had just wanted to take back everything I had ever given to him.
Why do we let people make homes in us when they end up destroying everything we have worked so hard to build? How many times have you been called beautiful by a person who eventually made you feel ugly on the inside? Did he really break my heart over and over again or was I the one who kept breaking my own heart by settling for a relationship that didn’t sit right with me, hoping over and over again that it would magically change on its own? I was, after all, responsible for myself, wasn’t I? I had choices in this world just like everyone else, didn’t I? It was up to me to teach people how to treat me, wasn’t it? I screwed up. Somewhere along the line I misplaced parts of my self-worth and blamed it on him. Somewhere along the line I started lying to myself and blamed it on him. Somewhere along the line I started hating myself for a relationship that was killing me on the inside, and instead of taking accountability for what I was doing to myself, I blamed it all on him. I screwed up. See, what he did and his views of how woman should be treated may not be right and he may legitly and clearly be classified as an asshole, but I knew this, yet I chose to ignore it. He may not realise it but he is accountable for his own actions and perhaps someday he would realise it isn’t okay, that what he is lacking is humility and respect.
I had to take a step back and get all the way real with my life and ask myself why the hell I wanted a man who made it obvious with his actions that he didn’t want me. Why I kept trying with a man who never made the effort for me. In doing that, I realised that he wasn’t the problem anymore… I was. I had become my own problem by sticking around a horrible situation and I needed to fix myself.
So what did I learn from love?
Sex is never just sex and it’s never okay to keep someone around just for it while they think you care about them as a person. You’ll play games with her mind, mess around with her emotions, disrupt her sense of security to the point where she feels like she is never good enough. Never worthy enough.
“The biggest coward of a man is awakening the love of a woman without the intention of loving her.” – Bob Marley
Accept that not everyone will understand you. That every soul is its own equation. While you may be little more than senseless gibberish to some, others will only need a single look to get a grasp of who you are. Never dull, dumb down or adjust yourself to fit somewhere you don’t belong. Rather be alone in dignity than in a relationship that demands your self-respect.
Lastly, stick to what your heart knows and has always known about love; that it doesn’t just fall on your lap. It takes dedication to get to know a person and it takes commitment to honour and love them. It takes humility to see someone’s heart and compromise to respect each other. Don’t ever set yourself on fire just to warm the cold hearts of those who do not burn for you.