Recently, I had a conversation with a friend of mine and she mentioned how wanting a relationship made her feel weak. In that moment, my heart cried for her and I told her that wanting companionship isn’t weakness, it’s natural. Weakness comes from being dependent on a relationship. Being incapable of being alone is weakness. It’s completely different. This brought to mind a few different strategies that I’ve seen employed to protect our hearts, some I’ve been guilty of myself.
Strategy one– never date anyone right for you.
Two years ago I fell truly in love for the first time as an adult. I thought I had loved before, and maybe I did to a degree, but after that experience, I realized the difference. It also brought to light what I had subconsciously been doing for my entire life- choosing men I knew weren’t right for me.
By doing that, I always kept one foot out the door- never fully committing and also never putting myself in a position to be devastated. However, this also meant that I never fell in love fully either. I blocked myself from it so that I wouldn’t be hurt. I was doing a huge disservice to myself. Never opening up to that experience meant never knowing what love is supposed to feel like. If I had known, I would have tried to fall in love every single day because it is a truly magical feeling. Even while experiencing true devastation for the first time, I found myself bouncing between heart break and gratitude. In the space between the tears, I was thankful that I had finally been able to feel what it meant to love and be loved, even if it wasn’t meant to be. Having done it let me know that I could do it again, and that it would only get better.
Strategy two– tell yourself you’re better off without it.
“I don’t want to fall in love”- said no one ever who actually meant it. No one says they don’t want love and means it. That’s absolute nonsense. Three possible things are happening here- either you don’t believe you can have it, don’t believe you deserve it, or you don’t want to risk being hurt. I’ve tried so many times to talk myself out of wanting love, under the impression that it was the love that hurt me so much. When things end, people forget how beautiful it was in the beginning. The love is beautiful and special. It’s the ego that gets in the way. No one is better off without love- either loving or being loved- love is the only true adventure in this life. It’s what drives us and gives life meaning. And let me be clear here, I’m not just talking about romantic love. I’m talking about love. Period.
Strategy three– equating love with relationships.
Most people don’t come out and say they don’t want love. We never call it that. We call it relationships, not addressing the irony that the two are not mutually exclusive. I would tell myself that I’m better off single- I get to do what I want, when I want, don’t have to answer to anybody, and blah blah blah. I now know those are only issues that arise when you’re with the wrong person and that has absolutely nothing to do with love. Am I ok by myself? Of course! Was I happy being single? Sure. But I don’t want to just be ok. I want to be great. I want to share experiences and life with someone else. I want to have a witness to my life, and I want to be a witness to someone else’s life. But no matter what relationship I’m in, if it doesn’t work out, it isn’t because of love. Love is never at fault for pain. That’s a hard concept for a lot of people to grasp, but it’s no less true.
Strategy four– using love as an excuse
Building off of what I just mentioned, by definition, love is all that is beautiful and good in this world. Love does not have the ability to be unkind, cruel, painful, vindictive, or wrong. Allowing someone to tell you that they hurt you out of love, or telling someone that you love them so much that it makes you crazy and as a result you treat them poorly, is not only bullshit, it is detrimental to everyone’s well-being. Love doesn’t make you crazy, insecurity does. Love isn’t what causes jealousy, fear is. Love is not an excuse to be a crazy bitch or a jealous asshole. By doing so you are perpetuating the idea that love is the cause of pain, thereby giving yourself and others an excuse to talk yourself out of participating in it or blaming it for your insanity. Knock it off. Nobody has time for that nonsense.
I’m going to offer up an alternative based on the lessons of Brene Brown-
Step into the arena and get your ass kicked.
The thing about love is that it takes a great deal of courage. It is scarier than hell to open yourself up and stand there in all your vulnerability to extend love in the chance it may not come back to you from that source. I totally get that, I do. Do it anyway. Extend love because it feels good, not to get it in return. When you do get it in return, embrace it and treasure it. Be grateful for it. But don’t try to hold onto it, just let it be. Recognize that whether it hangs around or leaves is not a reflection of your worth. Love because it’s the only thing in this life that is truly worth all the energy and effort.
Love. Love with all you’ve got. Everything. All the time.